Driven: 2020 Renault Kwid 1.0L

Variant Tested: RXT(O) Easy-R

Price: ₹ 577,720 (On-road Chennai) 

Not many car-makers gathered courage to set shop in India, take Maruti-Suzuki head-on with an entry-level hatchback and came out unscathed. Renault managed to do just that with the Kwid. With rugged looks and high-riding stance, the Kwid became such a hit that Maruti-Suzuki was forced back to the drawing board to come up with a rival. Renault, meanwhile, prepared the Kwid for the assault by giving it a facelift and more features.

We drove the new Kwid - in it's top-spec automatic avatar - to see if it still has a lot going for it.

A good-looking car just got better

Unlike most mid-cycle face-lifts, the Kwid gets a substantially redesigned fascia. Adopting split lights - a trend that's in vogue these days - the new Kwid creates a strong impression from the very first glance. The thin top clusters house LED daytime running lights along with the indicators. Between them is a rather large grille that emerges seamlessly with classy chrome strips at the top that seem like an extension of the LEDs. The redesigned bumper gets large headlights on black bezels that fill the gap nicely on either side of the air dam. 

The revised front end aside, the Kwid facelift fits perfectly into the 'blink-and-you-miss' definition. Changes are hard to spot unless you have a keen eye. The hub caps get a new design, the sticker gets better colour-coded graphics, the reflectors at the rear are new and the taillight lenses get new detailing along with LED guide lights that look particularly impressive when illuminated. Smart incorporation of the reverse camera - that makes good use of the space in the brand's logo - is a neat touch as are the positioning of the badges.

The high-riding stance and the plastic cladding all around that gave the Kwid a mini crossover-ish appeal have been retained with the bigger 14-inch wheels complementing them.

Interiors were trend-setting once ...

When it was launched in 2015, the Kwid broke new ground as far as an entry-level hatchback's interiors go. Be it the space on offer or fancy things like the fully digital instrument cluster and the touchscreen infotainment system, Kwid had stuff cars from a segment or two above didn't. Forget the Alto 800 which was the Kwid's main rival at the time, even an EcoSport didn't have those features then. And the Ford was a feature-packed car itself! In the ensuing half-a-decade though, the competition has caught up, thanks in no small part to this car. Thank you, Renault.

... but are just par for the course now

Without a doubt, the Kwid's cabin is still a good place to be in. The dashboard is simple and well-designed, the layout is practical, space for passengers and their knick-knacks is sufficient and it's easy to get in and out of the car. It's these virtues that make you forgive the flimsy build at some places and the odd positioning of certain controls.

Step in and the nice almost-flat-bottomed steering wheel (Isn't this an economy car?) welcomes you. So does the neat-looking center console that stacks air-conditioning vents, a 8.0-inch touchscreen and miscellaneous switches and knobs one below the other. Subtle usage of chrome bits and piano black trims look pleasing to the eye. Other nice touches include the rotary gear selector that's now placed in the floor console and the chrome-plated door handles.  

For an average Indian adult, the front seats are fairly supportive and overall visibility is satisfactory. The rear bench does its job pretty well too and can accommodate two adults and a kid without a fuss. The seats are a bit firm though and could do with a little more cushioning. While the driver and the front passenger gets a host of spots to store their stuff including multiple cup holders and slots, those seated at the rear don't even get a door pocket. Boot space is decent although the wheel arches intrude into the usable area.

Instrument Cluster:

The Kwid facelift continues with a full-digital cluster like it's predecessor. The good thing is it adopts a mature design that no longer looks like your kid's video game console. With a tachometer on the left and fuel and engine temperature displays on the right, the layout is tried and tested. What's unique is the absence of needles and how the digital bars appear to denote the current revs or fuel and temperature levels. The central display area shows the person behind the wheel all that's needed. The toggle button is well-positioned but look and feel cheap.

Infotainment System:

Touchscreens have become commonplace in entry-level cars now and the Kwid was one of the early influencers of the trend. With this facelift, Renault has one-upped itself and packed a 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system in this little car. The screen is quite responsive, easy to use, features all basic connectivity options and also doubles up as the reverse parking display. In the limited time we spent with the car, there was no lag to speak of and the interface left us impressed. The physical mute button and volume control knob are thoughtful additions.

