Renault's last big ticket launch in India was the Duster and though it was a compact SUV; so it could seat only 5 people, the car did extremely well. So well, in fact, that it carved a niche segment and forced market leaders like Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai to think about bringing cars into this segment.
Demands poured in from customers to make the Duster a seven-seater but Renault couldn't give the Duster the extra two seats. Frankly, it didn't make sense, and so to cater to that audience the company is now coming out with an MPV. It's called the Lodgy and according to Renault, this car will combine the performance and comfort of a sedan with the space of and convenience of an MPV.
The cars that were a benchmark for the Lodgy included the Toyota Innova, Honda Mobilio and the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga. Having said that, let's dive into where the Lodgy stands when compared to these cars.
The Lodgy looks a bit boxy and maybe giving it that look makes it seem massive in size. The MPV looks a little old school but the chrome strips on the nose and the big 'lozenge' logo adds a bit of character to the car but the soft-looking headlamps make it look like a friendly rhino. I'll explain why I call it a rhino later but like the beast, it too is massive.
The length stands at 4498mm while the width is 1751mm. What Renault has done here is given it a longer wheelbase. When you compare the numbers the wheelbase of the Lodgy stands at 2810mm while the Innova stands at 2750mm and the Ertiga at 2740mm.
A longer wheelbase should ideally translate into more room inside and there is. The Lodgy comes with three rows of seating and also a 7 and 8-seater option. The one I got was a 7-seater and it gets two captain seats in the second row and a bench on the third. So, ideally there is a lot of room but that depends on your height too. If you are 5 foot 7 or 8 inches tall, it is absolutely spacious but a big bloke like me couldn't manage to sit behind the driver who would probably be as tall as me.
The third row too is a bit crammed for tall chaps and when I attempted to sit, the comfort level drastically dwindled and I couldn't wait to get out of it. And then there is the boot space on offer. A quick comparison with the other cars with all the three row seats upright revealed that the Lodgy has 207 litres, while the Innova offers 300 litres of space. Even the Honda Mobilio, surprisingly, had more space than the Lodgy as the number stood at 223 litres. The only car it managed to beat here was the Ertiga which had on offer 153 litres. So, yes, it seats seven people, but can't really gulp down their luggage. However, there is a lot of space on offer if you tumble the last row down and the space increases to 589 litres. You can even remove the last row which gives you even more (759 litres)
I realise I haven't really given you a rosy picture of the Lodgy yet but bear with me. Here's where I explain why I call it rhino. This is probably Renault's party trick as under the hood, you get the same 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine as in the Duster. There isn't a petrol one in the offing so you don't get much choice but what the French car manufacturer has done is made available two iterations. The Lodgy will be available in the 84bhp and the 108.5bhp version. We drove the 108.5bhp one, which makes it the most powerful MPV in its class and that is something.
I've driven the Duster with the same engine and boy, was it fun but will it work in an MPV? Yes, it does. With 245Nm torques on offer from as low as 1750 rpm, you get behind the wheel of the car and jump into a world of fun. You can't help but floor the pedal and expect a surge of power to just come out of that engine. It's addictive and Renault has been able to blend that feeling in an MPV, which is simply mind blowing. If you're the 'play it cool' kinds then there is the cruise control option for you. It is a segment first offering and is extremely convenient for highway driving and can be enabled from 30km/h.
The powerful engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and the gear ratios have been worked on to make it more fuel efficient. Fuel economy figures for this one stands at 19.98 km/l (ARAI certified) but the people at Renault say that they are certain that the car will give more once you start driving it.
When driving the Lodgy, there is a sense of deja vu that creeps in and that feeling continues when you get into the cabin too. Parts like the air-conditioning controls and vents, gear lever, dials, stalks, steering wheel, window switches, and most of the buttons are taken straight out of the AWD version of the Duster.
For me, even the front seats seem to be identical, though they have been upholstered in quilted and perforated leather, which has been done to add an element of luxury. The cabin gets the beige dual-tone treatment and the glossy piano black centre console with silver accents also gives it a premium feel.
Renault wanted to make it a practical cabin and hence you see cup holders and 12V charging sockets in all three rows. It is only in the top-end variant that you get small tray tables that fold up from the back of the front seats and each comes equipped with a cupholder.
This top-spec RxZ, comes with a good amount of equipment and it even gets the touchscreen unit that the Duster had. There is a USB port and Aux-in as well as satellite navigation, however no CD player. Features also include a rear-view camera and rear parking sensor which was extremely important; for the Lodgy is a pretty big car. Renault has also managed to place a roof-mounted air-condition system which has been specially developed for India. There are dedicated air-con vents for the two rows at the rear. Safety features in the top-end variant include ABS, EBD, brake assist and driver and passenger airbags.
The French car manufacturer has made the car extremely 'Lodycal' (pardon the pun here, but Renault is using it too) on the inside. Yes there is a lack of space for taller people but what it doesn't lack in is the way it drives. I felt it was too big for city travel too, I mean, finding a parking spot for this big a car in a city like Mumbai would clearly be an issue but you'll be surprised how compact it feels when you're behind the wheel. I would still rate the Innova a notch higher in every other aspect than the Lodgy but would I want to drive one? No. I would happily however, grab the keys to the Lodgy and get behind the wheel.
Engine Capacity: 1461cc, 4 cylinders, SOHC, Turbo VGT
Transmission: 6-speed Manual
Capacity: 7 people
Expected Price Range: ₹ 11-15 lakhs