If your smartphone regularly updates you with motoring news, you will not only be able to catch all the updates while plugged into the Renault Sandero Techroad but you are also going to find out about the new third-generation Sandero that’ll be launched soon.
The new one, which made its global debut last month, has picked up a whole load more style than the Techroad specification being tested here. The segment it competes in recently dwindled with the exit of the Toyota Etios Cross and thus it competes with Ford’s new Figo Freestyle. You can include the smaller Suzuki Ignis and the larger Hyundai Venue in the mix.
People who buy small crossovers value space, simple running gear, some offroad height and an approachable price. They will not be disappointed with what the Stepway Techroad has to offer. There’s 2,590mm of wheelbase, a 292l boot and 193mm of ground clearance — all best in segment. There’s also good head, shoulder and legroom and the rear seats flop down to increase loading space to make this a practical family car.
It isn’t an expensive-feeling interior but has a modern-looking fascia. The Techroad grade brings with it much standard spec, including unique cloth seats with blue-coloured sections that liven up the interior. When you plug in your smartphone into the USB port it becomes hub of connectivity to your music collection, saved or streamed; and hands-free communication through Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which also beams phone-based navigational maps onto the main colour display screen.
The Techroad is available with one powertrain option. It’s a 900cc three-cylinder turbo with 66kW and 135Nm mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
Renault likes to punt the F1 technology in its production engines yet the performance and refinement of this triple-cylinder motor is a wheezy affair. It just isn’t tractable enough at low speeds or anywhere else in the rev range. You’ll need deft clutch and throttle work when faced with steep driveways, more so on cold mornings. This also makes it frustrating to get it up to high speeds quickly.
Only once on the move and highway and cruising speeds are locked into the standard cruise control does the Techroad get on with being a fair drive, and an added positive here is that it doesn’t quaff fuel. It returned 6.0l/100km on average during a week of living with it.
Renault Sandero Stepway Techroad
WE LIKE: Looks, space, fuel consumption
WE DISLIKE: Sluggish performance
VERDICT: Affordable compact crossover
There’s also not much of a balanced ride and handling dynamism to its front-wheel drive chassis. It’s not that it won’t handle; you can carve out tidy lines on twisty roads but you’ll need to work harder. Thankfully the clutch and gearbox action are light and precise enough to save the day but, all in, it’s not as fluid in operation and it will not trouble the Ford alternative. It did claw back brownie points with a good enough showing on a dirt road where it remained supple and its higher stance gave me more confidence to climb over slightly bigger obstacles.
What is it?
The Renault Triber has been quite a hit; the combination of its excellent packaging, handsome looks and value-for-money proposition has enabled Renault to clock over 40,000 units sold since its launch last August. And at a time when nearly every car on sale has multiple powertrains on offer, the Triber has managed this with just one engine and gearbox combination – a 1.0-litre petrol with a 5-speed manual gearbox. There are, of course, more to come, the first of which is this AMT. It’s paired to the same 1.0 engine as the manual, it’s offered in three of the four current variants, and there are no differences in features between the manual and the auto. Strapping an AMT – gearboxes not known for their smoothness – to a small, 72hp, 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine doesn’t sound very exciting, but as we found out, there is a small surprise in store as far as driveability is concerned.
What’s the Triber AMT like to drive?
The first thing I liked was the fact that the Triber AMT has a traditional gear lever that gives you the option of manual shifting, should you need it. The Kwid AMT, on the other hand, uses a rotary dial and has no possibility of manual intervention. The gearbox also has a creep function, so lift off the brake pedal in D, and the car will begin to move. AMTs, by virtue of having to engage a regular mechanical clutch, need the creep function to be built into the control software, so it’s nice to see Renault has engineered this into the car right from the start; the Kwid AMT, at launch, didn’t have this. The engagement itself is nice and smooth, but it’s slow, and that’s pretty much the tone for the gearshifts too.
In a bid to dampen that typical AMT jerkiness, Renault has slowed things down and the gearshifts sort of roll into one other. This is nice when you’re driving around at a gingerly pace, but not great when you’re in a hurry. This also shows up in the performance times. In our 0-100kph test, the Triber AMT took a leisurely 22.14 seconds (albeit on a wet track) against the manual’s 17.35 seconds. You can shift to manual mode, and though the speed of the shifts remains slow, the ’box lets you rev all the way to the redline. In the Triber’s case, this is a very good thing, as the engine does have some power at the top.
|Renault Triber acceleration (as tested)|
|Triber MT||Triber AMT*|
|20-80kph||14.30s (in 3rd gear)||11.03s (in kickdown)|
|40-100kph||19.49s (in 4th gear)||17.74s (in kickdown)|
*Tested in the wet
Beyond the convenience, of course, there are other benefits over the manual car. Thanks to the weak low and mid ranges, you find yourself faced with a lot of shifting to do in the manual, and as a result, you sometimes get lazy and just stick with a higher gear and try and ride out the inevitable delay. In comparison, in the AMT with software control, you don’t have to worry about how often shifts happen, and so you’re more or less always in the power band, relatively speaking.
