Renault’s announcement earlier this year that it was bringing the Kiger to South Africa as replacement for the Sandero came as something of an unexpected shock. Even amid the backdrop of the budget-friendly SUV flood.
After all, until the arrival of the Kwid and later the Triber, the Sandero had been a smash-hit for La Régie and for a while its best seller. However, despite its reputation, the shift in buyer preference demands an SUV, an aspect not even the popular Stepway could lay claim to anymore.
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This, together with the decision not to bring the new Sandero to market as a result of doing away with the rebadging of Dacia models for certain market as Renaults, the exception being the Duster, further prompted the fast tracking of the Kiger as the new entry between the Triber and the incoming new Captur.
The twin of the Nissan Magnite that debuted earlier this year, the Kiger rides on the same CMF-A+ platform as the Triber, a lengthened version of the CMF-A underpinning the Kwid. Apart from replacing the Sandero, it enters a segment dominated by its countryman from India.
In addition to the Magnite, the Kiger faces competition from the segment-leading but aging Ford EcoSport, the Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet, the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, its sibling, the Toyota Urban Cruiser, and to some extent, the Honda WR-V.
Touted by Renault as a model that combines “urban mobility with outdoor ability”, the adage “big shoes to fill” certainly applies to the Kiger. Though at its media launch in Pretoria this week, it showcased itself as a worthy replacement for the Sandero.
Aesthetically, the Kiger adopts a coupe-like styling with the front sporting definite Kwid traits such as the design of the front facia and parts of the overall profile.
Unlike its much-maligned sibling though, the Kiger has a lot more substance stemming from not only the stylish and aggressive looks, but also a better and spacious interior.
Admittedly not earth shattering in look or design, the layout is all about functionality. While hard plastic abound not uncommon given the Kiger’s starting price of R200 000, it still feels solid and well put together.
The most impressive aspect of the interior though, apart from specification, is the interior space and practicality. Like its rivals, the Kiger conforms to India’s sub-four metre regulations, but while the 3 991 mm overall length sounds small, this, together with the low roof line, failed to impact on rear headroom with the same applying to the ample levels of legroom.
Sporting a wheelbase of 2 500 mm, width to 1 700 mm and a height of 1 605 mm, Kiger offers 205 mm ground clearance and a deep boot Renault claims can swallow 405-litres.
The nuances of the Kiger continues in the spec department as it also introduces three new trim levels that replaces the familiar Expression, Dynamique and Prestige grades.
Kicking the line-up off, the Life comes as standard with:
Moving one up, the Zen gains the brand-new, easy-to-use eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the following:
Sitting at the top of the range is the Intens, which boasts an impressive Arkamys 3D sound system with two tweeters, as well as:
Starting in Pretoria and finishing in Cullinan, the first half of the route took place in the Zen, which, like the Life, is powered by the normally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine from the Triber.
Producing 52kW/96Nm, the mill is mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automated manual (AMT). Only the former ‘box was provided and like on the Triber, it sports a coarse feel with the lack of torque translating into a noticeable ‘dead spot’ after each gear change.
It is however eager to perform off mark, but runs out of punch badly when matters got hilly, necessitating a lot of rowing from the ‘box in order to keep momentum.
More impressive though is the eagerly awaited new turbocharged version of the same engine that is paired to the mentioned manual or a CVT. Offered on the Zen and Intens, the latter being the model that took in the second part of the trek from Cullinan back to the capital, it makes a punchy 74 kW with 160 Nm being delivered by the manual and 152 Nm by the CVT.
Despite both units featuring a characteristic three-cylinder thrum, the boosted models’ is more palpable with significantly less noise at the national limit. Progress is unsurprisingly swift with the manual ‘box being a lot more adapt, while the CVT feels just as well suited despite the torque deficit.
Thanks to its ground clearance, the Kiger’s ride does an effective job of ironing out imperfections, while the electric power steering elicited no quips with just enough levels of feedback.
Opt for the turbo models, specification expands to include Electronic Stability Control, as well as Renault’s multi-sense mode selector with three settings; Eco, Normal and Sport.
Saddled with a lot to live up to, the Renault Kiger is however off to a good start. Aside from the lacklustre free-breathing engine and sloppy gearbox, it is an otherwise fantastically well devised package. It combines the look and appeal of an SUV, with great levels of equipment at a price guaranteed to badly worry its countryman.
All models come as standard with a five year/100 000 km warranty with a two year/30 000 km service plan starring on the normally aspirated model and a three year/45 000 km plan on the turbo.
In total, buyers have a choice of six colours; Ice Cool White, Planet Grey, Moonlight Silver, Mahogany Brown, Caspian Blue and the Intens only Radiant Red. For more information, click here.
Kiger 1.0 Life – R199 900
Kiger 1.0 Zen – R214 900
Kiger 1.0 Zen AMT – R224 900
Kiger 1.0 Turbo Zen – R249 900
Kiger 1.0 Turbo Intens – R269 900
Kiger 1.0 Turbo Intens CVT – R289 900