What's the downside, you ask? Firstly, the screen was reflecting sunlight quite badly and it took a long, hard look with a tilted head and squinted eyes to find our way. Secondly, the speakers were strictly average - just like many other cars in this segment - and audiophiles would have to head straight to an accessories shop for an upgrade!

Renault has cut costs generously

Build quality, whilst acceptable for the most part, is not consistent and up to the mark elsewhere. The push-type door locks, glove-box lid and hood-release button are some of the many things where better quality materials would have helped. Another irritant is the location of power window switches that's sure to have first-timers fumble before they locate them in the center console. Did we tell you each wheel gets just three lug nuts to hold them in place?   

Peppy engine is let down by the jerky AMT

The RXT version driven here gets the bigger 1.0-liter SCe engine under it's hood paired to an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT). In isolation, the 67 horsepower and the 91 Nm of torque this mill churns out is nothing to write home about. But factor in the car's weight of 750-odd kilograms and the perspective changes. 

That's evident as soon as you get going. Turn the ignition on and the 3 cylinders under the hood make their presence felt. Refinement is not this car's forte. Rotate the dial into D, hit the accelerator and the car lunges ahead eagerly before the AMT pauses things momentarily, shifts up with its characteristic jerk and lets the car off the hook again. The mid-range is where this engine is at it's best and that's also where the AMT's intrusion is minimal and the jerks unnoticeable. Performance tapers off rather sharply once you hit the higher revs. Reaching triple digit speeds aren't a problem but cruising at those speeds all day isn't what this car is meant for. 

The AMT's limitations are also felt when you engage or disengage the reverse gear. Move the dial from D to R and vice versa like you would do in any other car and the unit is caught off-guard. The AMT takes a few seconds to realize what's been asked of it before you hear that clunk. Nevertheless, the convenience offered by the AMT without compromising on fuel efficiency is undeniable.

Ride and handling impress

Renault has quite a reputation for the absorbent suspension and sure-footedness exhibited by it's cars. The Kwid, trust us, tries to stay true to those ethos and even partially succeeds. Low speed ride isn't the best and the car thuds over large potholes. The ride quality improves at moderate speeds where the vertical movements are well in control compared to some of its softly-sprung rivals.

Handling is a mixed bag too. Despite it's light weight and basic suspension hardware, the Kwid isn't unnerving to drive. Be it the car's eagerness to respond to lane change inputs in the city or it's ability to maintain composure out on the highway, the little Renault doesn't disappoint. Braking is adequate too though the pedal's long travel takes some time to adjust. What lets the car down however is the super-light steering that's devoid of feel. But hey, that's what people want!

Safety isn't neglected

In our eyes, the Kwid's biggest miss all along was the car's complete disregard to safety. Agreed, it's rivals fared no better but that's hardly an excuse. With this facelift, Renault has made amends on this aspect. Structural reinforcements are said to have been added to meet the Indian crash test norms and the car - in the top trim at least - can be had with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and dual airbags.

With these changes, we hope the new Kwid fares better in the Global NCAP tests unlike it's predecessor that failed miserably - not once but thrice!

Specifications at a glance

To sum up

A major part of the Kwid's appeal since launch was it's refreshingly different take on an entry-level hatchback. Though cars like the S-Presso are vying for the same space now with similar attributes, the Kwid still has a lot going for it. The little Renault looks good, is spacious enough for a family, comes fully loaded and even has that all-important macho appeal. The erstwhile concerns on safety has been taken care of as well. The Kwid, then, is a budget choice you really can't go wrong with!

Text and Editing: Aravind Ramesh

Photography: Bharath Rengaraj / S. Keerthy


Toyota RAV4 sales cross 10 million units globally

After a couple of failed attempts by other car-makers to blur the difference between traditional SUVs built on frames and wannabe SUVs built on car-based monocoques, it was Toyota that popularized the 'crossover' with the RAV4. For those who aren't aware, RAV4 stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive. In what is a sign of things to come, sales of the RAV4 zoomed past 10 million units this February.

