Renault has strengthened the Brazilian Kwid compared with the version made and sold in India

Renault has strengthened the Brazilian Kwid compared with the version made and sold in India

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If the Brazilian buyer has taken some time to understand - and especially to accept - the subcompact idea, the debut of the Renault Kwid will straighten this out.

Prices are truly aggressive and easy to memorize in the Brazilian currency, the real: BRL30,000/US$9,500, BRL35,000/$11,000, and BRL40,000/$12,700 for entry, intermediate and upper versions, respectively.

What really pleased the market was the appearance of an affordable car without too many explicit indicators of inferiority other than a three bolt wheel pattern (irrelevant) or the lack of a left footrest (relevant).

Wheel arch 'trims' are actually the arches themselves instead of metal work to save weight and outline the mainstream 'adventurer' look. Calling it an SUV, as Renault does, is pushing it despite its looks, the 7.1 inch ground clearance and the wide entry and exit angles.

The French brand has put more safety features in compared to the Indian version, structural reinforcements especially. Four airbags (two mandated at front, two on sides), two Isofix couplings for child seats and a rear window defogger (all standard) are also important as well.

Yet, it turns out to be the lightest car made here, ranging from 780kg/1,720lb to 798kg/1,759lb. When the poor quality of  Brazil's streets and roads is taken into account, the perceived ruggedness when driving the Kwid is nothing less than an engineering feat.

Inside, rear seat head and knee room are highlights although width is constrained and passengers' elbows and shoulders can collide. The cleverly shaped, 290 litres/10.2 cubic feet boot is the segment's best.

The fuel tank holds only 8.3 imperial gallons yet range does not suffer. Fuel consumption under Inmetro test procedures is 41/29.6 miles per imperial gallon city and 44/30.5 mpg motorway (petrol and ethanol respectively).

A first dynamic evaluation of the top version called Intense showed a fair performance. Despite the low power and torque for a current one litre, three cylinder - 69 bhp/96.1 Nm (on ethanol) — the low gross mass helps.

A new, lighter manual gearbox feels even better than those in other Renaults. The higher driving position assures good visibility, one of the Kwid's highlights.

Ergonomics are satisfactory with easy-reach power window switches on the centre fascia having them on the doors requires duplication. Yet the brake pedal could be better designed. 

The single arm, pantographic windshield wiper proved efficient. The car faces uneven surfaces and speed bumps (a nasty national epidemic). The 24.9 lbs/bhp power to weight ratio and zero to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 14.7 sec (on ethanol, factory figure) are within expectations.

A five-year warranty (with Renault Bank financing; normal is three years) and the first three inspections free of charge for those who pre-ordered the car result in a quite adequate package for this price bracket.

With the Kwid now available, the Fiat Mobi is most likely to be affected because the VW Up has been repositioned higher in the subcompact segment. Traditional compacts may also be affected due to current buying power and finance limitations.