One man show! That’s pretty much been the case for Renault in India. Ever since it’s launch, the Duster has been single handedly running the show for Renault in India. Other products such as the Scala, Pulse, Fluence & Koleos have done very little on the sales front. But the French manufacturer has big plans for India in the immediate future. Back in 2008, Renault was the first foreign car manufacturer to set up a design studio in India, which was established in Mumbai. This design studio studies the customer trends and provides integral inputs to what could make or break a deal. In 2015, Renault will launch two all-new products in India in two untapped segments. One is the Lodgy MPV while the other is the XBA hatchback which will fight in the A-segment. Renault plans to generate sizeable volumes from these two cars and increase their market share which currently stands at 1.50% as of February 2015. If both the new products click well with the customers, Renault is sure to zoom past Chevrolet & Volkswagen in the market share race.
Big cars in India are often directly proportional to the size and not just the price. An MPV, although not the best of lookers, is still a BIG car for most of the buyers. Did you know Renault was the inventor of MPVs? Back in 1984, Renault introduced the world to this segment with the Espace MPV, which still continues to be on sale in a newer generation avatar, but on the premium end. The MPV segment in India is catching up fast. A couple of years back, these cars with their quirky looks were not very aspirational, and only a few manufacturers had presence here. But now, with people acknowledging the VFM quotient, buyers & sellers both are looking closely at this segment. The Lodgy will be Renault’s first MPV for India. In the international markets, the Lodgy is also sold with a Dacia badge, much like the Duster. As of date, we have the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, Honda Mobilio & Toyota Innova which are noteworthy competitors in the segment. However, the decade old Innova continues to rule the roost when it comes to comfort, space & reliability. The Ertiga & Mobilio although reasonably priced, are a tad bit small to carry 7 with ease, for long journeys. This is where Renault wants to step in. The Lodgy is larger than the Maruti & Honda, but a bit smaller than the Toyota. Since the segment is dominated by oil burners under the hood, Renault will not offer the Lodgy with a petrol version. However, like the Duster, you get two diesel engine options; 85 PS & 110 PS. So does the Lodgy hit the sweet spot? Can it create a dent in the Innova’s sale? We took it for a spin on a hot sunny day to find out…
Well, almost everyone would agree that MPV’s, at least those on sale here in India are not really the best looking cars money can buy. The Renault Lodgy is no different. The design is typical of European cars, clean & understated. Renault has played it safe and not added too much of anything. Styling is typical of Renault, and quirky at some ends, for example, the rear, which is neither good nor bad. Dimensions are visibly bigger than the Ertiga and Mobilio and the Lodgy has very good road presence. Throughout our drive, everytime we saw an Innova pass, the passengers did give the Lodgy a second look. It’s different, and definitely turns eyeballs.
The Lodgy measures 4,498mm in length, 1,751mm in width, 1,696mm in height and has a wheelbase of 2,810mm. With these figures, the Lodgy scales well ahead of the Ertiga and Mobilio. Compared to the Innova, the LxWxH is a bit short, but the Lodgy has a wheelbase longer by 60mm than the Innova.
At the front, the Lodgy welcomes you with a healthy dose of chrome which we Indian buyers love. There is a chunky chrome strip on top, and two chrome slats on either end of the big Renault logo in the centre. Below, the air dam also gets a thin chrome surround. Headlamps are big enough to suit the proportions of the car. Nothing fancy here, but they do get daytime running lights, not LEDs though. Front fog lamps which are round in shape also get a chrome surround. Lower end of the bumper gets black plastic cladding which will help prevent paint chipping when driving over bad patches. Bonnet is sculpted around the edges and flat in the centre. Wiper washer nozzles are conventionally placed on the bonnet too. The Lodgy gets a XL sized roof mounted antenna, just above the front windscreen.
Come to the side and the no-nonsense design language continues. There’s just one prominent crease line above the side body mouldings, on the doors. These side body mouldings also get chrome accents which highlight the length of the car. Wheel arches are subtle, but noticeably pronounced. Renault has blacked out the B & C pillars on the Lodgy. 5-spoke, silver coloured alloy wheels look decent, but a boring design. Renault does not offer turn indicators mounted on the ORVMs, but a conventional indicator mounted on the front fender. Door handles are also the old-school flap type unit, and seen in body colour. No true keyless entry, even on the top model. A separately mounted keyhole looks a bit outdated. The Lodgy gets black coloured roof rails. Rear quarter glass looks large from outside and will offer decent amount of light inside. Fuel filler cap is placed on the RHS and needs to be released from the level placed in the driver footwell. On the side, the Lodgy does not get the black cladding on the lower end. Renault had mentioned that they will offer body kits on the Lodgy, and we assume all these aesthetic bits would be optional.
