Now though, Renault has added an automatic gearbox option in the form of the Kwid AMT, and I headed down to the Mother City to not only try the ‘box out but experience the Kwid in general.
Successful for a reason
With a starting price of R126 900, albeit for the entry-level Expression manual model, it is easy to see why the Kwid has become such a sales success. While that amount will get you something a lot bigger with more equipment and power on the used market, a lot of buyers want to experience buying a new car for the first time, which is what the Kwid offers.
It is affordable for many a first time buyer at R1999 per month, and with Renault throwing in a year’s free insurance, the Kwid has arguably given the greater number of those 10 000 buyers freedom to move around for the first time. Many Kwid buyers are stepping out of taxis that plague our roads. For them, the price factor and the ability to go where they want to go and when is a key element when choosing the Kwid.
Just the basics will do
The looks also play a very important part with many consumers choosing the Kwid for its somewhat cheeky front-end and SUV-inspired elements, such as the raised ride height and 180mm of ground clearance. Then there is the boot which has a capacity of 300-litres and space inside for five people.
It is, however, important to note that the Kwid is built in India as the market demands are higher than in South Africa. It only comes with what is deemed necessary which from a local perspective, means a seven-inch touchscreen MediaNav infotainment system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth and USB, front electric windows, central locking and air-conditioning to name but a few.
The interior is roomy considering the car’s size, but don’t expect a multi-function steering wheel or plush materials. The car is made of cheap materials so as to keep costs down.
A manual automatic gearbox?
At R146 900, the AMT is only offered on the top spec Dynamique model and comes in at R10 000 more than the equivalent manual. From the off, it is important to note that the AMT is not a traditional automatic gearbox but, as its name suggests, an automated manual transmission that uses electronics to change gear.
Aside from lacking a clutch pedal, it also does without a gear lever in favour of a rotary dial with only three options; Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Unfortunately, there is no rev counter or gear indicator so you have to drive on feel. As soon as the car dips in power, you simply take your foot off of the accelerator as you would in a manual car and it changes gears.
I managed to get a hand full of smooth changes but for the most part, one really needs to apply pressure to the accelerator. The little Kwid has to make do with a 999cc motor which develops 50kW/91Nm. Renault also claims that this gearbox and engine combination will return around 4.4-litres/100km.
I do see the benefits of this gearbox for first time buyers who have never owned or experienced an automatic gearbox before. It has been designed and implemented to deal with traffic.
Another issue I found is that after starting the year off in India and experiencing their laughable driving habits, I can completely understand the Kwid in that market. They don’t drive fast, they squeeze between each other in traffic and it is all just a chaotic mess. They love cheap cars because all they need is something to get from A-B when they want and in something they own. Granted, while the same applies to South Africans, our driving styles are a bit different.
The Kwid will do just fine meandering the streets of suburbia or little back roads. Unfortunately, as we experienced on the launch, it does tend to struggle to keep to the national limit and is far happier at 80km/h. The wind factor is also a concern as the car tends to get bullied by a fresh gust, albeit the strong winds of the Cape.
To be honest, I’m at a crossroads when it comes to the Kwid. It has good levels of equipment, is affordable and is ideal for the first time buyer. Personally, though, I’d visit the autodealer.co.za and look for something else, or you could wait for 2019 when ABS and dual front airbags become available.