FIRST DRIVE | The 2019 Renault Kwid is still one of the most awful cars in SA

This badly built and inherently unsafe 'budget' car remains a product that cannot be recommended in good faith, writes Brenwin Naidu

20 November 2019 - 14:27
The 2019 Renault Kwid – we'd advise you to spend your money elsewhere.
The 2019 Renault Kwid – we'd advise you to spend your money elsewhere.
Image: Supplied

This week Renault released its enhanced Kwid hatchback in South Africa. Feel free to take that “enhanced” descriptor with a few pinches of Aromat.

At the launch, custodians from the company deployed an array of amusing distractions to steer the thoughts of national media elsewhere. That included a smelting demonstration at Gold Reef City theme park, a go-kart race and bungee jumping - all in succession.

I made a swift exit before that last one. But the itinerary was appropriate, perhaps. These are activities that require protective gear, much like the helmets and harnesses you should don if you were taking a drive in their shoddy offering.

Luckily, there are more accomplished alternatives at this end of the market that are less likely to tip over or fold like a French accordion in a collision. Put this story down, then go have a gander at other similarly affordable, competent city slickers like the Toyota Aygo (from R174,900), Peugeot 108 (from R179,900) and Volkswagen Up (from R180,900).

The Kia Picanto is a laudable package too, if you opt for the 1.0 Street model grade (R169,995), since the 1.0 Start (R162,995) omits anti-lock brakes. No forgetting that Suzuki Celerio either (from R142,900).

Does a digital dash make up for terrible safety ratings? Renault seems to think so.
Does a digital dash make up for terrible safety ratings? Renault seems to think so.
Image: Supplied

But if you insist on spending your hard-earned rands on what is easily one of the top five worst new cars in the country, allow us to give you the lowdown.

This latest Kwid is a facelift, not an all-new model. Admittedly, the frontal styling enhancements give it a rather charming character, with its countenance managing to be both aggressive and cute.

Inside, materials of a (slightly) better quality now feature – though the cabin of the Kwid continues to radiate a flimsy and brittle air. We noted aspects that were especially iffy: the upholstery around the gear lever of our tester was already coming apart at the seams.

And with the front doors open, peering into the gap between the fenders revealed the haphazard approach to painting employed on the production line. This extent of corner-cutting and cheapness boggles the mind in 2019. The budget was seemingly blown on a more comprehensive infotainment system with a larger screen and a reverse camera. There is a USB charging port for passengers in the rear.

The rear axle was purportedly revised for improved stability. Something the product manager delivering the presentation noted on his digital slides by using an emoji of a handheld gimbal stabiliser. He joked that occupants would now be able to record their exploits with less shakiness.

Apple CarPlay is standard.
Apple CarPlay is standard.
Image: Supplied

Could we discern this additional composure over our stint on the freeway? Frankly, the Kwid still felt nervous and fidgety, imbuing us with more unease than confidence, even trekking below the national limit.

Thankfully, there were no emergency lane-change manoeuvres to be performed. We were, however, nearly taken out by an overzealous Toyota Hilux driver who expected us to sneak past an amber traffic light. My colleague and I said a little prayer of thanks for his swerving skills.

A 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine (50kW and 91Nm) is on duty as before, mated to a five-speed manual. Buyers can also opt for a five-speed automated-manual, adding an extra dollop of hatefulness (and danger) to the Kwid experience, with its slow-shifting nature.

The 2019 Renault Kwid offers dismal crash protection.
The 2019 Renault Kwid offers dismal crash protection.
Image: Supplied

In terms of safety, the front passenger gains an airbag. Meanwhile, anti-lock brakes are standard across the range, an addition that was already made earlier in 2019 with the outgoing version.

The crucial thing to bear in mind is that despite these specification upgrades, the overall structure of the Kwid remains unchanged. This means it will perform as it did in previous crash tests. This sentiment was acknowledged by the marketing boss at the automaker, Jesus Boveda.

Since its 2016 launch, the Kwid has become a major money-spinner for Renault - regularly accounting for the bulk of its monthly sales. More than 27,700 were sold. Last month alone, they shifted 1,056 of them. That kind of performance is unlikely to be stymied by our critical words.

Yet, we will say it again, as we have previously: the Renault Kwid is not a product that can be recommended in good faith.


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