Take a closer look at the Renault brand in South Africa and you will notice how it is repositioning itself with its market focus slowly shifting towards SUVs and crossovers.
Yes, other manufacturers are also on this tip and Renault’s latest offering, the Kiger, which is a product of the Nissan-Renault Alliance, joins the subcompact crossover SUV fraternity to fight some well-established segment leaders. As a replacement for the Sandero, the Kiger in its Intens CVT glory is built on the same Renault-Nissan Alliance CMF-A+ platform that also forms the basis of the Triber and Magnite models.
Then there are the looks that boil down to personal preference but I personally feel like Renault got the design spot on and I regard it as one of, if not the best-looking compact crossovers at the moment. Despite people mistaking it for the Kwid on stills, the Renault Kiger sits higher and features two chrome wings that extend into the LED daytime running lights, 16” black diamond-cut alloy wheels, honeycomb-shaped chrome effects on the front grille as well as an aluminium-finish skid plate.
The body colour blends well with the black roof and black arches around the wheels. The front-end is fitted with tri-octa LED Pure Vision headlights while the rear features LED taillight units with glossy black inserts as well as a C-shaped lighting signature.
Saddle into the driver’s seat and it’s striking how well the Kiger is designed on the inside. Sure, the material quality could be better but then again, let’s consider the price.
A floating 8” touchscreen is a gateway to wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and Bluetooth with the system working pretty seamlessly for the most part. In front of the driver is a 7” multi-skin configurable TFT cluster with display-configs of note.
The space inside is plentiful with enough head and legroom with no shortage of pockets for small items and water bottles. During my time with the Kiger, the 405-litre boot space proved quite handy during a short stint to Witbank. The seats are relatively comfortable with good visibility as well as a high-set driving position.
Things start to turn slightly sour when it comes to driving the new Kiger Intens. It is also in this department where I feel like the brand could have better invested its enormous expertise to make driving a more rewarding affair.
The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 74 kW and 160 Nm paired with a CVT X-Tronic transmission lacks in terms of refinement. I am not a fan of CVTs and the one lurking in the Kiger falls short of impressive in its constant gear-hunting quest during hard acceleration.
There are three driving modes; Sport, Normal and Eco but our drive was mostly done in normal mode which showcased a great balance between the options. On the open road, there is adequate shove to get the Kiger moving but this is accompanied by a fair amount of wind noise at higher speeds. Body roll proved minimal, considering its size, also impressing with its handling on roads of the rougher variety.
The new Renault Kiger proved extremely frugal during my week-long stint returning 5.5 litres/100 km with the efficiency-flirting with the low six-litre figures during spirited driving.
Renault’s Kiger comes standard with ABS, EBD, ESP, ISOFIX mounting points, four airbags, rear parking sensors and pedestrian protection.
For all its aesthetically pleasing lines, the Renault Kiger is up against some stiff competition in its segment with competitors that's marginally better quality but also drives better. On the positive side, the Kiger is efficient and makes an excellent run-around SUV with a high-riding stance should you wish to partake in some outdoor adventures.
Safety? Well, it is yet to be tested by the Global NCAP institute but according to Renault, the safety kit would be in line with a three-star rating. For peace of mind, the Nissan Magnite, which shares Kiger’s platform, scored a four-star safety rating when tested by ASEAN NCAP.
The Intens derivative is priced at R289,900 and comes standard with a five-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty, it's also backed up by a three-year/ 45,000 km service plan.
Words: Ntsako Mthethwa
Images: Renault SA