Spoilt for choice is an understatement when you look at the compact SUV segment. Almost every brand out there is eyeing a piece of the pie in this lucrative and highly competitive category and with reason. A compact SUV is something that appeals to both, an audience that wants a hatchback, and an audience that wants an SUV. And we know, there is a big herd when it comes to the latter. So, an SUV for the price of a hatchback? Seems like the perfect recipe.
The Renault Kiger is the latest entrant to this already bustling segment and it follows the footsteps of its cousin, the Nissan Magnite. Built on the same platform with the same engines, it is similar in many aspects, but it is far from being just a rebadged Nissan. The design for one is in line with the current crop of Renaults. Modern, sporty and aggressive. The front-end is bold and imposing and has plenty of interesting elements. The indents on the bonnet, the massive chrome logo with a dash of chrome on the grille, squared out bumpers with plenty of cuts and highlights and LED headlamps with LED DRLs. You also have a front splitter and plenty of cladding showcasing its SUV nature. The profile view is appealing too with the 16-inch alloy wheels giving it proportional looks. You also get a dual-tone roof with roof rails and plenty of cladding as well. Now, in terms of dimensions, it is a tad shorter in length than the Magnite, but it is taller so it sort of makes up for it. The story continues at the rear where the Kiger is again, quite funky thanks to the C-shaped LED taillamps and a sporty spoiler. You also get plenty of cladding on the bumper and overall it flaunts everything you’d want from an SUV.
Step inside and the cabin too is fresh and inviting. Sure, there are bits you’ve already seen on other Renault’s, but it all fits in well. The dashboard design is sleek and contemporary and with a generous touch of piano black and chrome, it feels premium as well. The center console features an 8.0-inch touchscreen with an updated infotainment system. Also, like the Maginte, you also get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but miss out on the connected tech. The other cool-looking bit is the 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster that is customizable depending on the drive mode you are in. This brings me to the drive modes. The Kiger gets three, Eco, Sport and Normal all of which make a noticeable difference to the driving dynamics. There is also an Arkamys sound system with four speakers and four tweeters and plenty of storage throughout the cabin. Combined, you have a good 29-litres of space to store your knick-knacks. The seats too in true Renault fashion are soft and supple. The support is adequate and you’d be perfectly fine covering long distances. Safety is looked after as well with four airbags on offer. The rear seat too is no different. You’d imagine the tapering roofline and the shorter length to be a problem, but the extra height and no change in the wheelbase mean it is spacious and comfortable. There is enough room back here and thanks to a flat floor, you can also seat three passengers comfortably. You also get AC vents and a charging socket, but USB ports are missed. Another area where the Kiger excels is the boot space. At 405-litres, it is one of the biggest boots out there in this segment.
Like the Magnite, the Kiger is available only in petrol guise. You get a 1.0-litre naturally aspirated engine making 71bhp and a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine making 99bhp. Both get a 5-speed manual gearbox, but the turbo gets the option of a CVT while the NA has to make do with an AMT. We thankfully had the most fun combo out there. The 1.0-litre turbo petrol with the 5-speed manual. Right off the bat, you will enjoy this engine for the amount of pep it delivers. The power delivery is consistent, and you get a good amount of surge as you flex your right foot. The turbo kicks in on time as well and there is a minimal delay. You can truly enjoy this SUV and when you play around with the mode it is all the more exciting. The Sport mode makes the steering heavier and there is a change in the pedal effort as well. It is all focused on giving you the sportiest experience. In contrast, is the Eco mode that lightens the steering and relaxes the engine which helps in the traffic and chaos of the peak hour. The gearbox too is slick and shifts are smooth thanks to well-defined gear gates.
Handling though isn’t anything to yearn for. It is composed and well-balanced, but it will roll if you get too enthusiastic. It is almost like a hatchback. Almost. The ride comfort, which again, is a Renault forte, is thankfully carried over. The Kiger takes on bumps and broken roads with ease and it is surprising the kind of abuse it can handle. The Duster DNA has definitely seeped through.
So, in conclusion, the Kiger has almost everything you’d want from a compact SUV. It has got the looks, it has got the presence, the practicality, plenty of features and the biggest one of them all, the price. Renault has gone and done the impossible. If you thought the Nissan Magnite was good value, the Kiger is even better. Starting at Rs 5.45 lakh, the Kiger is now the most inexpensive compact SUV out there and given the kind of SUV it is, that is quite an achievement. Sure, you won’t get the turbo-manual combo, but even the smaller engine does get you a lot of car for the money. The Kiger then has not lost any momentum by being the last entrant. It is fashionably late and is surely headed in the right direction.