At the back, the Lodgy is a mixed bag. Styling although neutral would be either liked or disliked by customers. It is a bit flat & bulbous, but not really offensive. The Lodgy gets vertically stacked tail lamps with a bigger centre section for the turn indicators & reverse lamp. A healthy dose of chrome continues at the back too with a chrome garnish over the number plate housing and a chrome strip at the bottom of the bootlid. Just like the Duster, ‘Lodgy’ is etched over the number plate chrome garnish. The Renault logo sits on top of a very, very, very old-school & dated boot opening keyhole + button. The Lodgy gets rear wash & wipe function and a high mount stop lamp is placed above the rear windscreen. You do not get a rear spoiler on the Lodgy, and it looks better this way. The roundish design wouldn’t really carry a spoiler well. Majority of the rear bumper is covered in the black cladding and you get two reflector strips on the bumper. Parking sensors stick out with a round bezel around and the reverse camera is placed under the number plate garnish. Mud flaps are offered on the top end variant, and are healthy in size.
Overall, the Lodgy looks balanced. Yes, it is not really striking but when Renault plans to offer a total of 47 categories of accessories split in chrome pack, essential pack, sport pack & techno pack; we are sure buyers will have a good choice to make their car stand out amongst the rest.
Step inside the Lodgy and you instantly notice how roomy it is on the inside. All those larger dimensions on paper result in ample of space for passengers inside the cabin. Getting in & out of the Lodgy is fairly easy as the floor, thanks to the monocoque chassis isn’t too high. Then, the roofline is very high which carves out a generous amount of headroom. The Lodgy feels bright and airy at all times thanks to the space available, generous amount of greenhouse and the grey + beige interior colour combination.
The dashboard of the Lodgy is not a copy paste job from the Duster; it is all new. The dashboard sports majority of the grey shade and uses beige on the face. Touch and feel of plastics on the Lodgy is definitely a notch above the Duster. The 3-spoke steering wheel on the Lodgy is the same unit like that on the Duster AWD. It is seen here in a grey shade with silver inserts. Steering mounted controls are easy to use, but the horn pad is a stretch for your thumb. Also, pressing the extreme end of the horn pad does nothing, you have to reach a bit on the inside to actually honk. Contours on the steering wheel provide decent space to rest your thumb. Instrument cluster is a 3-pot layout with chrome surrounds. You get a tachometer on the left, speedometer in the centre and a MID to the right. MID displays a host of information such as time, temperature, average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy, distance to empty, trip meter, engine running time, etc. Just like the Duster, audio & telephone controls are mounted on a separate stalk to the RHS of the steering column. Cruise control switch is placed a bit unergonomically below the head unit, which we wish was accommodated somewhere on the steering wheel.
Centre console gets a piano black finish around the circular AC vents & head unit. We’re glad that there is not too much of this glossy piano black finish since it would have been a dust & fingerprint magnet. AC vents also get a thin chrome surround to add to the premium feel. Ergonomics, just like the Duster, are a bit messed up. The door lock button is placed here, below the hazard light button. Below, you get a 7″ touchscreen head unit which also supports navigation. Connectivity includes bluetooth, USB & aux-in. The touchscreen is decent to use, and although not the best in class, it is much better than say what you get on the Tata Zest. Screen is a bit reflective from certain angles under harsh sunlight. For the head unit, you get only 3 buttons, one is for the power and the other two are volume rockers. Stereo sound quality is good by OEM standards. Even on radio, sound quality is crisp and one doesn’t really need to upgrade as soon as you drive out of the showroom.
The Lodgy is going to be priced higher than the Ertiga & Mobilio and hence, we would have loved if Renault offered automatic climate control here. The Lodgy gets manual air conditioning and it works well. On a hot sunny day, two occupants were fairly comfortable sitting on the front seats. Do note, we had to turn on the rear AC to keep the cabin cool. With too much of glass section, the Lodgy cannot manage to keep the ambient temperature cool with just the front AC switched on. The rear AC unit is mounted just above the front passengers. So, ensure running the rear AC on speed one or two. Speed 3 & 4 are a noisy affair and can annoy the front occupants after some time.
