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Date: 16 Apr 2018 Author Type: Public Review
Author: Julian Lurie Edited by Liam Mothilall
Source: Julian Lurie
Renault launched its new SUV-inspired KWID hatchback some fifteen months ago and came in for quite a lot of criticism as it was launched with just one airbag and no ABS, yet despite this it has achieved remarkably good sales. However, I believe that from this year, the KWID will come standard with a second airbag and ABS as standard and now with the addition of the KWID AMT derivative, sales are bound to grow even further.

The KWID is now offered in three trim levels - Expression and upper-level Dynamique, and the AMT version which comes with the company's New Easy-R AMT System. The big USP on this car is that Renault has done away with the gearstick and has opted for a rotary dial instead. All three models are well specced and exceptionally well-priced for what is basically an entry level car.

From the front of the car, the bold grille design highlights Renault’s trademark diamond-shaped logo, and the C-shaped headlights incorporate the brand’s new lighting signature. It’s impressive 180 mm class-leading ground clearance combined with short front and rear overhangs gives the impression of strength, reliability and the looks, one would associate with a SUV. The radio antenna is mounted at the front end of the roof.

Looked at from the sides, the black cladding, the flared wheel arches, with side indicators, and the black exterior rearview mirrors point to its SUV breeding, as does the lower door décor, which also contributes to KWID’s SUV robust character and also provides additional protection. The steeply-raked, forward-positioned windscreen blends in well with the high waistline which rises slightly at the rear. The KWID rides on 13” steel wheels with full sized silver wheel covers and shod with 155/80R13 tyres, and there’s a full sized spare in the boot.

At the rear, the lower part of the bumper comes with a black trim and a body-colored integrated tailgate spoiler. In fact, the only noticeable difference that identifies the AMT model from the others is the Easy-R badge at the rear. When you get inside, the first impression is that the KWID is built to a budget. However the plastics are reasonable, in fact a tad better than what you'd expect at this price, but it’s got features that no other car in the segment offers – a 7" Multimedia touchscreen, FM/AM tuner, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calls, voice control and vehicle applications, Navigation with SA Maps, on-board trip computer, gear shift indicator, electric front windows, electric power steering, one-touch lane change indicator, but the exterior rear view mirrors are manually adjustable. The air-conditioning system with heater is excellent and easily coped with the Durban’s hot humid days. The Kwid keeps right up to date with a USB port, AUX-in port, two front speakers, a 12V power socket, digital instrument cluster and piano black centre fascia which houses the centrally-positioned MediaNAV system in the Dynamique model. The chunky steering wheel ensures one is always in control while the 4-way adjustable driver seat allows for the most ideal driving position. And then there’s the one touch lane change indicator, which makes driving a breeze.

Space is fairly generous - the black, red and grey cloth covered height adjustable front bucket seats are quite comfortable, but a little tight for larger folk. At the rear, the bench seat will accommodate three averaged sized adults, but is really more comfortable for two and a child. There’s ample leg room back there, but not much under-thigh support. The boot however, at 300 litres, must be the biggest of all small cars while oddments may be stored in the open storage space facing the front passenger, lower glove box - plus an upper glove box, driver and passenger in-door storage space with a 1-litre bottle holder, rear parcel tray and enough space in the centre console.

Safety equipment includes a driver’s airbag, a high mounted brake light, while the braking system comprises disc brakes up front, drums at the rear but regrettably the KWID is not available with ABS. The new Renault KWID AMT is powered by a compact 1.0- litre 3-cylinder Smart Control efficiency petrol engine developing 50 kW at 5 500 rpm and maximum torque of 91Nm at 4 250 rpm with drive to the front wheels through the 5-speed AMT transmission.

The Renault KWID AMT features Easy-R Technology – a revolutionary 5-speed AMT. Like any other automatic there is no gearlever, so drive is controlled by the dash-mounted AMT Dial which has three modes – Reverse, Neutral and Drive – and is designed to make driving effortless. An advanced control unit automatically optimizes gear shifting in accordance with driving conditions for smooth and regular acceleration, and for the driver to enjoy a clutch-free driving experience. According to Renault, the new Kwid AMT achieves an incredibly extremely fuel efficient petrol consumption of 4.4 litres/100 km, which I believe is a bit optimistic, and an average of 5.5 litres per 100 km’s, is more realistic. The fuel tank holds 28 litres.

I haven’t driven the KWID AMT but going by my road impressions from a KWID Dynamique 1.0-litre SCe 5-speed press vehicle that I had on test last year, I reported that all round visibility from the driver’s seat was good and the digital instrument cluster was easy to read through the top of the sporty steering wheel and all buttons and levers were in easy reach. Start the engine and you immediately hear the unique thrum of the three cylinder engine. The engine is quite noisy but is absolutely willing to rev. In performance tests, it did the 0 to 100 km/h dash in a leisurely 14 seconds in third gear and has a top speed of just over 150 km’s per hour

On the open road, the KWID offers a comfortable ride for an entry level hatchback plus the test car had no rattles or shakes even on poor road surfaces. The suspension is well damped and there is minimal vertical movement on bumpy roads. The handling was better than expected given that the KWID rides on those skinny tyres. There is some body roll through sharp corners, but the KWID feels quite planted for what is a really light car. The electric steering, however, is vague especially in the straight ahead position. It’s very light, and although there’s almost no feedback from the road, it is nimble for easy city driving. On the freeways, it cruises comfortably at 110 km/h, but for overtaking, you need to change down a cog or two, keep the power on, and as the motor happily thrives on revs, it gets you safely by. In the stopping department, there was no ABS but the brakes were effective and never locked up whilst on test.

So what’s not to like – fortunately very little. It doesn’t have a rev counter, no automatic locking after driving off, although there is a locking button in the centre dash, no strings to hold up the rear parcel shelf, a bit noisy in the cab, and it does get affected by side winds. The new Renault KWID is a good looking, well designed Hatchback, with an Impressive 180 mm ground clearance and SUV-styling, and I believe its great value for an entry-level car.

The recommended retail selling prices for the new Renault KWID hatchback are R126 900 for the KWID Expression 1.0-litre SCe, R136 900 for the KWID Dynamique 1.0-litre SCe and R146 900 for the Renault KWID Dynamique AMT. Prices include a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, a 6- year anti-corrosion warranty and service intervals are every 15 000 km’s.
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