Y level war­fare

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The Citizen (KZN) - - Motoring -

Ar­riv­ing on lo­cal shores two years af­ter the Go, the Re­nault Kwid broke new grounds in the A-seg­ment as the SUV-themed hatch ex­ploded in pop­u­larly thanks to its high level of spec­i­fi­ca­tion, chunky looks and low price tag that made it the cheap­est new car on sale.

Like the Go though, the Kwid has been the topic of ar­guably more ridicule for its chronic lack of safety fea­tures and in­her­ent in­abil­ity to feel stable at speeds above 100km/h. Ag­gra­vat­ing the sit­u­a­tion fur­ther was the ad­di­tion of a five-speed au­to­mated man­ual trans­mis­sion (AMT) last year which, de­spite mak­ing it the most ac­ces­si­ble two-pedal of­fer­ing in South Africa, re­sulted in the Kwid cop­ping even more flak for turn­ing an al­ready prob­lem­atic prod­uct into one that can only be de­scribed as aw­ful.

For many buy­ers though, the Kwid’s glar­ing faults mat­tered lit­tle as 27 700 have found homes since its de­but three years ago. Now, fol­low­ing its high pro­file un­veil­ing in In­dia last month, the ad­ven­tur­ous na­ture of Gold Reef City served as a back­drop when the heav­ily up­dated Kwid made its of­fi­cial lo­cal mar­ket de­but last week.

Whereas its al­liance part­ner played it safe with its round of up­dates twelve months ago, Re­nault has taken a bolder ap­proach by us­ing the City K-ZE con­cept that bowed in Shang­hai ear­lier this year as style in­spi­ra­tion.

In this re­gard, the Kwid boasts a split head­light de­sign with the thin top half be­ing re­served for the LED day­time run­ning lights, while the over­sized lower ar­range­ment serves as the main light clus­ter. As well as new LED tail­lights, the en­tire range now rides on 14-inch wheels with the top-spec Climber ben­e­fit­ting from grey Vol­cano faux al­loys and front and rear skid­plates con­trasted by or­ange ac­cents that ex­tends to the main light bezels, on the wheel arch cladding, the roof rails and the mir­ror caps.

Just as big a dif­fer­ence is when you open the door where the most prom­i­nent change is the new eight-inch Me­di­aNav Evo touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem that comes with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto on all mod­els bar the en­try-level Ex­pres­sion.

Also new is the rather smart look­ing all dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter, while rear elec­tric win­dows fea­ture across the range along with elec­tric mir­rors, a new steer­ing wheel, and, on AMT modes, re­lo­ca­tion of the ro­tary dial gear se­lec­tor from the base of the cen­tre fa­cia to the con­sole. Dy­namique and Climber mod­els also get a fast charg­ing USB port and a sec­ond 12-volt power socket, al­though the pre-loaded nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem has been dropped for a smart­phone based setup.

As ac­com­plished as the spec­i­fi­ca­tion up­grades have been, which also in­cludes rear park­ing sen­sors on all mod­els and a re­verse cam­era on the lat­ter pair, the Kwid’s big­gest point of con­tention, its abysmal safety record, has been touched upon with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess.

On all three mod­els, dual front airbags are stan­dard as is ABS and EBD but un­like the Go, Re­nault has not brought about any struc­tural changes de­spite its Vice-Pres­i­dent of Mar­ket­ing, Je­sus Boveda, reaf­firm­ing to the as­sem­bled me­dia that the fit­ment of a new rear axle has al­le­vi­ated the in­sta­bil­ity wor­ries that marred the pre-facelift Kwid.

In truth though, the ef­fects of the new axle, whose most prom­i­nent ef­fect has been the loss of 21-litres in boot space for a new to­tal of 279-litres, was hard to spot as the Kwid still felt ner­vous and out of its com­fort zone when the launch route ven­tured out onto the high­way, no doubt as a re­sult of its soft sus­pen­sion and 180mm ground clear­ance.

What also an­noyed was the lack of height ad­just­ment on the driver’s seat that re­sulted in this writer be­ing perched-up high rather than seated com­fort­ably be­hind the fixed steer­ing wheel, while the leather-like gater at the base of the gear lever had al­ready started to tear at the seams.

Un­der­neath its tiny bon­net, the nor­mally as­pi­rated 1.0-litre three-cylin­der en­gine has been car­ried over and still pro­duces 50kW/91Nm which is sent to the front wheels via the AMT or the stan­dard five-speed man­ual gear­box that was the only op­tion avail­able at launch.

Ru­ined only by a too high and frankly hor­ri­ble clutch bite point when set­ting off, which ne­ces­si­tates the need for a fair amount of revs in or­der to pre­vent stalls, the gear­box is rel­a­tively slick and thank­fully so as it had to be rowed to keep the free-breath­ing three­pot on the boil.

In spite of weigh­ing less than 800kg, the en­gine still emits a groan­ing sound­track when the speedo goes into triple fig­ures, a trait that will only be ex­as­per­ated with four peo­ple on-board and the air-con­di­tion­ing in use on the Highveld.

There is no doubt that the Re­nault Kwid has its mer­its as ev­i­dent by it reg­u­larly featuring among the top ten best-sell­ing new pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles come the monthly sales fig­ures, traits that will re­ally come to the fore now thanks to its more ag­gres­sive looks, ramped-up spec sheet, com­pli­men­tary 12 month’s in­sur­ance and five-year/150 000km war­ranty.

How­ever, it re­mains a ques­tion­able buy and still not an A-seg­ment con­tender that comes rec­om­mended as it is flawed and not up to the same stan­dards as the new Hyundai Atos, the Suzuki Cele­rio and to some ex­tent, the Go.

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