Toyota's successful compact crossover is rapidly closing in on Ford Model T that sold over 15 million units globally. Volkswagen's iconic Beetle is not that far either, having sold over 20 million units in a life cycle that spawned several decades.

When it debuted in 1994, the RAV4 was one of a kind. It was built on a platform that borrowed heavily from the Corolla sedan but with its high ground clearance and 4-wheel drive hardware, the RAV4 could go where Corollas couldn't.

In the first year, just over 53,000 of these found homes. But the RAV4 was well-placed to ride the SUV boom and saw it's annual sales go up to about 240,000 units in 2004 and over 640,000 units in 2014. In 2019, Toyota sold over 965,000 RAV4s with almost half of them in the United States of America. Remarkably, the RAV4 took 17 years to cross the first 5 million mark and just 7 years to replicate it.

Having cemented its legacy over 25 years and four generations, the fifth-generation RAV4 took over the mantle and is now selling better than ever. From the rugged and off-road-friendly RAV4 Adventure to the chic-looking and powerful RAV4 Prime, Toyota has made sure there is one to suit most buyers and their lifestyles.

RAV4's initial success prompted a host of other car-makers like Honda, Nissan and Ford to follow suit with crossovers of their own. Guess what, every one of them tasted success albeit to varying degrees.

Toyota hasn't made much noise on achieving this milestone. After all, they are the makers of the world's best-selling car of all time - the venerable Corolla - that's closing in on sales of 50 million units globally. The RAV4 is nowhere near. 

But this is a big deal. Here's why. Though the RAV4 is the first crossover to find a place in the list of best-selling cars of all time, it is not going to be the last. With demand for these high-riding vehicles showing no signs of slowing down, it's just a matter of time before the clan take over.


2020 World Car Awards announced

Winners of the annual World Car Awards were announced recently. Kia took home the big prize with the Telluride being crowned the 2020 World Car of the Year. The other categories saw Porsche, Kia (again!) and Mazda sharing the honours. 

2020 World Luxury Car of the Year

Choosing 'the' luxury car from a bunch of luxury cars comprising 3 new models each from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, 2 each from Porsche and Cadillac and Toyota Supra is always going to be difficult. Of course, given the fact we are talking about the World Luxury Car of the Year, the Toyota can be eliminated quite easily. But how do you pick one from the rest? 

Trust Porsche to make the job easier. The Taycan might have taken ages to hit the market but when it finally did in 2019, Porsche got it spot on. The brand's first full-electric car does everything you expect from a Porsche exceedingly well and doubles up as a legitimate Tesla competitor. Looks? Check. Performance? Check. Luxury? Double check, apparently. This is the first time a Porsche has won the World Luxury Car of the Year title.

Finishing runner-up behind the Taycan is Porsche's evergreen 911 in it's newest form. Mercedes-Benz EQC, yet another fully-electric luxury car aimed at Tesla, finished third. Other finalists were the BMW X5 and X7.  

2020 World Luxury Car of the Year Results

1. Porsche Taycan - 846 points
2. Porsche 911 - 786 points
3. Mercedes-Benz EQC - 778 points

Previous Winners

2019 - Audi A7
2018 - Audi A8
2017 - Mercedes-Benz E-Class
2016 - BMW 7-Series
2015 - Mercedes-Benz S Coupe 

2020 World Performance Car of the Year

Porsche had this in the bag even before the winner was declared. Yes, the top three contenders for this title were the 718 and 911 apart from the full-electric Taycan. In the end, it was the Taycan that emerged victorious. As stated before, the Taycan does everything you expect from a Porsche exceedingly well. It looks scintillating, handles like a dream from what we heard, can hit a top speed of 260 km/h, goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.8 or 3.2 seconds and has a range of up to 412 or 450 kilometers depending on the variant.

This is the sixth time a Porsche has been crowned the World Performance Car adding to the awards the brand won in 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017. The iconic 911 came second relegating the 718 to the third position. Other finalists were the gorgeous BMW M8 and the manic Toyota Supra.      

