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Renault Kiger

We all love a “2fer” – a two for the price of one bargain. And that is just what Renault is promising with their new Kiger (pronounced like “tiger” but starting with a K… just like a Kardashian). The love child of a B-SUV and a hatch, the Kiger has been designed to straddle the segments and offer enough eye candy to entice buyers from both, to opt instead for this hot half-and-half. It does this by promising more attractive styling than the average hatch, with better spec and more competitive pricing than a conventional B-SUV. The question is: will it work, or is there a risk that by trying to please all, the Kiger ends up pleasing none?

I am a sucker for good colour coordination, and so was immediately drawn to the alternating blue and white Renault Kigers waiting for us at the recent launch event in Pretoria. All the organisers needed to do was throw in some red models, and they would have cleverly referenced the French flag. It would have been unnecessary, though, as one look at the Kiger, and it’s hard not to know its origin. 

More Attractive Styling Than a Hatch?

French cars have long had a reputation for exquisite design, and the stylish little Kiger flies the flag high in the looks department. Cute and compact, it also exudes sporty flair with its pronounced black wheel arches, 16″ black diamond-cut alloys (on the higher trim levels), SUV-inspired roof rails (with a 50 kg load capacity), and chrome effects on the front grille. 

Anyone familiar with applying make-up will understand the importance of contouring – something the Kiger’s designers used to excellent effect with the addition of sleek and taut body contour lines to cinch in the Kiger in all the right places. Throw in Renault’s signature LED daytime running lights at the front, distinctive rear double C-shaped lighting signature at the back, and a bevvy of beautiful body colours to choose from (including two-tone in the top of the range Intens derivative), and it’s safe to say that the Kiger more than lives up to its “better than a hatch” styling claims. 

Better Specced Than an SUV?

Sadly, the Kiger’s catwalk-worthy good looks don’t continue on the inside, with a rather uninspiring dash and trim. The swathes of interior plastic are common in most low to mid-range vehicles these days, so it’s probably not fair to judge the Kiger too harshly on this… except for the fact that its exterior appearance promises haute couture while the interior delivers “made for retail”. 

That said, what the interior lacks in style, it makes up for in high-specced bling that is usually reserved for more expensive vehicles. Reverse camera with guidelines – check (on all but the entry-level Life model). 8″ touchscreen display on the top two (Zen and Intens) versions – check. Smartphone replication with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – check (USB in the Zen and wirelessly in the Intens). The Zen and Intens derivatives also offer a smart access card with push-button start/stop, and steering wheel-mounted controls. All three derivatives boast four speakers, USB and AUX-in ports, 12V power sockets, electric power steering and front power windows.

Kiger doesn’t skimp on safety features either, with ABD + EBD, rear park distance sensors, speed sensing door lock and impact-sensing unlock standard across the range. All models benefit from dual front airbags, while the Zen and Intens derivatives add front side airbags too. 

The Kiger is surprisingly roomy, considering its compact exterior appearance – although “tallies” like me may have to deal with a few extra blind spots, and a gear lever that feels rather too far forward once your seat has been pushed back sufficiently to accommodate long legs. Long legs also equal longer pants than the average person, but with best-in-class 405 litres of boot space, you can easily accommodate a second suitcase. 

Drive Like a Hatch or an SUV?

The Kiger comes with a choice of two engines – a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre that produces 52 kW and 96 Nm of torque, which is available with either a five-speed manual, or a five-speed AMT gearbox. The same three-cylinder 1.0-litre receives a turbo upgrade to produce 74 kW and 160 Nm of torque, and is mated to either a five-speed manual or Renault’s X-tronic CVT. The higher-spec models also offer three different driving modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – to mix up the driving experience, complete with mode-specific ambient lighting colours for added fun. 

But how does it drive? I was surprised that I preferred the auto options for both engines despite usually being a manual gearbox fan. The slightly elevated ride height gives you something of that SUV feel, though without the same amount of torque. Likewise, while being quite agile and responsive, the Kiger is not as powerful as other hatches out there. However, it has never claimed to be a hot hatch and still offers a somewhat spirited and fun drive, with the benefit of wallet-saving fuel consumption. 

And the Competitive Pricing?

The Kiger’s stylish looks are sure to turn heads, but its pricing is guaranteed to cause some jaws to drop to the floor because there is no doubt that Renault has priced the Kiger incredibly competitively, not only for its class, but for its high spec level. 

Last Word

Does the Kiger offer the best of both segments? Well, perhaps not all of the best bits, but certainly enough of each to make a bold statement that will be hard to ignore.Aimed at the young and young at heart, the Kiger will become a fast favourite with those looking for good looks, great specs and fantastic pricing. It is an excellent option, particularly for first-time buyers, and I’m sure the Kiger’s sales figures will soon prove me right.  

Report by Nicky Furniss | Images © Renault South Africa

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