What is it?
The Kwid's success came as no surprise. In a segment full of bland cars, it stood out with its SUV-like looks, its good list of features, especially the much-coveted touchscreen, and unlike what was expected from a small car, it offered space and a decent ride as well. Not one to take it slow, in just 11 months since the car's launch, Renault added a 1.0-litre engine option to the line-up as well.
The Kwid has won over 90,000 customers since its launch in September 2015 and has vaulted itself into the league of market leader Maruti. To further strengthen its appeal, the carmaker has now introduced an automatic gearbox on the 1.0-litre variant. Once the preserve of only higher-segment cars, automatic gearboxes are now sought after in the budget segment too, thanks to the affordable AMT technology.
On the styling front, the Kwid 1.0 AMT looks just like the regular car, except for a small EASY-R logo at the rear. The AMT is also only offered on the top-end RXT (O) trim which offers a driver airbag as standard.
What's it like on the inside?
What sticks out, or rather does not, is the lack of a gear lever. In its place is a fairly deep storage space. Where all other AMTs have a gear lever to select the driving mode, the Kwid has a dash-mounted rotary knob instead. The next surprise is the inability to manually influence a gearshift, as there is no lever to tip or paddles to flip, and the knob only offers three choices, forward, backward or neutral. The AMT tuning then had better be spot on. Renault has given the Kwid AMT a setup unlike others and a lot of the work has been done in-house working closely with Bosch for the hardware and FEV for the software. While the other setups use two ECMs (one for the engine and one for the gearbox) in the interests of costs, the Kwid has one ECM for both the engine and the gearbox and this makes the communication and control quicker and smoother.
Coming to the rest of the cabin, the AMT variant is similar to the manual car, which is a good thing as you get that ample room and usable storage spaces like the twin gloveboxes and the large 300-litre boot. There is also the unique touchscreen and the digital speedometer unit.
What's it like to drive?
By not offering any manual gear change option, Renault seems to be very confident about the AMT's gear-shifting abilities. So, how does it take off from rest? For starters there is no creep function, so you can take your foot off the brake pedal and the car remains stationary in neutral. While this may be convenient, it's not very safe as you can roll back on an incline or if someone rear ends you, you could end up hitting the car in front of you. According to Renault, this function has been given a miss due to feedback from AMT car owners. We would have preferred the function as it is quite handy. But having said that, most AMTs fail to get it right and the creep feels more like a jump or leap.
Once you press the accelerator, the clutch engages smoothly and offers you a controlled and progressive start. Of course, it would have been smoother with a manual, but as far as AMTs go, this one makes quite an impression. We began our drive on open roads, and shifting through the gears does take a fraction of a second, but the pause between shifts that gives AMT's their typical 'head-nod' is very minimal. It's only when you open up the throttle that the nod gets more noticeable and some gear changes will be accompanied by a clunky noise. But everyday driving situations with part throttle won't really be a hassle. Renault's decision to use only one ECM seems to be paying off. The gearbox also does not second-guess that often, and the shifts, in most cases, are exactly what you would expect.
After driving my car for 2 months (1000 km), I am happy to write this ...
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