The French Auto maker, Renault may not have a huge market share in India, but they do have a good reputation internationally. The Renault Duster is a huge success for Renault in India. The Duster is a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), meaning that it packs in more power and targeted at a different segment. It may not be your everyday drive. Renault was among the pioneers to introduce the concept of MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) with their Espace during the 80s. Now the MPV market makes sense for Indians. Most of us who own a sedan or a hatchback want a bigger car to drive with the family. But the SUV may not fit this need and at most times, it is an overkill. The auto manufacturers sensed the need and have started introducing MPVs in the market. The popular Innova may still be a large vehicle to drive around, but Maruti Ertiga is making waves in the MPV sales. Honda Mobilio is overpriced and it not hugely popular. So when Renault decided to launch the Lodgy in India, it had to fight an aggressive war to win the MPV segment.
The Renault Lodgy has a monocoque design which makes it much lighter and gives a car-like feel to drive. The monocoque design may not be a load puller, but it is best suited for a MPV which will be carrying people and safety is a primary point to consider. The shape of the Lodgy is not unique. It is not a head turner. The rear end is boxy, but Renault has used chrome fittings generously on the exterior to add style to Renault Lodgy. When I first laid my eyes on the Lodgy, I can’t help notice how small the tyres were. For a large body, the tyres were too small. It is the same 15 inch wheel as in my Swift. But then the monocoque design and small tyre, largely contribute to the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. The Lodgy is a robust vehicle and it feels very sturdy. The front of the car looks good compared to the rear. But there are a couple of design trends that the Lodgy is missing. The indicators are not integrated with the side mirrors and there is no key-less entry option. The keys look bulky and old fashion. Otherwise the Lodgy has good ground clearance and seems to have been designed with the Indian roads in mind.
Under the hood
The Renault Lodgy is powered by a 1.5 Litre K9K diesel engine. It comes in two variants, the 84 BHP and the 109 BHP. Naturally the 84 BHP is more fuel-efficient than the 109 BHP, but the difference is small. The 109 BHP variant has a 6 speed manual transmission, which would be really helpful on long drives. Also for a people carrier, I would prefer to have that extra power tucked into the engine and can be unleashed when needed. The engine is completely noiseless from inside. It feels like a highly refined engine to drive. When I got my Swift, I first took a test drive on the Tata Indigo Vista and the noise in the car made to buy the Swift. Probably you will also feel the same, if you test drive the Innova and then drive the Lodgy. The pick-up or the acceleration response is a bit slow when you first start the engine. But as you start driving it, the acceleration response is really good. The engine smoothly and effortlessly shifts between various speeds. On the road, the Lodgy is a pleasure to drive. At high-speed, the noise from the road and air draft noise is completely silenced and you can totally enjoy the drive. The gear shift was a bit hard, but the clutch and accelerator were both smooth to operate. The Renault Lodgy claims to offer around 20 kmpl in both the variants. If it lives up to deliver something close to 16 kmpl under city conditions, it would be an eternal joy to own this MPV.
The car was very smooth to drive, even on bumpy roads. The suspension is really effective and balanced. I have a habit of steering with one hand and my left hand is always on the gear rod. So with this car, handling and steering was very smooth, even with single hand. That is exactly why it feels car-like to drive. For an MPV with 15 inch wheels, the drive quality took me by surprise. Negotiating tight corners and steering through difficult bends was like a breeze with the Renault Lodgy. Also it has a decent ground clearance of 174 mm, which is really needed for cities like Bangalore and its non-scientific speed bumpers. The ABS brakes performs as expected. Any diesel-powered vehicle would need ABS brakes to help stop the vehicle at high speeds. I was shown a chart comparing the braking distance of Lodgy with other vehicles in this segment. I never got a chance to try it, yet I have a positive feeling towards the braking ability of the Renault Lodgy.
We once owned a Hyundai Santro and when we got it, it was the tallest hatchback available. It was sold as a tall boy design. The Renault Lodgy reminds me of that. It has a very tall body and the seat exactly at your waist height. So you can effortlessly get in and out of the car. Most senior citizen would appreciate it. The front row is very spacious. For the driver, the seat height is adjustable and so is the steering column. The driver seat also has arm rest, which I didn’t like as it was coming in the way of the hand break. The dashboard is not too complicated. It has all the required controls and information display placed comfortably within reach. But I didn’t like the placement of the audio controls. Why not just leave it on the steering? It does not feel very plain like in Innova, but it does not feel luxurious. The dashboard material is plastic, but it feels premium.
The visibilty from the driver’s seat is very good. The blind spots are minimal. There is cruise control on the steering and there is a speed limiter function. Most of the interiors also feel that this car was made for long drives. But having said that, where is the dead pedal to rest your feet? The multimedia navigation console is a 7 inch touch screen. It is manufactured by LG. I tried pairing it with my mobile and it was very easy pairing and using your mobile phone from the Car’s navigation panel. However I would have preferred if they had call controls on the steering as well. The navigation system comes with 3 years free map updates. The sound system is not the greatest I have experienced. It is just the stock speaker system and it behaves like one. The display also serves as the monitor for your reverse camera. The car has 3 sensors and a camera at the back for reversing. No front or side sensors.
The middle row was spacious for me and I am 5 foot 10 inch tall. But it would be a problem if you are seating a person with a large body frame in the middle row. The middle row seats are not adjustable. This is a huge deal breaker. The middle row is going to be occupied most of the times and if the people in middle row are not happy, the car won’t get any brownie points. But as you get on to the 3rd row, you would feel that getting in and out of the third row is much easier compared to Fortuner or Innova. The 3rd row is much more spacious and comfortable than the 2nd row. It has low seating and hence you get ample headroom.
The Renault Lodgy has a large boot capacity with the third row up. The middle row is 30:70 split while the third row is 50:50 split. The third row can also be completely removed to give a super large boot space. It is definitely a large and spacious vehicle from inside. Also the air condition can be controlled from the passenger’s cabin as well.
The bottom line
The Renault Lodgy may not be head turner. It may not get a second look, but if you give it a second thought, you will find that it is one of the best available options as a family car. It offers good city ride as well as highway ride. It is not a classic off-road vehicle. It is available at a price starting from Rs 8 lakh ex-showroom. For the price of a sedan (or even some hatchbacks) this vehicle is definitely a great value for money. It offers good and spacious interiors compared to Ertiga or Mobilio. It is definitely a sensible vehicle and would be a sensible buy.