Renault Lodgy Review & Test Drive
February 16, 2018
Personally, I love MPVs. Imagine packing the parents, the wife, the kids and even the dog into one car and driving into the sunset. Alternatively, I could call a couple of cabs, split the family, and lose the family bonding forever. Okay, the last bit was a bit extreme, but who doesn’t want their family to travel together? There is another option, of course – the sub Rs 15 lakh, seven seater SUV. But, then these, even though rugged and high on road presence, are all ladder-frame based. Meaning these are heavy, lack car-like comfort and aren’t very fuel efficient.
The need of the hour then is a spacious, genuine seven seater, car-like MPV that’s also high on style… you know just to keep the wife happy. So far, we have had the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga and the Honda Mobilio. And though these MPV tick a few boxes, they don’t tick them all. The new Renault Lodgy though, promises to do just that.
The MUVs are boxy out of necessity and maximising the cabin space is more important than styling. The good looks then come essentially from cosmetic upgrades and design elements that hide the bulk. The Lodgy at primary level is also a box, though Renault has made more than a few changes to try and make it more appealing.
Renault designs are generally a bit quirky and the Lodgy isn’t any different. The front gets a hexagonal grille with twin slat chrome inserts and the big Renault Logo in the middle. The bonnet has an unconventional design with subtle creases running parallel to the A pillar. The headlamp cluster is elongated like in most of the modern day cars with a conventional halogen set up occupying the bottom half while the parking light and side indicators take the top outside-half. The front bumper looks nice with the diffuser and chrome inserts for the round fog lamp units. The slightly flared wheel arches add bulk to the front and give the Lodgy a squat stance like that of the Duster.
At close to 4.5 metres, the Lodgy is a big car and the side profile gives a better idea of its proportions. It is based on the Duster platform with an extension at the back to accommodate the third row. The roof is sloping towards the end and that reduces the size of the windows for each roof. The MUV looks slightly weird from this angle with the bulk gradually reducing towards the back and also riding on the tiny looking 15-inch tyres. The smart addition here is the chrome side mouldings in the lower half that look nice. The tail section makes the car look boxy with minimal design elements, although the contemporary tail lamp cluster does some face saving. The Lodgy badge is placed in trademark Renault style, embossed on a chrom plate, right in the centre above the number plate.
The interior architecture of the Renault Lodgy looks familiar to the Duster. On the plus side, the trims look pleasant with a decent build quality. The plastics aren’t much about upmarket finish but at the same time it won’t leave you complaining.
The three pod instrumental cluster which was launched in the new gen Duster makes its way into the Lodgy with an analogue speedo and tachometer. It gets an information display screen on right which displays tripmeter, odometer and fuel left in digital format. The three spoke steering wheel offers good grip, has buttons to control the cruise control and speed limiter. As for operating the central infotainment and media options, there is a media rack nicely tucked on the column behind the steering wheel. Quirky it might appear but then it is useful.
Being the top end RxZ version, it had the best of all features like media-navigation screen which also doubles up as a screen for manoeuvring in reverse and parking. It has a decent resolution and is user friendly. One can pair phones, listen to music via USB or Bluetooth and navigate using this screen.
Renault’s attempt in making sure the Lodgy feels more appealing than competition has paid off well, which can be seen in the right colour combination of Gris Fume and Beige used in the interiors. The nicely stitched leather seats feel comfortable. All three row seats get leather as standard for the top spec variant. The under thigh support too is decent for first and second rows while the third bench type seat just fulfils the basic need.
