Renault Lodgy: First Drive
The MPV battle just got more intense with Renault joining the fray as well. We take the new Lodgy for a spin to see how Innova...sorry innovative it really is!
Think MPV and the first thing that comes to anyone’s lips or mind is the Toyota Innova and that is the kind of monopoly that the Innova has commanded since over a decade. Be it as a cab or for personal use, the Innova has been selling in huge numbers even though it boasts an over inflated price tag. There have been plenty of competition of course with the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga and the recently launched Honda Mobilio which are doing quite well, but none have managed to dethrone the king. Renault thinks it has the goods to do so with its latest offering, the Lodgy. Coming right after the mega successful Duster, Renault is definitely on a high and is confident that their latest people mover will endear to the masses. We drive the Lodgy around the beautiful roads of Bangalore to find out what its all about.
The Lodgy turned out to be one of those vehicles which convey a very false sense of size when you compare the vehicle in pictures and in metal. While we found it quite boxy and compact in pictures, first glance at the actual car showed exactly the opposite of what we had imagined. Now the Honda Mobilio is a good looking car too, however just the fact that it has a Amaze/Brio looking front makes it look ‘not’ all-new. The Lodgy on the other hand comes across as a very fresh design. Of course its still boxy but then its a people mover supposed to carry 8 people in comfort. The front gets nice large swept back headlights which go well with the twin slatted chrome grille. There is a nice chin spoiler up front, the entire lower section finished in black which gives the front a sporty touch. Another nice design tough is how the A-pillars merge into the bonnet with a raised stance around the edge.
Its only when you look at it from the side that you realise how long the Lodgy really is. At 4498 mm its only slightly shorter than the Innova which is 4585 mm long. The silhouette is at its highest at the A-pillars after which it swoops down till the d-pillar. Renault has managed to hide the boxiness well by blackening the B and C pillars and providing a thick door cladding with a chrome strip running over it. The only that gives away the mass are the smallish 15-inch wheels. We think the Lodgy needed at least 16-inch wheels to give the design more balance.
The rear is purely a love hate affair thanks to those radical tail tail lights which are designed to reflect an arrow in motion. While we did not find any similarity, we still liked the off-beat design. Sometimes its good to be a little different and break the monotony. The rear window takes up a majority of the space at the rear with a nice fat chrome garnish lodged in the centre. There is another chrome strip running at the end of the tailgate as well. Renault has especially added extra chrome for the Indian market. Like the front bumper, the rear gets a two tone treatment as well which provides the much needed contrast. The parking sensors are neatly integrated in the black portion with the reversing camera fixed right under the chrome garnish.
Now its not an easy task to make a people mover look good, especially in the Indian market where people like a bit of conventional. But Renault have managed well with the Lodgy giving it a fresh look that will appeal to all but will be hated by none. At least Renault would like to think that the consumers will agree with us too.
Stepping inside the Lodgy feels every bit as spacious as it looks. With a wheelbase of 2810 mm which is the longest in its class and longer than even the Innova, the Lodgy boasts the most space. The two tone dashboard is a simple clean cut design minus any complexities.
Lot of familiar parts mainly from the Duster AWD which include the the speedo console, the steering wheel, the medianav system, aircon control and vents. But none of it looks out of place and look quite good in the Lodgy. Seats are from the Duster as well, which is a good thing considering they are quite supportive. View is extremely good thanks to the narrow A-pillars and the height adjustable seats.
Another important area where the Lodgy scores is storage places. There are plenty of places to store knick-knacks, coins, receipts and then some. Quality of materials is quite good too and its only the plastics of the power window switches and the chrome door knob that feel a little cheap.
The Lodgy is available as a 7/8 seater. The 7 seater gets captain seats in the middle while the 8 seater gets a bench. Both the bench and the captain seats are very comfortable with no legroom issues. Rear passengers get an India special aircon vents above with blower speed control while the last row just gets vents.
The third row like in the other MPV’s are best suited for children or short commutes. While there is enough legroom so you don’t really feel claustrophobic, the high floor means there is very little under thigh support.
The seating is quite flexible too. The second row seats split in a 60:40 ratio allowing easy access to the third row, while the third row can be split in a 50:50 ratio or removed completely to make more boot space available.
Engine and Performance
The Lodgy too like the Duster gets the 85 PS and 110 PS engines. However during the drive, they only had the 110 PS variant available. Now this is a proven mill which has been doing duty in a multitude of cars in various tunes. In the Lodgy too the engine makes a competition beating 110 PS @ 4000 rpm and a meaty 245 Nm of torque at 1750 rpm and a 6-speed gearbox. These figures best even the bigger engined Innova. The engine feels pretty refined and there is barely any diesel clatter audible inside the cabin. On the go, you get the typical turbo lag that this engine is known for, but then the turbo spools up quickly and leaves you surprised.
The Lodgy gathers momentum very quickly and feels more like a sedan accelerating rather than the big van that it is. Renault claim best in class performance figures too with a 0-100 km/h time of 12 seconds and a top speed of about 170 km/h, but that we shall talk about once we slap on our performance box on it.
Drivabilty is a strong point about the engine as well and the abundant torque makes overtaking a very easy affair. While we still need to see how it feels with a full load, we have no doubts that the Lodgy will perform just as well. Braking though we found to be a tad bit overservoed. Just a slight dab and the Lodgy is already dropping its anchors hard. Although we did not test the brakes that come with ABS, EBD and Brake assist, its good to have strong brakes in a vehicle which will be carrying 7 or 8 people.
Ride and Handling
Nobody knows ride and handling like the Europeans and the Lodgy is no different. In fact most of us were happily surprised with the Lodgy’s road manners. The Lodgy with its monocoque body and adaptive suspension is right on the money as far as good balance between ride and handling is concerned. Out on the highways, the ride quality was supple and butter smooth with no suspension creaks filtering into the cabin. Even rough patches were dismissed quite nicely.
As the speeds got higher on the nice Bangalore roads, the Lodgy even managed to take the curves brilliantly in its stride. You would expect a vehicle of this size to be quite unweildy when thrown into corners, but the Lodgy felt just like a well mannered sedan. A big thumbs up to Renault here.
So the Lodgy looks good (at least that’s what we think),comes with a choice of proven mills which are powerful and fuel efficient, has the most space and has plenty of features like cruise control, dual ac vents, leather upholstery, Medianav system with bluetooth, USB and navigation, dual front airbags along with ABS and EBD.
So in a nutshell, the Lodgy has everything to beat the competition and give Renault another success story. But to make this story a success, Renault has the very important task of pricing the Lodgy and that will pretty much decide if the Lodgy will become ‘the” MPV to buy or not. With the launch due in April, we really hope Renault gets the price right because this is indeed a very fine vehicle. Keep watching this space for more!