2020 World Performance Car of the Year Results

1. Porsche Taycan - 867 points
2. Porsche 911 - 809 points
3. Porsche 718 - 776 points

Previous Winners

2019 - McLaren 720S
2018 - BMW M5
2017 - Porsche Boxster / Cayman
2016 - Audi R8 Coupe
2015 - Mercedes-Benz AMG GT

2020 World Urban Car of the Year

Aimed at finding the car that's best suited to tackle the urban jungle, the World Urban Car of the Year is the newest category of the World Car Awards handed out since 2017. 

Kia made it a historic double with the brand's Soul EV successfully fending off competition from Mini's Cooper SE and Volkswagen's T-Cross. Currently in its third generation, Kia's box-on-wheels has evolved into a chic-looking urban crossover that doesn't discriminate for not spending much on your new car. That it comes with a credible electric powertrain makes it a home run.

Volkswagen's T-Cross came second with the Mini Cooper SE finishing a distant third. Two hatchbacks from Europe - Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio - were the other finalists. Cars that didn't make the cut include Hyundai Venue, Opel Corsa and Renault Zoe R135. 

2020 World Urban Car of the Year Results

1. Kia Soul EV - 751 points
2. Volkswagen T-Cross - 702 points
3. Mini Cooper SE - 574 points

Previous Winners

2019 - Suzuki Jimny
2018 - Volkswagen Polo
2017 - BMW i3

2020 World Car Design of the Year

Ever since they adopted the 'Kodo - Soul of Motion' design language, Mazda has been churning out seductive art pieces that happen to move and carry people around. Alright, that's a bit exaggerated. Or is it? Whatever you think of that statement, fact is the current crop of Mazda cars are amongst the best-looking automobiles one could buy. And the Mazda 3 - the 2020 World Car Design of the Year - sits right at the top of the brand's ladder. 

Porsche Taycan ran the Mazda 3 close and eventually fell just two points short of making it a triple at this year's World Car Awards. While Peugeot 208 was the other car in contention for the title, Alpine A110S and Mazda CX-30 were the finalists that didn't make the final cut. 

2020 World Car Design of the Year Results

1. Mazda 3 - 179 points
2. Porsche Taycan - 177 points
3. Peugeot 208 - 144 points

Previous Winners

2019 - Jaguar I-PACE
2018 - Range Rover Velar
2017 - Jaguar F-PACE
2016 - Mazda MX-5
2015 - Citroen C4 Cactus

World Car Awards brings together 86 automotive journalists from 27 countries including six from India. The annual process usually begins at the Frankfurt Motor Show the prior year where all eligible candidates for each category are announced and ends with declaring and felicitating the winners at the New York Auto Show. Thanks to COVID-19, the winners were declared online this year.

Kia Telluride is 2020 World Car of the Year

With the COVID-19 pandemic dragging the global automotive industry down by suspending production and delaying development activities, car-makers are in dire need of good news. For Kia, that has come in the form of the 2020 World Car Awards that was announced recently.

Yes, the South Korean brand's Telluride was crowned the 2020 World Car of the Year. Ever since it's launch last year, the Telluride has been garnering nothing but praises from the automotive fraternity globally. The World Car Awards jury were no different with Kia's newest three-row crossover coming out on top in all aspects that mattered. 

With an eye-catching design, well-appointed interiors that could shame cars a segment or two above and a laundry list of create comforts and safety features as standard, its not really hard to know why everybody seem to be impressed by this Kia. Car-buyers have been taking note too with Kia said to be struggling to meet demand. 

A couple of Mazdas - the 3 and CX-30 - were in contention for the title until the final rounds before settling for positions behind the Kia. The Japanese brand's stylish and upmarket cars and crossovers have been putting on quite a show of late and the 3 and CX-30 personify the strides made. 

Other finalists that didn't make it to the top three were Hyundai Sonata, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLB, Range Rover Evoque and Volkswagen Golf and T-Cross. These ten finalists were shortlisted after careful evaluation of 29 all-new models launched last year worldwide and assessing them against various parameters.

