The utility vehicle market in India today is a good 500,000 cars per annum and is now at par with sedans. India is a country of large families and we tend to travel with a lot of baggage. A car that has enough space for 7 people with luggage fits perfectly into this lifestyle. Enter, the people-mover or the multi utility vehicle (MUV). The segment is attracting a lot of manufacturers, especially in view of the unbridled success of Toyota’s Innova. Maruti launched the Ertiga, Honda followed with Mobilio, and now, after the super success of the SUV Duster, it is time for Renault to bring its own – the Lodgy.
Does the European have enough in it to hold off the Japanese?
Looks and exteriors
MPVs are generally not very appealing to the eye. The Lodgy tries to undo this by using a lot of chrome, with the grille, and even the headlamps. It also gets day-time running lights, a first for an MPV in India. Having said all that, the vehicle still looks boxy, especially when viewed from the side and the rear, all the chrome garnish and the quirky tail lamps notwithstanding. You will not buy this car for its looks.
What will attract you, though, are space and utility. The interiors are reminiscent of the Duster in many ways, but Renault has tried to spice it up somewhat. The dual-tone dashboard has a premium feel, and the three-pod instrument cluster, multi-information display, touch-screen infotainment system with navigation and rear parking camera with sensors at the top-end trim are all welcome, as is the plethora of storage spaces strewn all over the vehicle. The large upper storage bin is particularly useful.
Both rows get separate AC vents, but only in the top-end.
Legroom and headroom are excellent in the middle row, but slightly compromised on the 3rd row, as can be expected. Seating 3 adults in the last row becomes a real squeeze. One oddity is the location of the seat-recline lever, which is positioned on the shoulder of the seat rather than the side – though one could get used to it after a while.
Rear seats can be reclined as well as tumbled in 58 different permutations and combinations, and the third row can be entirely removed, all useful factors that can increase boot space from 207 litres with all seats upright, to 1,861 litres with the 2nd and 3rd rows tumbled. The 2nd row has a 60:40 split and the third row 50:50 split.
Ride and handling
At 2,810 mm, the Lodgy has the best wheelbase in the class, more even than the Innova’s 2,750 mm, but is 300 kg lighter. It uses the Duster's 1.5-litre diesel engine, tuned to produce a higher 110 PS or a lower 85PS power. Torque also varies from 200 NM to 245 NM. Interestingly, though the engine is smaller than the Innova’s 2.5-litre, the performance is nippier as well as more powerful. There is no petrol engine on offer.
Being a European car, handling is a strength for Lodgy, and the car is quite assured when faced with sudden changes in direction. Only at 120 kph or more does the steering start feeling a tad light.
The Duster has shown Renault the way for success in India. All their other cars have been non-starters, and even the Duster will encounter serious competition in the months ahead, so Renault desperately needs the Lodgy to click. They have priced this car competitively, to nestle just between the Mobilio and the Innova.
The four variants are not equally well priced, though. Rear AC vents, power windows, music system and dual airbags are not available on all variants. Though it does not have the stance or character of the Innova, the Lodgy does set the benchmark for interiors, space and utility.