REVIEW | The 2020 Renault Triber is spacious but oh-so-underpowered

26 March 2020 - 15:00 By Denis Droppa
The Triber is the cheapest way to carry seven people. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Triber is the cheapest way to carry seven people. Picture: SUPPLIED

Larger families on a budget were given a new cost-cutting choice to consider last month when Renault SA launched its Triber, a humbly-powered but keenly-priced seven-seater.

Based on the Kwid and likewise imported from India, the Triber is one of the French brand’s vehicles for price-sensitive developing markets.

Sold in a range of three models priced between R164,900 and R189,900, the 1.0l car enters the market as SA’s cheapest seven-seater, undecutting the more powerful Honda BR-V 1.5 which starts at R258,000, and the Toyota Avanza 1.3 which starts at R243,000.

In the range-topping Triber Prestige I road tested, the price tag comes with a notably generous spec sheet including LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, a keyless entry with push-button start/stop, a cooled glovebox and a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and all the modern smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth and physical ports.

It also has aircon with vents for all three rows, but using the aircon exacerbates the car’s most serious drawback: a lack of power.

The small three-cylinder petrol unit keeps costs down, but placing such a meek engine in a car designed to carry seven people isn’t a great idea. Even with just two people on board the Renault Triber feels overwhelmed, and barely powerful enough to pull the proverbial skin off cold coffee. 

Its feeble power makes it decidedly a city car, because it isn’t able to maintain the 120km/h speed limit on the freeway if there’s any ascent involved. On some gradients the car struggles to stay above 90km/h.

Trying to keep it in the power band involves mercilessly revving the little engine, which yells its displeasure noisily and contributes to a frantic driving experience. Having to rev it so high makes the fuel consumption suffer tpp, and our test car slurped 7.2l/100km compared to the claimed 5.5l.

Neat, uncluttered dash has touchscreen infotainment and digital instrument panel. Picture: SUPPLIED
Neat, uncluttered dash has touchscreen infotainment and digital instrument panel. Picture: SUPPLIED

Even worse than the limp power is the annoying dead spot that occurs during gear changes if you don’t get the timing of the clutch/throttle shuffle just right. These power pauses make the car jerky and unpleasant to drive in the stop-start of urban traffic.

The Triber is based on a modified version of the platform underpinning the Kwid hatchback and has the same lightweight structure, weighing just 957kg. How this affects its structural integrity is unknown as it hasn’t been crash-tested yet, but all versions of the Triber have ABS brakes as part of the safety complement while the range-topping Prestige has four airbags (the cheaper Expression and Dynamique models each have two).

In the seat-of-the-pants measure the car has a flimsy, built-for-developing-markets feel and lacks the solidity of the brand’s French-sourced cars like the Clio and Megane.

The interior avoids feeling cheap, however, conveying a contemporary design with the infotainment touchscreen and digital instrument panel set into a neat and uncluttered dashboard. The seats are covered by an attractive looking cloth.

It’s styled in a fun and funky way, embellished with daytime running lights and contrasting colours like black roof rails and silver skid plates.

Flexible cabin allows rear seats to be folded or removed. Picture: SUPPLIED
Flexible cabin allows rear seats to be folded or removed. Picture: SUPPLIED

In terms of its people-carrying abilities, the Triber’s a practical soccer mom’s car — power allowing — with its two-three-two seating layout of three rows and modular interior. There’s an impressive amount of interior space for a 3,999mm long car, able to accommodate four adults comfortably in the front two rows, and an additional two at more of a squeeze in the rearmost seats. 

To adjust for different-sized passengers, the first two rows can be slid fore or aft on rails.

There’s almost no boot with the rearmost seats in place, but these can be removed to create a roomy 625l luggage hold as part of the Triber’s numerous configurations, while the middle seats fold flat to swallow additional stockpiled toilet rolls.

The Triber has an above-average 182mm ground clearance which may be useful for clambering up pavements. More importantly its high profile tyres have good pothole-absorption capabilities.

The Triber’s suspension is acceptably comfortable and it doesn’t feel too jittery on rough roads, but the lightweight, tinny feel is always prevalent. The cornering is neat up to a certain point, but the rather top-heavy car doesn’t invite exploration of its handling capabilities at higher speeds.

The premise of an affordable seven-seater is laudable in these tough economic times, but Renault has perhaps delved too far downmarket to achieve its good pricing. 

The Triber is the cheapest new car that can carry seven people, and the range-topping Prestige version is quite well specced, but it’s drastically underpowered and a generally nasty driving experience. For the price, a secondhand BR-V, Ertiga or Avanza would make better bets methinks.


Renault Triber 1.0 Prestige

WE LIKE: Cheapest way to carry seven people, lots of features

WE DISLIKE: Meek power, lurching during gearshifts, flimsy feel

VERDICT:  Too underpowered for a people carrier 

Motor News star rating

Design * * * *

Performance *

Economy * * *

Safety * * *

Value For Money * *

Overall * *

Competition

Honda BR-V 1.5 Trend, 88kW/145Nm — R258,800

Suzuki Ertiga 1.5 GA, 77kW/138Nm — R221,900

Toyota Avanza 1.3S, 71kW/121Nm — R243,000


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Three-cylinder petrol

Capacity: 1.0l

Power: 52kW

Torque: 96Nm

Transmission

Type: Five-speed manual

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance 

Top speed: n/a

0-100km/h: n/a

Fuel consumption: 5.5l/100km (claimed); 7.2l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 131g/km

Standard features

ABS brakes, four airbags, rear park distance sensors, reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, cloth seats, electric windows, electric mirrors, aircon, touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, navigation, keyless entry with push-button start/stop, 185/65 R15 tyres

Ownership

Warranty: Five years/150,000km

Service plan: Two years/30,000km

Price: R189,900

Lease*: R4,129 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

X