'They're noisy and wear out fast, but they're safe!' Renault on Kwid brakes

08 April 2019 - 09:11 By wendy knowler
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The Renault Kwid is South Africa's third best selling car
The Renault Kwid is South Africa's third best selling car
Image: Renault

It’s Renault’s biggest seller by far in South Africa, loved by first-time car buyers because of its budget price and trendy SUV-inspired looks, but many Kwid owners have been less than impressed with its “under the skin” quality.

Squeaking brakes, and pads which need replacing at low mileage - at the owners’ cost, with Renault dealerships blaming driving style or putting it to “wear and tear” - appear to be the most common complaints.

“Renault is selling faulty cars!” said Nombeko N on HelloPeter in late February. “I've visited my dealership five times since purchasing my new car in May 2017… I have problems with noisy brakes that are now depleted, faulty pedals, a broken car handle and a dead battery!”

“Employees at the dealerships say that a lot of Kwid drivers bring their cars in for the same reasons and they have the audacity to chalk it down to ‘wear and tear’ which means the customer must foot the bill!”

When TimesLIVE recently raised the issue with the Motor Industry Ombudsman, Johan van Vreden, he said he’d made contact with Renault SA about the Kwid brakes “concern”.

Renault has now confirmed that it has sourced “an alternative, softer compound brake pad” for the Kwid, which is “more aligned with South African conditions and driver profiles”.

“We are awaiting allocation of these components from Renault India, once they become available from the supplier,” said Viviene Ward, Renault SA’s press relations manager. “Our enfranchised network will be advised as to the availability of this alternative part as soon as stock [has arrived] at our parts distribution centre.”

While some Kwid owners have complained that the brakes are not only noisy but also slow to respond at times, Ward was at pains to stress that the Kwid’s current front brake pad and performance posed “absolutely no risk to safety”.

The brakes were produced in India with a hard compound more suited to that country’s “environmental and operating conditions”, Ward said.

“Their application in the South African context - better roads, driving at higher speed, and a cooler, less humid climate - can result, in some instances, in the brakes producing a disconcerting sound when applied.”

The phasing out of asbestos in vehicle brake pads had led to the use of compounds with a higher metal content, which made them more noisy, she said. “But there is no detrimental effect to the performance of the vehicle’s braking system.”

As for the complaint that the Kwid’s front brake pads wear out prematurely, Ward said: “Both brake pad and brake discs are deemed wear and tear items, and in most instances premature wear is due to driving style.”

“But in some instances it could be attributed to adjustment of the rear brakes - in those cases that we are aware of and relating to the rear brakes, Renault SA has assisted the clients financially in terms of our new-vehicle warranty.”

For the rest, the cost, according to Ward, will be R1,106 for the brake pads plus between R525 to R840 for the labour, and “sundries” - around R,2000 in total.

Vanessa Venketsamy bought her Kwid from Renault Umhlanga eight months ago, and within a month complained of the brake noise, but was told nothing could be done.

Last month, when she took the car in for its 15,000km service, she was told the brake pads needed replacing at a cost of R2,400.

At that rate, she said, maintaining her “cheap” car was going to prove to be very expensive indeed.

Asked why Renault SA will not replace all the too-hard, too-loud pads fitted to Kwids so far, at its cost, Ward said: “In those cases that we are made aware of, be it via the network and/or the customer care platform, Renault SA has and will assist the clients financially in terms of our new-vehicle warranty based on usage and merit.”

Last month, 1,081 Kwids were sold in SA, up on 1,069 sales in the previous month, making it the country’s third-best selling car behind the two VW Polo models.

It’s been Renault SA’s bestseller since its launch in November 2016.

But with only a driver’s airbag, and a lack of ABS brakes, the Automobile Association of SA has expressed concern about its lack of safety features, along with those of several other entry-level cars on sale in SA, such as the Datsun Go.

Ironically, for all its modern looks and nice-to-have features such as Bluetooth, the Kwid cannot be sold in Renault’s home country, France, as it doesn’t tick enough safety feature boxes.

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