The first car always remains special, doesn't it? I'm sure, even those who are considering these two cars in particular as their second set of wheels, fondly remember when they got the keys to their first. In a country like ours, small cars are go-to 'starter' cars. Everyone from the excited teen to the nervous aunt to the ambitious grandpa — hone their skills on a hatchback. Over the years, the humble hatch has developed a connect with masses that only a few other have managed to get close to. If a manufacturer wants to be a part of the 'big league', the solution, in India at least, is going small.
The Kwid is Renault's first crack at making a small petrol powered hatchback for the masses. Going straight for the Alto 800's jugular is a bold move, but, the Kwid had its battle plan chalked out well in advance. Over the past year, it has carved out a nice little niche for itself, by being thoda hatke compared to the run-of-the-mill hatchback.
On the other hand, the Tiago fills in the (rather large) shoes of the Indica. What helps is the fact that it looks nothing like the car it replaces and has a bag full of features to woo the buyer. In my books, the best thing on the Tiago's brochure is the asking price. The little Tata is priced so aggressively, that it not only undercuts its rivals but a few variants land squarely in the Renault's category.
It's easy to see why the Kwid is so popular. Our market loves SUVs so much, that a cute little hatch masquerading as one gets lapped up by the dozen. In terms of design, it's all there. The beefy wheel arches, a generous dose of matte-black cladding, aggressive lines on the bonnet – are from Page 1 of the 'How to design an SUV' handbook. The only element that tends to look lost in the overall scheme of things are the skinny tyres. The squared-off wheel arches give rise to a humongous wheel well that the skinny 13-inch wheels just cannot fill up. For the record, alloy wheels are an option on the Kwid. I recommend you tick that; it looks a whole lot better!
The Tiago is the diametric opposite when it comes to design. The Kwid knows how to stand out amongst the crowd, and the Tiago knows how to blend in. The 'Impact' design philosophy that Tata has adopted is giving birth to possibly the cleanest design we've seen roll off an Indian manufacturer's assembly line. The attention to detail is what's commendable. The hexagonal detailing on the gloss black grille, the way the chrome flows through the headlamps into the bumpers, the cute spoiler spats and the blacked-out lower half of the rear bumper; stitch together a neat, cohesive design. Also, the sheet metal is thick, the paint is lustrous and the panel gaps are mostly even throughout. The Tiago scores the first point over the Renault in terms of sheer build quality.
The interiors have a similar story to tell. Once inside the Tiago, the first question that pops to mind is – “Is this really a Tata?". Compared to the Indica, the Tiago feels eons ahead in terms of design, and, more importantly, quality. Our test car had the colour-coordinated side AC vents, which I think looks really nice. Tata does give you the option of customising more panels to match the exteriors, but we think the gloss black centre console and the beige-black combo on the dash look sober and contemporary.
The Renault, on the other hand, has an all-black cabin. The design is funky – something that appeals to the young. And it is immensely practical too – you get twin gloveboxes, a parcel shelf, loads of storage space in the centre and then some more in the door pads. It also gets a fancy touchscreen infotainment system with navigation (but only in the top trim). However, it is paired with just a couple of speakers, placed at the end of the dashboard. Audio quality and touchscreen response, both, are average at best.
The Renault is surprisingly spacious for its size. In spite of the compact footprint, the cabin is accommodating enough for four suitably large adults. Moreover, the boot is rated at a mammoth 300 litres. That's 123 litres more than the Alto 800, and, get this, a full 96 litres extra than the Swift! Tata, on the other hand, has compromised on the boot space ever so slightly to carve out that extra bit of legroom for rear seat occupants. Compared to the Kwid, the Tiago has better legroom and knee room. Headroom is more or less on par, and seating three abreast in either is a task in itself. Both are four seaters at best, but, the Tata is better at keeping the occupants comfortable. The cushioning and bolstering is slightly better and the backrest on the rear bench is set at a relaxed angle. The driver gets a height adjustable seat, a tilt-adjustable steering and an adjustable headrest – all of which the Kwid misses out on.
On the equipment front, the Tiago has the Kwid beat. For the extra money you pay, you get a comprehensive multi-information display, steering-mounted audio controls, all four power windows, a chilled glovebox and, lest I forget, a stellar 8-speaker audio system by Harman. I cannot stress on this enough; this particular system is possibly the best you'll find in a car under Rs 10 lakh. You can safely rule out the thought of an audio upgrade.
