After spending a week with the range-topping Renault Kiger 1.0 Turbo Intens CVT, I have many things I want to share with you, dear reader.
In some aspects, such as looks and features, the Kiger was great. In other aspects, such as gearbox refinement, not as great.
Then, of course, we have to mix this in with the fact it is R299,900 – making it one of the more affordable small SUVs/crossovers on the market.
Regardless of my thoughts, the Kiger’s modern design and packed specification sheet have seen it fly off the proverbial shelves in South Africa.
In the sea of entry-level crossovers currently populating the new-car market, a main selling point of the Renault Kiger is its looks.
You can find a relatively affordable crossover with a generous equipment list in many manufacturers’ catalogues, with the biggest differentiator between these vehicles usually the design and after-sales services.
The Renault, therefore, stands out with its modern exterior – which also translates into a comparatively large cabin.
I enjoyed the layout and size of the interior. Although it’s filled with plastic, this is the case with most sub-R300,000 cars.
There is ample space for passengers or packages in the Kiger – except for the omission of cupholders – and the deep, 405-litre boot puts it at the head of its segment in terms of cargo capacity.
The Kiger’s many features are another one of its drawcards, with the “multi-skin” instrument cluster and 8-inch infotainment system offering all the necessary programmes for my daily needs.
Out of all the vehicles I’ve tested, the Kiger also had the most responsive keyless entry system and was the only one with wireless Apple CarPlay – which were my two favourite features.
As a crossover, the Kiger is meant to handle dirt roads better than your average hatchback, and I am happy to report that it lived up to expectations.
The night after a spout of rain I navigated the Renault along a dirt road that was “only accessible by 4x4s” and it danced over the muddy terrain with more confidence than I had anticipated.
For extra reassurance, the crossover also has a “low gear” – where it limits the engine speed and gear ratios to stay in “first and second” when you need more pulling power.
Fortunately, I never had to use this setting.
Combined fuel consumption for the 1.0-litre, turbo-petrol engine with 74kW and 160Nm stood at an average of 13.5km/l over its 8,000km lifetime. No doubt a few journalists before me have been giving this Kiger the beans during their reviews.
There aren’t many “not-so-good” things about the new Kiger, but they do need mentioning.
The driver’s door squeaked against a bloated rubber seal with each opening, and the driver-side window on this particular car did not go all the way down – while the passenger’s side did.
The Kiger does not have a larger brake pedal, like in most automatic vehicles, either. Instead, Renault removed the clutch and left the rest as is.
The small pedals led to multiple occasions for me where one foot accidentally compressed both the accelerator and brake. Granted, my feet are bigger than the average South African motorist’s.
Another thing that caught my eye was the “artificial leather” steering wheel. While there is artificial leather on the steering wheel, only the top section of the wheel is wrapped in this material – the rest is urethane and plastic.
Additionally, the “tri-octa” LED headlights – attractive as they might look – cast a lacklustre light on the road.
If I am being picky, I would have also preferred cruise control over the low-resolution reverse camera.
The compact Kiger with its all-round parking sensors is already a pleasure to park, and on longer drives I always had to keep an eye on my speed.
You might not have thought it, but monitoring your speed in the Kiger is more important than it might sound.
In the Sport setting, the 1.0-litre engine has decent bite and you’ll have no problems overtaking other road users.
That said, the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that delivers the power was a bit laggy.
Behind the steering wheel, the CVT in the Kiger periodically made it feel like it was guessing in which “gear” it should be in, which lead to unpredictable power delivery at times.
Sport mode fixed this issue somewhat – but it was still noticeable.
Between these, the Kiger offers a more unique and attractive look, while its features are enough to satisfy most drivers.
It also falls somewhere in the middle in terms of power and size.
If you favour the design and can look past its shortcomings, I believe you’ll be happy with the Kiger.
The turbocharged models also come with a 5-year/150,000km warranty and a 3-year/45,000km service plan as standard, which is reassuring.