Before Renault had even pulled the covers off its brand new Triber in South Africa this month, the French manufacturer made something very clear: don’t confuse this car with the Kwid.
“Please take note that this is not a long Kwid. And certainly not a derivative of the Datsun GO+,’’ says Jesus Boveda, Vice-President of Marketing and Communications of Renault South Africa.
“The Triber is very exciting because it’s a brand new vehicle. Something that didn’t exist before.” Boveda is spot on, because apart from sharing a nameplate and a hatch back, the Triber bears very little resemblance to the Kwid. Which is a good thing, taking into account the well-documented flaws and limitations of the brand’s entry-level product.
The Triber’s main attraction is that it is a seven-seater and Renault is careful not to box it into either of the SUV, MPV or hatch back categories. Instead, the manufacturer markets it around its “SUV-like” design with a generous ground clearance of 182mm, flexibility, roominess, generous specification levels and fuel efficiency.
I can’t blame anyone for scoffing at the idea of a vehicle only measuring 3 990 mm in length fitting seven people, but the car’s clever design goes a long way to breaking down conventional wisdom. Any vehicle shorter than four metres is taxed significantly less in India, the market the Triber was designed for.
Therefore the clever people tasked with creating optimal space in an area underlined by a shorter base than two bathroom doors laid out at length simply has to operate in the face of convention. And what they’ve done in this case is utilise the engine compartment to free up as much space as possible. The result is quite impressive.
The Triber offers four main seating modes which along with removable third row and various setting allowing for over a 100 seating combinations. The four main configurations are Life mode (five-seater), Camp mode (two-seater), Tribe mode (seven-seater) and Surf mode (four-seater offering two single rear seats behind each other).
With the configuration in Life mode, where Renault says most Tribers should spend most of their time, there is a stupendous 625 litres of boot space on offer. The second row features up to 200mm legroom and while it might be unrealistic to expect adults to be comfortable in the third row, the up to 106 mm legroom should be enough to keep children happy for shorter journeys.
One thing that should help in this regard is second row air-vents on the B-pillars and third row air-vents inside the roof line with three speed setting operated independently from the first row’s air conditioner. To ease entry into the third row, the second row seats can slide, fold and tumble, while the rear doors opening angle is an impressive 74 degrees.
But as good as the concept sounds, there is an elephant in the room – the engine. The Triber features a new generation 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine which includes a dual VVT system. It sends 52 kW of power and 96 Nm of torque to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. A turbo version – along with an AMT transmission similar to the Kwid – is planned to be rolled out locally in two phases later this year.
The naturally-aspirated engine of the launch model sadly does not live up to the rest of the potential the Triber has to offer. It feels completely underpowered and you have to keep it on the boil for extended periods just to keep momentum, never mind accelerating.
During our launch drive in and around Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, frustration levels shot through the roof with how much we had to rev the car just to maintain any sort of momentum, with accelerating for overtaking near impossible. And apart from its actual performance, the claimed fuel consumption of 5.5l/100km will be in serious jeopardy if the engine is going to be under that amount of constant strain.
Hopefully the arrival of the turbo will give the car a much-needed power boost. Apart from all the clever cabin combinations, the Triber’s handling is commendable and the suspension quite impressive, especially over KZN’s endless speed bumps and potholes. Safety spec is also up to scratch. A very interesting yet logical concept at a price that could take a fair bite out of market share.
Triber 1.0 Expression – R164 900
Triber 1.0 Dynamique – R174 900
Triber 1.0 Prestige – R189 900
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