The MPV segment has been riding on a high wave in the recent past and carmakers' realisation of the same is leading to an influx of MPVs across segments. The upper spectrum of the segment though has witnessed a clear domination by the Toyota Innova amid a lack of competition. Renault India is hoping to change that with the new Lodgy, which it aims to slot between the compact MPVs and the Innova, creating a new sub-segment altogether. We were invited by the company to drive the vehicle around the outskirts of Bangalore, where we found out if the Lodgy has got what it takes to deliver on the company's expectations.
MPVs are generally not associated with good looks so we had less expectations to start with in the case of the Renault Lodgy. Renault, being the creators of the MPV though did leave us with a hope that the generally odd and disproportionate styling seen in the segment would change to some extent.
At first sight, that fortunately turned out to be the case as the Lodgy stares at you with a conventional front-end, characterised by a wide grille and generous amount of chrome. The angular bumper chin adds a bit of flair to the front, along with the clamshell bonnet.
Thereon, the body is pretty much box-like, inline-with the vehicle's purpose but it does feel better integrated with the front, compared to other MPVs on sale. The roof tapers slightly towards the end, helping a great deal in reducing the sheer visual mass of a long rectangular surface. Tail lamps feature a unique and eye-catching design but are quirky at the same time and might not go down well with everyone. The same tail lamps though do manage to take away some of the van-like feel from the tail gate.
Overall, Renault has managed to deliver a decent looking MPV, which in itself is an achievement. Balanced looks and less of a commercial-vehicle appeal should make it easier for customers to explore the Lodgy beyond its design, where it delivers a lot.
Engine & Gearbox
The Lodgy retains the engine found in the Duster, a 1.5 l dCi engine along with its state of tune. The version with a fixed-geometry turbo delivers about 84 hp and 200 Nm of torque, while the one fitted with a variable-geometry turbo delivers about 108 hp and 245 Nm of torque. During the drive, we were able to sample only the more powerful version.
The engine turned out to be a smooth and refined unit, delivering a linear power delivery. Below 1,800 rpm there's some lag but once past 2,000 rpm, acceleration is healthy. Out on the highway, overtaking vehicles at triple digit speed was an easy task and at most times, we didn't have to drop a gear from 5th or 6th, which is the highest ratio offered by the manual transmission.
The gearbox ratios are well sorted, translating into an easy drive but the shifts are a bit notchy. With a claimed fuel-efficiency of 19.98 km/l, the Lodgy should find favour among customers clocking large distances regularly. Since the vehicle isn't too heavy, one really doesn't feel any strain on the engine, bringing the Lodgy pretty close to cars in terms of driving ease.
Ride & Handling
The Renault Lodgy, unlike some of its competitor's ladder-frame chassis, uses a monocoque shell, which allows for significantly better ride & handling. The Lodgy also makes use of anti-roll bars at both ends, improving stability overall. The suspension has been tuned to reduce body-roll and its effects were evident on the highway. The vehicle handles long curves in a confident manner and the pitching movement isn't pronounced enough to make the cabin uncomfortable at reasonable speed. In fact, the overall handling is good enough to make one forget the size of the body or its effects on dynamics.
Ride quality too is impressive and the Lodgy does a good job of keeping the thuds and shocks largely out of the cabin. Performance in this aspect is actually a highlight of the vehicle and having driven all of the MPVs n sale presently, we can safely say that the Lodgy offers the best-in-class ride quality.
Customers will be given the option of choosing from a seven-seat layout, using captain seats and an eight-seat option, using a bench in the second row. The front seats are good in general and offer good support all-round in addition to good visibility.
The second-row offers impressive leg, shoulder and head-room and the seat's width makes it decent to seat three adults in reasonable comfort. The selling-point for an MPV is its last row of seats and while most vehicles do not deliver much here, the Lodgy turned out to be decent, if not great. Renault claims the last row can seat three adults and we would agree but the raised floor means one's knees would be angled a fair bit and point quite high. The lack of thigh-support would hence make it a bit hard on three adults for a long duration. Two adults should be able to sit for longer urban drive cycles as legroom and shoulder room is good.
The seven-seat layout too offers seats of good comfort and support, making it the right choice for families of upto seven people. This layout also offers tray-tables for the second-row, adding to the practicality of the cabin. Storage space inside the cabin is impressive and door pockets can easily hold 1 l water bottles. All three-rows get separate roof-mounted air-conditioning and the company claims a fastest cooling time in the segment.
Features haven't been curtailed in favour of cost in the Lodgy and one can now access infotainment through a multi-media console featuring a seven-inch colour touch-screen. The system offers Bluetooth, USB and navigation, adding to the connectivity aspect. Fit and finish too is impressive inside the cabin and the clean dashboard design looks good and is user-friendly too. There are a few misses though including the lack of a dead pedal, a low and oddly-positioned glove box and the placement of the driver armrest, which comes in way of gear-shifting.
Despite these small things, the cabin the Lodgy is reasonably plush and more car-like, which should appeal to buyers. Add to this the 56 combinations in which the second and third row of seats can be folded in, the user will have boot space ranging from 207 l to 1,861 l. With the third row tumbled, space increases to 589 l and removal of the row increases the number further to 759 l. With the third row removed and the second row down, volume increases to the maximum capacity of 1,861 l.
The Renault Lodgy left us impressed with its overall character and while there's no doubt that it isn't a good-looking vehicle in solitude, it comes ahead of the pack when compared with the competition. What puts things in favour of the Lodgy is an impressive, spacious and practical cabin. Great road handling and ride quality make the vehicle more appealing for potential customers. Fortunately, Renault has done the right thing by not trading in safety for a lower-price tag and ABS, EBD, brake assist, front-dual airbags are standard offering of the package.
We genuinely feel that as an overall package Renault has got the key checkboxes ticked with the Lodgy. In the end though, it will come down to the pricing and if Renault delivers well there, Toyota might have a reason to worry about the Innova in a long time since its launch.
Text & Photo: Arpit Mahendra