The new Renault Scala is basically the Nissan Sunny. It’s a case of badge engineering, just like the Pulse and Micra. What this means is that, to save on development and manufacturing costs, allied carmakers Renault and Nissan sell the same car under both brands with slightly different styling. They are also marketed and priced differently from one another to target different kinds of customers. Like the Pulse, the Scala looks a lot more appealing than its Nissan counterpart thanks to the large, aggressive grille, stylish headlights and new alloy wheels. The car has been designed in Renault's Indian studio, with Indian tastes in mind. The rear bumper features a blacked-out section, which helps reduce the car’s visual bulk and give it a sporty look. When viewed in profile, the Scala is almost identical to the Sunny, save for the attractive new alloy wheels.
On the inside, the Scala’s dashboard is exactly same as the Sunny’s, continuing with the round and oval theme. The only differences are the Renault logo on the steering wheel and the leather upholstery on this car. The Scala’s big windows and skinny pillars mean visibility is pretty good all round. Most of the switch-gear is easy to use too, but a couple of controls, like the one for the electric mirror adjustment, are tucked away out of sight. The front seats are comfortable and the beige upholstery goes a long way to this cabin a pleasing place to be. Quality is decent and the fit and finish is a lot better than cars like the Toyota Etios, which it will compete with. What is truly fantastic about the Scala is the sheer space inside. Its long wheelbase means there’s tremendous legroom at the rear, even with the front seats fully pushed back. That said, thigh support, though decent, is compromised by a low seat base, so long journeys will have you shuffling in your seat trying to find as much support as you can. The boot is fairly generous and the seats fold down to further increase the luggage capacity, but they do not split; something that would have increased flexibility.
The top-end RxZ model we drove comes loaded with features. It gets kit like keyless entry, push-button start, power windows on all four doors, electrically folding mirrors, a CD player, climate control, leather upholstery, ABS, driver and passenger airbags and alloy wheels. The lower RxL isn’t too bad either; you still get the CD player, power windows, alloy wheels and all the safety kit. The most interesting feature, though, is the fan between the front seats. It isn’t directly connected to the air-con but the blower helps with air circulation and cools the rear seats faster. While this is great for the comfort, the fan does intrude a little into the legroom of the middle passenger in the back.
Engine options for the Scala are the 1.5-litre dCi diesel motor and a 1.5-litre petrol, again shared with the Sunny. We drove the diesel model, which is expected to form the bulk of sales. The engine produces a decent 84.8bhp and with a strong 20.4kgm of torque and it’s quite good to drive on urban roads. Part-throttle responses are good and, once past the initial turbo lag, the engine feels quite responsive. It’s only when going uphill with the car fully loaded that the throttle lag becomes apparent; the Scala feels weighed down and struggles to gather a decent pace. The car feels best in the mid-range and you have adequate passing power on tap for overtaking manoeuvres. The Scala’s light 1085kg kerb weight plays a key role in delivering impressive performance. However, on an open highway you will feel a slight shortage of power and find yourself constantly shifting gears to keep the motor in its power band. And, with this power band finishing as early as 3800rpm, it’s best to use the gears to keep the engine in the mid-range and not try and hurry the engine.
Like most Renault cars, what is very impressive is the Scala’s ride quality. This saloon competently absorbs rough sections and bad roads, thanks to its pliant suspension and tyres. The low-speed ride is mildly stiff and a few low-speeds bumps filter through to the cabin, but once you are at normal cruising speeds it becomes much better, and the suspension has the ability to take constant punishment without a problem. Poor sections of road seldom cause you to slow down, big craters don’t cause heart-stopping moments, and this means peace of mind behind the wheel.
Despite the good ride, the suspension isn’t bouncy and doesn’t throw the passengers around. Bumps do tend to unsettle it a bit, but it always feels safe and predictable. The light steering, which aids maneuverability at slower city speeds, weighs up sufficiently as you go faster and is precise for the most part. What you do get is a fair bit of road noise; the Scala’s insulation is not as good as the competition.
From the outside, the Scala looks like nothing more than a Nissan Sunny with a Renault nose and Renault badges. And that’s what it undeniably is, although the cosmetic changes have arguably made it much better looking than the car it’s based on. It has got all its basics right, with a linear diesel motor, good ride and handling, and a cabin that boasts decent quality. Spacious, frugal and reasonably well-built, the Scala has a lot going for it. Renault will launch the petrol Scala in the low and middle-level variants, while the diesel will be available in middle and top-level variants. The Duster’s success may rub off on it and, if it’s priced around the Rs 6.5-9.0 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) bracket, we’re going to see a lot of them on the roads.
Renault Scala Price Rs 6.90 lakh (estimated)
Engine size 1498cc (Petrol)/1461cc (Diesel)
Power 97.6bhp (P)/84bhp (D)