Unlike the sliding doors which aren’t the best in the business to welcome occupants, the large standard styled doors make great sense. Even the large windows aid the mission of making the cabin feel more airy and roomy. Our test car had captain style second row seats but Renault will offer standard bench styled seats for the second row as well with a central armrest and cup holders. All seats in first two rows get armrests. The negative here is the immovable fixture of second row seats, which doesn’t let the seats slide horizontally. This could have made more knee room for the second row occupants. Renault also claims that the third row seat offers more room than the Innova, 43% to be precise.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
Unlike most of its rivals, the Lodgy is only available with a diesel heart — the popular 1.5-litre K9K. With a single camshaft for its eight valves, this four-cylinder motor may not be cutting-edge in terms of technology, but it is a very flexible unit. Like on the Duster, this motor is available on the Lodgy in two states of tune – 83bhp and 108.6bhp – with different turbochargers and injection systems responsible for the varied power output. Also, the ECUs used by the motor on the two variants are different. The more powerful version tested here, THP in Renault-terms, gets a variable-geometry turbo (as opposed to the fixed-geometry turbo on the 83bhp version) and also comes with an intercooler.
The 1.5-litre diesel motor pulls really well once revs rise beyond 2000rpm and carries on till 4000rpm, after which the power tails off. When the roads open up, the powerful mid-range means, as long as you are not in sixth gear, it’s easy to overtake cars at typical highway speeds. However, while the final cog doesn’t help you gather pace quickly, it’s a great cruising tool that keeps the engine spinning at just about 2,000rpm at 100kph – great for stretching your fuel tank.
The Lodgy sprints to 100kph from standstill in 11.5 seconds, making it, by far, the fastest MPV on sale here. That said, the motor’s initial turbo lag and the slightly heavy and snappy clutch make driving this Renault in stop-go traffic a little cumbersome. However, off-boost power isn’t too bad, and unless you really want to make quick progress, it won’t warrant many downshifts.
This engine is mated to Renault’s six-speed TL4 manual gearbox, and while it doesn’t require much effort, the gearshifts could have been more precise. To aid drivability, Renault has kept first, second and third gears on the shorter side, which allows you to keep the engine on song in typical city driving circumstances. And the fourth, fifth and sixth gears are tall, to aid relaxed highway cruising.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
The Lodgy has a monocoque body with McPherson struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear equipped with anti roll bars. This setup is usually ideal for brisk handling and high speed stability, which is quite evident in the Lodgy. It handles the corners pretty well despite being an MPV and the body roll is well controlled but due to the tall stance, it tends to swing the passengers to a certain extent while cornering hard. The steering feedback is quite disappointing, being vague at the centre. Unlike the Duster, the steering of the Lodgy doesn’t communicate well with the driver having inconsistent feel. High speed stability is impressive and you can do triple digit speeds easily but the steering being on the lighter side makes you a bit nervous.
The ride quality is fantastic in the Lodgy and it eats bumps, potholes, rough tarmac quite well for avoiding vertical movement. The sorted damping also keeps those ugly clunking sound away when you hit big potholes. However, the rear tends to bob a little when there are no passengers sitting at the back. The 185/65/R15 tyres do a great job of absorbing rough roads and keeping the MPV glued to the tarmac at corners. The long wheelbase makes its presence felt while taking a U-turn having a relatively wide turning radius. Braking performance is strong and confidence inspiring with a good pedal bite. The stopping distance from 80-0 km/hr is 35.26 metres.
The Renault Lodgy has got only three star safety rating from Euro NCAP and that too for the international model having 6 airbags as standard. Renault will be offering the Lodgy in India with only dual front airbags, which is a big letdown. It will also get ABS, EBD with brake assist. Apart from cruise control, the MPV will come with a speed limiter as well. Renault currently has a network presence of more than 157 facilities across India. In order to get volumes and provide better after sales service, the French automaker needs to ramp up their presence, which they say they are doing through the year and claim it to be the fastest ramp-up by an automaker in India
To sum up, the Lodgy has many a positives going for it. It looks good for an MPV, has enough space that is desired by MPV buyers, is feature laden, offers a great ride, comfort and has a strong build. It is a sensible upgrade for people who want more space than their premium hatchbacks / mid-size sedans, without compromising on performance, comfort and features. It also comes across as a good car for inter-city travel or long weekend drives for families. If you are looking for a family commuter, the Lodgy will prove to be a very good one.