2020 World Car of the Year Results

1. Kia Telluride - 758 points
2. Mazda 3 - 745 points
3. Mazda CX-30 - 738 points

Previous Winners

2019 - Jaguar I-PACE
2018 - Volvo XC60
2017 - Jaguar F-PACE
2016 - Mazda MX-5
2015 - Mercedes-Benz C-Class

What's unique about the World Car Awards is the fact this brings together 86 automotive journalists from 27 countries representing television, print, online and various other forms of media. Six journalists from India including Autocar India's Hormazd Sorabjee and Renuka Kirpalani, NDTV's Siddharth Vinayak Patankar and Auto X's founder Dhruv Behl are amongst the jurors.

The annual process usually begins at the Frankfurt Motor Show the prior year where all eligible candidates for award are announced and ends with declaring and felicitating the winner at the New York Auto Show. In between, the jurors drive every car that's in contention, whittle down the finalists, trim them further to come up with the 'Top Three' contenders before finally agreeing on the winner. Thanks to COVID-19, the declaring the winner part happened online in 2020.

First awarded in 2005, the World Car of the Year title is currently in it's sixteenth year. This win marks the first time a South Korean brand has been chosen for the coveted title. Kia is going places, indeed!


'Heartect' could be Maruti-Suzuki's next growth engine

Come rain or shine, Maruti-Suzuki - India's largest car-maker - has always defied logic and gone from strength to strength. Be it the liberalization in the nineties that saw global auto majors making a beeline into India, the advent of stricter emission norms and safety regulations over the years, the economic depression that gripped the world in 2007-08 forcing many car-makers into bankruptcy, the continued onslaught of rivals or the rare decline the Indian market experienced in 2019, Maruti-Suzuki had somehow used every one of these as an opportunity to emerge stronger.

What is it they do that the rest of the industry aren't able to? Are they churning out aspirational cars we can't say no to when we're out car-shopping? Absolutely not. Are cars wearing the 'S' badge more stylish and safer than their rivals? Hardly. Are they the last word in performance and handling that enthusiasts crave for? That's a joke, don't fume!

So, what's the driving force behind this juggernaut that, in 2020, still sells every second car in the Indian market? The magic words are - and have always been - 'economies of scale'.

In microeconomics parlance, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation, with the cost per unit of output decreasing with increasing scale. In other words, as the volume over which investments are spread out increases, the cost to manufacture the product decreases.

Look no further than 'Heartect', the car-maker's new-generation platform that underpins a host of their recent models, to understand this. Maruti-Suzuki says the combination of advanced high-strength steel used and the smooth, continuous frame makes this platform lighter, stronger and safer than ever before. While those attributes are always disputable, what's not is the money that goes into developing platforms like these. We're talking about millions of dollars here.

Already, eight models in the brand's line-up - S-Presso, WagonR, Ignis, Swift, Baleno, Dzire, Ertiga and Vitara Brezza - are built on the Heartect platform. Bring in the badge-engineered XL6 (restyled Ertiga) and Toyota Glanza (rebadged Baleno) and the count goes up to ten. A slew of future models from Maruti-Suzuki and its new partner Toyota are going to be built on the same platform too, giving them enormous scale that could potentially drive rivals out of business.

By getting to amortize investments worth millions over such a wide spread of models that sell in tens of thousands every month, the cost incurred per unit by Maruti-Suzuki is significantly lesser. In contrast, imagine Volkswagen or Ford coming out with an all-new platform. They neither have the model spread nor the sales volume to make such investments financially viable for India.

In the last six months until February 2020, Maruti-Suzuki sold an average of 95,664 cars built on the Heartect platform every month. That's more than what brands like Renault, Ford, Volkswagen, Skoda, MG and Jeep sold the whole of 2019. Not even Hyundai and it's platform-sharing sibling Kia can boast of numbers like that. Lest we forget, the two Korean brands are second and third on the sales charts right now. 

This isn't the first instance economies of scale favour India's largest car-maker big-time. They made a killing out of the 1.3-liter DDiS diesel engine for over a decade and half while Fiat - the brand that designed and developed it - couldn't make it work and had to be content with the royalty Maruti-Suzuki paid for every engine. 

With the Heartect, they don't even have royalties to worry about. In short, this new platform could just be the catalyst Maruti-Suzuki needed to grow in the Indian market over the next few years. By growth, we mean more of revenue and profits and less of absolute volumes. In other words, it could turn out to be the runaway leader's ruthless weapon of dominance rivals ought to be afraid of.