Will be the next defining product from Renault India.
It is hard to believe that not very long ago, the MPV segment in India was virtually non-existent. The Toyota Innova introduced Indians to the concept of a large 7-seater Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV), offering comfortable ride quality and decent space for families. With its success, many brands realized that customers wouldn't mind considering practical and reasonably priced MPVs, and have since followed suit - resulting in the explosive growth of the segment.
The latest entrant to the competitive segment is a product that European markets are well familiar with. Yes, it may be called the Dacia Lodgy in Europe, but - for the Indian market - it bears the parent brand Renault's logo. And Renault India did not just simply swap the logo. They have improved the Lodgy from the ground-up; tuning essential aspects to not only meet an average Indian MPV customer's demands, but also push the boundaries in its segment, as you'll find out in our review.
On the design front, the Renault Lodgy isn't going to win any awards. It's a welcoming design that is neither bad nor head-turning. Over the Dacia Lodgy, Renault India has enhanced the design to inject a sense of premiumness. For instance, the Indian spec Renault Lodgy features chrome treatment all over the body, further differentiating it from its European brother.
The front fascia comprises of a two-slat chrome and black grille that houses the lozenge. It is flanked by two conventional headlamps with DRLs, connected by a fat chrome strip above the grille. The lower fascia has a simple central air intake and a set fog lamps, both accentuated with - you guessed it - chrome. The lower lip extends out in a subtle fashion, adding a dynamic appeal to the front end.
The side appears to remain as simple as the front end, although it does look a bit "boxy". Unlike the Honda Mobilio that is slashed with character lines, the Renault Lodgy keeps it clean with a chrome strip running across the lower side profile. Doors for the rear passenger are suitably large for easy entry and egress - a critical aspect of an MPV's versatility. As tested, the top RxZ variant sits on 185/65 R15 tires that wrap around a nice set of 5-spoke 15-inch aluminum rims.
Apart from the large and interesting-looking tail-lamps, the rear end also continues to maintain the simplistic design. It also receives its fair share of chrome: a large bar with the nameplate "Lodgy" engraved above the number plate area, and a slim chrome embellishment across the lower part of the hatch.
Measuring at 4,498 mm long, 1,751 mm wide, 1,697 mm tall with a wheelbase spanning 2,810 mm, the Renault Lodgy is noticeably longer than its closest rivals whilst being as narrow as possible. People upgrading from hatchbacks wouldn't have to worry as the Lodgy's size isn't very intimidating when scampering around heavy city traffic or while parking.
Two of the Lodgy's biggest selling points are inside the MPV: cabin comfort and equipment offered. Speaking about the former, the chunky seats of the new Renault Lodgy - in the RxZ trim - are upholstered in two tone Fume & Beige Alpaga perforated leather with quilted stitching. From initial impressions, the seats are supremely comfortable and have nice bolsters as well as arm rests to support the body - making long highway drives a pleasure.
The frontal visibility from the driver's seat is decent, thanks to the large windshield and high seating position (which is adjustable). The rear windshield also grants good visibility of the surroundings, even through the rear view mirror with manual dimming toggle.
The top-spec RxZ trim is a 7-seater following the 2+2+3 configuration, while an 8-seater with fabric upholstery is also available. We tested the former, which had a pair of captain seats in the second row. Like the front driver and passenger seats, they too were comfortable. Each seat can be reclined, has an armrest and HVAC vent on the roof, as well as exclusive foldable tray tables, further improving its rear passenger comfort and practicality.
The 2nd row seats are also foldable and tumble towards the front for access into the third row as well as to increase luggage space. While the rear bench seat cannot comfortably accommodate a 6-foot person, children and short adults will not be complaining about lack of room. There are cup holders, power sockets and dual HVAC vents, adding credence that Renault has paid equal attention to all occupants. Also, the third row side windows are large enough, so that occupants don't feel too claustrophobic during a long journey.
With a longer wheelbase, Renault not only focused on improving passenger space, but also room for luggage. The boot volume is 275 liters when all the seats are in place, and expands to a whopping 1,861 liters when the third row is completely removed and the second row is tumbled.
The dual tone dashboard has three storage spaces: the central upper side, below the passenger airbag, and the glovebox. The center console features plastic piano black trim, which is glossy and prone to catching dust and fingerprints. It houses two circular HVAC vents and the MEDIANAV 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
Taken from the Duster, the infotainment system has entertainment, navigation and communication functions integrated into it, as well as Bluetooth and USB support. In our opinion, the software was easy to navigate through, although the touch sensitivity and sunlight legibility was far from impressive. The latter can be improved by tweaking the contrast settings within the system.
The 3-spoke chunky leather wrapped steering wheel offers good grip, and features buttons for the cruise control function. The volume controls, voice call functions are integrated in a single stalk near the steering wheel, ergonomically placed for better reach. Facing the driver is a conventional instrument cluster with a new multi-information display (MID) that feeds details about the average fuel consumption, trip distance, and fuel level.
Equipment wise, the Renault Lodgy is packed with features that will help the French MPV set itself apart from the competition. As stated above, the company is very proud about introducing a segment-first cruise control function with speed limiter, which can be a boon for long and straight highway drives. It is triggered with a toggle below the HVAC control knobs, and its usage is monitored via the MID.