The surprise, however, is in the engine tuning. While power and torque figures are identical in both gearbox iterations, the AMT has a slightly different state of tune with a stronger mid range. That has really improved the everyday driveability of the Triber, and at around 3,000rpm there’s a nice, slightly stronger push.
This has come at a small cost to fuel efficiency. Most AMTs return the same mileage as their manual counterparts, or in some cases a slightly higher figure, thanks to the computer-controlled shifts. However, going by the published ARAI figures of the Triber – 19kpl for the manual versus 18.29kpl for the AMT – the small drop in fuel economy is a price worth paying for the more effortless driving experience.
As with the styling, features and packaging, the ride and handling experience too remains the same as the regular manual version and that’s a good thing. Bump absorption is good and the Triber is easily able soak up the nasty bits that our roads can throw up.
Should I buy one?
Since the Triber AMT is available in the same top three variants as the manual, you don’t compromise on features. Additionally, priced from Rs 6.25 to Rs 7.29 lakh (ex-showroom), the AMT versions are Rs 40,000 more than the regular manuals and that’s pretty much par for the course with this type of gearbox. You don’t get extra features, but in addition to the convenience of not having to change gears, you surprisingly also get a better mid range.
Of course, in absolute terms, power and performance aren’t strong, and if that’s something you can’t live without, you’ll have to hope the turbocharged version – due to launch next year – will remedy this. Or else you’ll just have to look at a higher segment. At this price point, there’s simply nothing else that can offer you the space, comfort and features, along with the flexibility of a seven seater.
ohannesburg – Looking to pick a fight with the Hyundai i30N and Honda Civic Type R, not to forget the recently introduced Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, the new RenaultSport Megane R.S 300 Trophy has just been launched in South Africa.
It’s not cheap, let me warn you, coming in at R774 900 for the manual and R799 900 for the EDC dual-clutch automatic.
Before you write it off as being too expensive, let’s take a quick moment to assess what you get when you sign an OTP for one of the fastest Megane RS models of all time.
It looks racier than the standard model
On the outside, the Megane RS looks different to the standard Megane RS, that’s been on sale for a year already, thanks to an exclusive side panel with Trophy insignia, and a distinctive, sportier front bumper with an F1-inspired blade. It also gains a specific rear diffuser, an intelligent central-exit exhaust system and unique Jerez Tri-Tone 19-inch wheels.
Inside, it’s unique too with the addition of signature Recaro seats, finished in Alcantara, with red top-stitching. Other specific design cues within the cockpit include an Alcantara-covered steering wheel and a Zamak forged-aluminium gear knob and handbrake gaiter. Bespoke is the word that comes to mind, but that’s the last time I’ll use it, promise.
RenaultSport aims to save the manual
Offered with the choice of either six-speed manual or dual-clutch EDC gearboxes, and equipped with a more powerful version of the group’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, you now get a thumping 221kW sent to the front wheels when your right foot is flat.
This added poke is partially thanks to upgrades to the turbo system, adding a ceramic ball bearing unit and an intelligent exhaust pipe with a dual-sound valve system.
Packed with Safety, comfort and tech
While the Trophy stands for the ultimate word in performance, RenaultSport has not compromised on specification; packing it with more features than you get in mid-size premium SUVs that cost the same amount of money.
Performance fanatics will appreciate the latest R.S. Monitor and Race Mode, for an “augmented” driving experience, while to keep you on the straight and narrow you also get unique “Bi-material” brakes developed with Brembo. Being a Trophy, you also get stiffer suspension with a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential, enabling better cornering and traction.
One of the key USPs of the Megane RS, which has been carried over into the latest Trophy model is Renault’s 4CONTROL technology. This four-wheel steering system aims to deliver heightened agility through tight turns and improved cornering stability at higher speeds.
Added to all the driving goodies listed above, you also get an interactive Renault Multimedia System, including a 22cm touchscreen, satellite navigation system with SA maps, Bluetooth, USB and AUX input. You also get, as standard, Apple Car Play and Android Auto support.
Additional standard features include dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, Renault hands-free card for entry and engine start, and automatic light and wiper activation.
Worth the bucks?
As mentioned right at the beginning, the new Megane RS Trophy is not cheap. In fact, it’s pushed Renault closer to the R1 million rand mark more than ever before. But, one thing you should consider is that the Trophy won’t be coming in huge volumes, so it’s going to be a rare experience to own one.
Looking at Renault’s past Trophy models, you know it won’t be a bad buy if you enjoy machines that like to be driven hard, but at the end of the day, it’s got some tough competition in the form of the aforementioned Type R, i30N and GTI TCR.
If you’d like a unique, fast hot hatch, this is probably one of the best you can get right now and we can’t wait to put it through its paces later this month.
Be sure to watch this space the full review coming soon.
All Megane RS models, including the new Trophy, come with a five-year/90 000km service plan and a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty. You also get a six-year anti-corrosion warranty for the body and gizzards. Engine services, incidentally, are pegged at every 10 000km.
THE FAST ONE: GTI STOMPING MEGANE RS TROPHY IS HERE