On the top-spec Lodgy, you get leather upholstery for the seats. We have to mention that these Alpaga leather seats look fantastic with the diamond pattern. Seats are very comfortable and allow good support. Driver seat gets lumbar support adjustment too. Seat height adjustment range and the fore & aft movement ensures short & tall drivers get a good driving position. The seat height adjustment lever however is crude and does not suit a car costing upwards of Rs. 10 lakh. Driver seat also gets a moveable armrest which comes in handy during long highway drives. Gear knob is similar to the Duster and falls in right in place. Gear throw is medium.
For the front passengers, there’s plenty of storage options. An XL side covered storage bin is placed on top of the dashboard. Ahead of the gear lever, you get two cup holders and a small cubicle. Above the glovebox, there’s another storage bin for oddities. Another spot below the ORVM controls, to the RHS of the steering wheel. Door pad also gets a bottle holder.
One noticeable feature on the Lodgy are the sun visors. They are massive in size, almost make you feel like you’re driving a big commercial vehicle. Passenger side gets a vanity mirror while both of these units are a bit recessed to hold your parking tickets or the likes.
Jump to the second row and the spacious & airy cabin welcomes adults of all sizes. The Lodgy is offered in 7-seater & 8-seater variants, so you can either opt for captain seats or a conventional seat bench for the second row. Both the second row captain seats get an arm rest extra comfort. Seats are cushiony and comfortable for long drives. Front seatback is scooped out to release some more legroom for the 2nd row passengers. Seats however are not adjustable. They are fixed and no fore & aft adjustment available. This limits maximizing the available space in the Lodgy. Yet, the amount of space available is acceptable. It is clearly more than the Ertiga and Mobilio by a fair margin. Thanks to the high roofline, the amount of headroom available is very generous. Also, you get a service tray behind the front seats which also has a bottle holder. There are two front seatback pockets as well to store oddities. Door pad has some more space to store your snacks, etc.
To get to the 3rd row, the 2nd row seats tumble down very easily. Just lift the lever next to the neck restraint and the seat tumbles. Also, in the 7-seater variant, kids can make their way behind from the empty room between the 2nd row seats. Third row seats are the best in class when it comes to offering space, better than the Innova as well. With a occupant of height 5’7”, there was still 3″ of legroom available and more than enough headroom available in the 3rd row. This will make long commutes for 7 / 8 passengers fairly easy in the Lodgy. 3rd row passengers also get an armrest on either side with a cup holder & a 12V charging point as well. The rear quarter glass allows a good amount of light inside and sitting here does not feel claustrophobic at all.
The secondary AC performance is acceptable. Renault claims that in an ideal situation, the Lodgy’s AC can cool the cabin from 45 degrees to 23 degrees in less than 20 minutes. There are two AC vents for the 2nd row & 3rd row, each. Each of these vents can be shut completely if one wants to. Plastic quality of these vents however felt rather cheap. They might last the distance, but the touch & feel is below par. All 3 rows also get cabin lamps. Neck restraints are adjustable for all 3 rows in the Lodgy.
With the 3rd row up in place, the Lodgy offers 207 litres of boot space. But the 2rd row offers 50:50 split & tumble folding which can allow you to carry much more. What’s interesting is that after you fold the 2nd row, and then you fold the 3rd row, one can remove the 3rd row seats completely within minutes. This results in a humungous loading space to carry almost anything you want. Renault claims that this seat modularity offers up to 56 different seat configurations.
Engine, performance & handling:
Keeping in mind the nature of the segment, Renault has decided not to offer a petrol engine on the Lodgy. Powering this French big boy is the tried & tested workhorse, the 1.5L K9K diesel motor. Just like the Duster, Renault will offer the 1.5L diesel motor on the Lodgy in two states of tune – 85 PS & 110 PS. We drove the 110 PS variant but expect better driveability from the 85 PS variant, as is the case with the Duster.
The 1.5L K9K motor on the Lodgy produces 110 PS of power @ 4,000 RPM and 245 Nm of torque @ 1,750 RPM matched to a 6-speed gearbox. Although big in dimensions, the Lodgy weighs 1,368 kg which is not very heavy by utility standards. This helps the engine to lug the car around happily.