Before I get on to how both cars run and drive, the six-footer that I am has to point out that the foot wells are cramped in both the cars. As a result, the left knee usually ends up leaning against the centre console, while the right knee brushes against the door pad. Moreover, the pedals are closely stacked in the Tiago, which takes some time getting used to.
Engine and Performance
Let's take a quick look at the specs of the petrol engines:
Renault Kwid: 799cc | 54PS@5678rpm | 72Nm@4386rpm | ARAI Certified Mileage: 25.17kmpl
Tata Tiago: 1199cc | 85PS@6000rpm | 114Nm@3500rpm | ARAI Certified Mileage: 23.84kmpl
I'm often asked if a particular car is 'easy to drive'. While my answer has always been 'depends on how well you can', these two cars can pretty much cover up for one's lack of driving talent. Being tiny petrol hatchbacks, there's minimal effort required to putter around the city. You can use a single finger to dial in steering inputs on both – the steering is that light! Coupled to the compact proportions, both make life inside the city much easier where you'll have to wiggle through traffic, make a quick U-turn or park in a tight spot.
Both cars have a problem keeping their voices down. If they ever ran into my school teacher, I'm sure they'd get an earful. I lost track of the number of times people asked me if the Renault was powered by a diesel engine. The Tata is relatively quieter inside out, but some more silence would've been nice.
Now, the Tiago has the larger engine and is evidently peppier compared to the Kwid. There's a whole 31PS of power differentiating the two, and it is more than evident when you mash the throttle on either. It isn't all that happy when you do, though. In fact, both cars howl and protest if driven hard. Trot about lazily and the engines are more than happy to oblige.
On a flat surface, there's just enough torque in the lower rungs of the rev range to let you set off without going heavy on the accelerator. But, the Kwid struggles on inclines, and matters get worse when it is packed to the brim. In comparison, the Tiago feels much better in this regard. Of course, you will have to work the throttle to get it up the hill, just not as much as you'd have to in the Kwid.
Ride, Handling and Braking
On a traffic-packed commute back home, the Renault made me adore the power steering. It's extremely light and lets you exploit that tiny gap in the jam very easily. But, when put through its paces, it barely lets you know what the front wheels are up to. It feels dead and vague, and more often than not, you have to trust your gut more than anything while cornering. The Tiago's steering is equally light at low speeds, but, weighs up much better as the speeds climb. It isn't too great at feedback either but is notably better than the Kwid.
Renault has got the ride quality almost spot on. The Duster is a benchmark in its segment for its ride, and the Kwid is well on its way to set an example in its own class. For a small hatch with skinny tyres, the ride is supple. The setup is soft, which absorbs most of the little potholes at low speeds. At high speeds, the ride is slightly floaty which makes one feel disconnected from the road. While it can clock more with some huffing and puffing, I'd ideally stick to double-digit speeds when driving the Kwid. The Tiago has similar ride traits as well. Cushiony when slow, and slightly bouncy when fast. However, it does feel surer-footed than the Renault at high speeds. We wouldn't pick either if we had to munch highway miles, but if we absolutely had to; we'd pick the Tata. It is more at ease and composed while doing highway speeds. Of course, with both, you will have to plan your overtake, downshift and gun it if you ever want to get anywhere in a hurry.
Stopping power is more than adequate on the Tiago, and is a no-drama affair on most occasions. We could've done with a little more feedback from the brake pedal itself, but other than that, it's all good. However, with the Kwid, the tyres tend to lock up far too easily. A wider set of tyres is heavily recommended, not only for the added grip but for added stopping capability as well. Notably, the Tiago gets anti-lock brakes, which the Kwid skips. The Renault also skips out on a passenger airbag, whereas the one for the driver is optional. It is good to see that Tata offers dual airbags as an option on every variant, barring the base.
If you are on an absolute budget, the Kwid makes for a sensible purchase. It is spacious, reasonably comfortable and easy to drive. That said, we wholeheartedly recommend picking the top-spec RXT (O) variant, for the safety net of the airbag alone. Now, let's boil it down to one single question: Is the Tiago worth the extra money? On an EMI basis, the top-spec Tata will cost about Rs 3000 extra, compared to the top-spec Kwid. If you can shell that out, please do. The Tiago is a better package in every sense. It has the better engine, has more space, more creature comforts and most importantly, more safety tech. I'll repeat what I said at the outset, the best thing on the Tiago's brochure is the asking price. It is definitely more value for money compared to the Kwid. Consider the fact that the 1.0-litre Kwid is on the horizon and will be substantially more expensive compared to its 800cc counterpart, the Tiago makes an even stronger case for itself.
What we like
What we don't
What we like
What we don't