So what you see above is Renault's show-stopper from the Auto Expo, the Kwid. Yes, it is a concept, so why is it here? Partly because the carmaker offered us a chance to drive its latest concept car and it would have been impolite to say "no, thank you", more so since we journalists from the Indian subcontinent have been given the chance before our European counterparts. Consider that concept cars are million-dollar one-offs that take several hundreds of hours of painstaking handcrafting – calling them hi-tech handicrafts wouldn't be far off the mark. But mainly it’s here because it’s not often that you get to drive a piece of the future.
Okay, we had other reasons to get to know the Kwid a little better. Staring straight at you, the Kwid impresses with its outrageous and adventurous character. Flip-up doors, large, 305/50 R16 tyres, a ‘Flying Companion’ (a remote control helicopter, in case you were wondering) in the back, cameras instead of rear-view mirrors, a central seating position and aircraft yoke-type steering wheel give it that necessary concept car appeal. But peel away the concept car extravagance and you'll see solid substance, something you could see maybe on future Renault compact SUVs. Slim headlamps that pop out at the corners, a chunky square form, wheels pushed out to the corners and the use of texturing to create a more feelsome look are some cues worth looking forward to. What adds to the seriousness of the Kwid is that it is a sub-four-metre car, and has been designed in collaboration with the carmaker's designers from India, Brazil and Russia. Two of those markets are Ford EcoSport hot spots.
So, finally, what was the Kwid like to drive? Under the skin, it’s an amalgamation of components borrowed from existing Renault products and some custom-made bits. The 1.2-litre turbocharged, direct-injection motor is mated to a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, a setup which is already seen on the Euro-market Clio hatchback. This engine's 120bhp rating is ample for the two-wheel-drive duty that the Kwid is offering up for now. On our drive, which by any yardstick was very brief, the Kwid felt hugely exciting. Which is saying a lot when you consider that we rarely exceeded 15kph. The wraparound windscreen and the low roof encapsulates you in an environment that we imagine is what fighter pilots are accustomed to.
But what made the Kwid truly thrilling were its concept-car origins. The Kwid felt fantastic, in the true sense of the word. The creaks and groans from the body were plenty, compliance from the suspension was non-existent, and when combined with the funky-pattern for the tyres, it meant going above 15kph would be like hitting a self-destruct switch, especially on the broken concrete we were driving on. Normally, concept cars are life-size carefully shaved clay-models or wood mock-ups. So the fact that the Kwid can actually be driven is an achievement in itself. Back to serious reviewing mode, the electric steering was effortless and the direct-injection turbo engine eager. Basically, driving the Kwid told us little, but we are glad we did, because there’s no two ways about it, the future of Renault’s compact SUV is being shaped here.