Fire up the Lodgy and the NVH levels are very well contained. Compared to the super loud, truck like Innova & the harsh Mobilio, the Renault Lodgy feels much more calm inside the cabin with the engine turned on. There is a lot of sound damping material used in the engine bay, and this has resulted in a quite cabin. On idle, the gear stalk also stays in place, unlike in the Innova where the gear stalk keeps constantly vibrating. Slot in first and the car pulls without any throttle input. The 1.5L K9K is known for being very tractable and you can start from 0 kmph in 2nd gear with minimum slipping of the clutch. Also, while tackling speed breakers, you need not necessarily shift to 1st if the speed drops considerably; the 2nd gear does the job just fine. But like we mentioned, the 85 PS will have a little better in-city driveability. The 110 PS version has noticeable turbolag below the 2,000 RPM mark. This makes you wait at times when you hit the throttle but there’s very little action till the turbo spools.
On the highway, the Lodgy gains momentum quickly. 110 PS of power helps the Lodgy hit the 100 kmph mark with ease, and slotted in 6th gear, it even cruises at a low RPM. Pushing the Lodgy closer to the redline doesn’t make much sense though. The car has a very good mid-range and it is best to upshift before the redline. The power delivery tapers above 4,000 RPM with the revv limiter hitting at 5,000 RPM. Engine also sounds a little gruff when on higher RPMs. Tyre & wind noise however are bare minimum.
Renault claims that the Lodgy can deliver 19.98 kmpl with the 110 PS motor and 21.04 kmpl with the 85 PS motor.
The 85 PS is matched to a 5-speed gearbox while the 110 PS gets a 6-speed unit. Both the gearboxes are slick, and gear gates are well defined. Yes, they do feel a bit rubbery, but much better than the Innova. Clutch pedal however is a bit heavy, and can trouble you if stuck in a long traffic jam.
Built around a monocoque chassis, the Lodgy handles far better than the Innova, and with its larger dimensions, is more stable compared to the Ertiga & Mobilio. The Lodgy sports anti roll bar on the suspension setup at the front as well. This makes the car pretty stable under any situation. On city roads, the suspension tackles potholes nicely. There is not too much of a thud audible while running over bad patches. Just like the Duster, the suspension setup shines in the segment soaking up almost everything you throw at it. On the highway too, the Lodgy stays put and well balanced. With the 2nd & 3rd row seats empty, the Lodgy doesbob around a bit from the rear. Yes, there is noticeable body roll but not that it can scare you. Steering wheel is light within the city, which is good. But on the highway, the steering is a bit of a let down. On speeds, it is dead around the centre and one needs to keep a firm hand. Steering feedback is inconsistent on the highway and takes away from the driving pleasure. That said, you can easily drive the Lodgy at high speeds and feel more safe inside compared to competition. It might actually be one of the best handling MPVs going on sale in India.
Braking performance is adequate and the Lodgy does stop in a straight line. The ABS did not kick in easily when we tried an emergency braking situation. You get a disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. The Lodgy comes equipped with ABS, EBD & brake assist. Safety features list also includes dual SRS airbags for the front passengers.
Renault is offering 2 years / 50,000 km warranty on the Lodgy with 2 years road side assistance. One can also purchase extended warranty up to 4 years / 80,000 km. Gearing up for the small A-segment hatchback, Renault is expanding its footprint in India at a fast pace and currently has 157 touchpoints.
So if you’re in the market for a spacious 7-seater, we recommend that you take the Lodgy for a spin. Yes, the Innova has been the segment king for years, but it is now dated and offers nothing exceptional and is horribly overpriced. The Lodgy offers unmatched space, even in the 3rd row and can be used by adults unlike the kids-only 3rd row offered by the competition. The engines also tried & tested and the Lodgy is a well rounded package. It might not be a looker, but with the accessories pack which Renault plans to offer, there will be enough choice to spice things up. Renault has given the tagline ‘take your world with you’ to the Lodgy, which is apt when you consider a 1,861 litres of storage space available with the 2nd row folder and 3rd row removed. The Lodgy has enough potential to overshadow the Mobilio & the Ertiga, but only if Renault markets it well. If you prefer function over form, this is it.