Motoring | Motoring News
Ever since its launch four years ago, the Renault Kwid has been the unrelenting bane of quite frankly all of South Africa’s motoring scribes in what has become one of the most storied tales of hate not seen by any new vehicle in a long time.
As is well documented though, the Indian-built Kwid has proved to be smash-hit sales success for the Boulogne-Billancourt automaker, with well over 1 000 units finding new local homes month after month, despite the initial lack of safety equipment and a F-obtained zero star Global NCAP rating.
A winning but flawed recipe the Kwid formula might be, it is unlikely to detract first-time buyers anytime soon, some of whom now have the added versatility and space to transport up to seven people without having to opt for the only option available until now, the Datsun Go+.
Fresh from its debut in February, the Triber has already been dubbed the Kwid MPV and while Renault has vehemently stressed that no relation between the two exists, the use of a lengthened CMF-A platform, known as CMF-A+, seems to suggest otherwise. This is however where the majority of the Triber’s relations with the Kwid ends as the tiny people carrier, which is rather optimistically classified as an SUV, bears no visual similarities with its infamous sibling.
Whereas the recent facelift to the Kwid has been polarising to say the least, the Triber is more discreet but unashamedly aggressive with the angry-looking headlights incorporating the trademark C-shaped daytime running LEDs, SUV-like black cladding around the wheel arches, on the doors and bumpers, silver detailing on the grille and expansive glasshouse making for a rather stylish and neat looking entrant.
With its upwards moving shoulder line and rugged factor being heightened by the satin silver faux front and rear skidplates, the rear-end is less striking, but while the flat bootlid is unlikely to stir any emotions, keen observers will notice some nods to the Land Rover Discovery and the lights whose cutting into the tailgate is said to resemble that of an eagle’s beak.
The most telling lack of any Kwid-ness is the interior where the design and look is completely different. In addition to the same steering wheel as the Duster, the materials used are more upmarket with the minimalist dashboard housing Renault’s new MediaNav Evo infotainment system resplendent on an eight-inch touchscreen display and the instrument cluster being an all-digital affair.
Admittedly, a few cheap feeling contact points are present, but not unexpected given the Triber’s placing. As simple and user friendly as the MediaNav system continues to be with its inclusion of Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Triber is all about roominess and ease-of-use.
Along with the rear doors that open at 74 degrees, gaining access to the third row involves pulling a lever that slides the 60/40 split seat forward, while the middle bench itself can be moved forwards-or-backwards independently. It is worth noting though that the middle row needs to be pushed up against the front seats in order for the third to be raised completely.
In its seven-seat Tribe configuration, boot space is rated at 84 litres, which grows to 625 litres in Life mode with only five seats in use. A further two settings; the four-seat Surf and two-seat Camp completes the arrangement that Renault alleges has 100 different configurations.
In spite of measuring a smidge below four metres in overall length, it is worth remembering that the outer row is mainly reserved for small children as adults will find it too much of a squeeze. A bonus though is the presence of a separately controlled air-conditioning panel with the second row vents being integrated into the B-pillar and those for the third overhead.
The interior’s commodious factor extends to the myriad of storage areas offered, the most notable being a split glove box, a drawer underneath the driver’s seat and a central cubby behind the handbrake that turns into a chilled beverage compartment when the air-conditioning is being used. In all, the auxiliary storage areas amount to a very impressive 31 litres.
As our rather eye-catching Electric Blue example happened to be the range-topping Prestige model, the standard spec sheet is noteworthy with the R189 900 asking price netting a four-speaker sound system, keyless entry and push-button start, 15-inch wheels with flex alloy-like covers, electric windows all around, auto locking doors, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors and a reverse camera.
Where matters go badly downhill for the Triber though is in the drivetrain department with the biggest culprit being the five-speed manual gearbox. While reasonably slick, the initial feel is ruined by a horrifically high clutch bite point that calls for a lot of revs to prevent stalling.
Just as woeful, the normally aspirated 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine has been carried over from the Kwid and despite producing a fraction more power, 52kW/96Nm versus 50kW/91Nm, it simply has no low-down torque and runs in a dead spot before and after every shift.
Aggravating this further is the constant feeling of the engine being over revved as shifts often occur at 4 000 rpm. In mixed driving conditions, the Triber still recorded a best consumption of 6.0l/100km, not bad considering Renault’s 5.5l/100km claim, but expect this to nosedive with seven on-board, at altitude, and the air-conditioning on.
Despite tipping the scales at 926 kg and being blessed with a very comfortable ride as a result of the 182 mm ground clearance and suspension tuned for the poor roads of its homeland, plus a nicely weighted steering and less bodyroll than expected, the Renault Triber is badly let down by its drivetrain.
Although La Régie has indicated that a 74 kW turbo model will become available later this year, its arrival needs to be speeded-up as quickly as possible.
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