From what we can gather, the car reacts immediately as the speed is increased/decreased via the buttons on the steering wheel. Also the speed limiter function, which can be triggered after 30km/h, can help the driver adhere to speed limits in the city or highway without the need to constantly check the speedometer.
Other handy features include a reverse camera and rear parking sensors, one-touch operated driver windows, and electric door mirror adjustment (the control knob is conveniently placed under the leftmost HVAC vent).
The NVH levels of the Renault Lodgy are fairly decent. The company has tried their best in lowering the wind noise generated at high speeds and increased sound insulation around the engine area, it said during its presentation.
Engine and Gearbox:
The variant we tested was powered by the familiar K9K 1.5-liter dCi diesel engine delivering 110 PS & 245 Nm at 1750 rpm. Renault claims that they have improved the electric architecture of the engine, resulting in smoother power delivery and response. This was apparent on the highways, where the Lodgy surged effortlessly to triple digit speeds. Also, for an MPV that has a kerb weight of 1368 kg, the 110 PS K9K engine did not feel strained nor overworked.
The Renault Lodgy is capable of hitting a top speed of 165 km/h, making it the fastest MPV in its segment. It is also one of the fastest accelerating MPVs (0-100 km/h in under 13 seconds) too, said the company during the presentation. Keep in mind that the Lodgy is not a performance car, but isn't anywhere near boring to drive either.
The engine comes paired to a segment-first 6-speed manual transmission, borrowed from the 110 PS Duster. However, the 6th gear is only useful when cruising at speeds above 120 km/h. There is no automatic gearbox option for the Lodgy. The clutch operation was on the heavy side with short travel, but it's something the driver will get quickly used to once the vehicle starts racking up kilometers.
A negative about the engine and gear combo is the turbo lag that the K9K unit is known for. Around the city and narrow single carriageways, the turbo lag can be very apparent. We had to slot between 3rd and 4th to keep the revs high and turbo spooling. Otherwise, wait till the needle crosses the 2,000 RPM mark, after which the turbo begins to spool - catapulting the MPV forward. Keeping the turbo lag aside, the 110 PS engine in the Lodgy is a sweet gem that doesn't break a sweat when accelerating towards triple digit speeds.
Ride and Handling:
The ride quality of the Renault Lodgy can be summarized in one word - fantastic. The front end is suspended with McPherson struts and coil springs, while the rear is a torsion beam axle with coil spring and shock absorber. Both the front and rear feature adaptive anti-roll bars for improved handling and safety.
The Lodgy negotiated road potholes and speed bumps with relative ease, not moving passengers around the cabin like dolls. Even close to its top speed, the MPV managed to stay on its feet - giving drivers the needed confidence at high speeds. Though the suspension was a bit on softer side - at high speed corners - the Lodgy wasn't exhibiting too much roll or pitch.
The vehicle is based on the Duster's monocoque construction, which - as Renault claims - balances the rigidity of a body-on-frame chassis with the advantages of a unibody construction.
The electro-mechanical steering wheel was light at all times, which is a boon in the city and tackling hilly areas. It is very quick to respond and the front end offers good turn in - helpful when overtaking slow lorries.
Brakes and Safety:
The stopping power for the Renault Lodgy comes from a pair of ventilated disc brakes up front and a set of rear drum brakes. While the stopping power of the Lodgy was on par with rivals, the brake pedal feel was a bit dodgy. At the slightest push, the brakes bite unnecessarily hard, which could hamper the otherwise relaxed driving experience of the MPV. However, pre-production samples sometimes exhibit such issues, and issues may not persist on the production spec cars.
Renault has also focused on improving the safety standards of a budget family van. Along with dual front airbags, it is equipped with active safety features like ABS, EBD and Brake Assist.
The 110 PS Lodgy returns an ARAI-measured fuel efficiency of 19.98 km/l. We were averaging around 15 km/l, despite driving in the least fuel efficient manner.
Renault will also be offering a less-powerful 85PS variant, which returns a higher ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 21.04 kmpl.
Renault has not revealed the pricing of the Indian-spec Lodgy. Reports are speculating it to cost between INR 7-10 Lakhs, ex-showroom. Like the Duster, it could come in three trim levels: RxE, RxL and RxZ (as tested).
For Renault, the Lodgy is expected to be their next big product after the Duster. When the latter was launched, it redefined the idea of a budget compact SUV, and laid foundation to a new segment altogether. The company is now looking to replicate the success with the Lodgy MPV, and have done their best in meeting every expectation of an average MPV customer.
The Lodgy offers best-in class ride quality, seats and equipment, which is already enough to raise significant attention. The large amount of space available for both occupants and luggage will make the Lodgy an attractive option for people who live in joint families or with a group of friends who love to travel. The company didn't simply put seven seats and sent it to the dealer showroom. They have actually paid attention to the comfort of each occupant; offering premium leather seats, decent levels of space, and features like power sockets, HVAC vents, and cup-holders across the cabin.
The 110 PS K9K engine is nearly as fuel efficient as the Honda and the Maruti, although its trump cards are the smooth power delivery and the 6-speed manual transmission.
Pricing will play a crucial role in the Lodgy's success. Although it may have been late to the MPV party, if Renault can price it competitively to the Ertiga and Mobilio, then the positives of the Lodgy will help it stand out in the segment, and pose as a new problem to its rivals.