Renault Lodgy first drive impression: A Lodgycal choice

Do you know the difference between buying a house and buying a car? Well, for one, you can live in your car, but you can’t drive your house. Or perhaps you could, if you had the aptly named Renault Lodgy. It’s a spacious enough living quarters for seven or eight people, and it can handle the “Lodgystics” of carrying them around in comfort.

Renault has not had a big hit in India ever since the success of the Renault Duster. The big draw with the Renault Duster was its rugged looks and excellent ride and handling. The Renault Lodgy hopes to build on one of those strengths, being made on the same platform, but stretched to 4498 mm, with a wheelbase of 2810 mm, which is the longest in-between wheel space among all MPVs in its segment (even more than the bigger, more expensive Toyota Innova). Also read: Renault Lodgy vs the competition

CarToq was invited by Renault recently to Bengaluru to drive the Renault Lodgy RXZ, which will be officially launched in mid-April. Overall, the vehicle is quite impressive and has the potential of being a best-seller for Renault as well as weaning buyers away from other MPVs, sedans and even some premium hatchbacks. (Scroll to end for photo gallery and technical specifications)

Renault Lodgy road test

Looks and Design

MPVs are boring, because they are meant to be functional. In the quest for more space, most MPVs end up looking boxy. The Renault Lodgy too is not really a great looker, but is again a case of form following function. The Lodgy is originally a Dacia product (as was the Renault Duster). With its large cabin area, stubby bonnet and long wheelbase it is not outright attractive, but Renault has tried to give it some flair. The front gets an interesting grille design around the Renault lozenge, a pointed airdam, and headlamps that house daytime running lights in the corners. The side profile is fairly bland, but a couple of chrome strips along the bottom try to liven things up. The 15-inch alloy wheels with 185/65 R15 tyres look fairly small in comparison to the bulk of the body. At the rear, the dominant feature are the pickaxe-head shaped tail lamps.

Although the design may not be outright attractive, it is a fairly practical design. The Lodgy is 4498 mm in length and has a wheelbase of 2810 mm, which is longer than any of the other MPVs in its segment. That frees up plenty of interior room and it shows. Other small thoughtful touches like a hydraulic strut for the bonnet are nice.

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Space and comfort

The Renault Lodgy is all about space utilisation. The interiors are done up in two-tone beige with good quality plastics. The front two seats are comfortable and well padded, with the driver’s seat also getting an armrest, lumbar support adjustment and height adjustment. The front seat belts are height adjustable. The seats are done up in a combination of leather and fabric.

The middle row gets two seating options, depending on the variant you buy. The seven-seat variant gets two individual “captain” seats in the middle row, which have armrests, can recline and tumble fold. This variant also gets foldable food trays behind the front seats with built in cup holders. The eight-seat variant gets a middle row bench that split folds in a 60:40 ratio. It has a drop down armrest with two cupholders in it. This too can flip and fold.

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Access to the third row is by flipping one of the seats in the middle row. Now, the third row is where the Lodgy scores over its competitors. Kneeroom and headroom are good, and you don’t feel quite as cramped here. The third row is meant for three people, with a lap belt for the middle occupant. The downside though is that there’s barely enough depth to the floor, so you sit with your knees raised. There are two cupholders and two cubby holes for storage in the armrests on the sides of the third row too. All three rows get a 12-volt power socket too, besides air-conditioning vents in the roof liner for all rows. There is a separate blower control for the second and third row vents. However, this is just a blower – drawing in air from the roof in the front, with no separate cooling coil. Cooling was pretty effective in the 32 degree C Bengaluru heat. Renault claims it cools faster than the Ertiga and Innova.

Luggage carrying ability is good. With all three rows in use, you get a basic 207 litres of space, good enough for just a few soft bags. With the last row folded you get a generous 589 litres of space and five (or four) seats. Detach the third row and you can use up to 758 litres of luggage space. Flip the middle row and space extends to 1,861 litres of space. There are many permutations and combinations – up to 56 of them – that can be played with.

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Ride and handling

What also sets the Renault Lodgy apart is the ride quality. Our test drive was a round trip of about 100 km, consisting of mainly highway driving, some city driving with Bengaluru’s enormous speed breakers (174 mm of ground clearance is more than adequate for this), and a bit of dirt road driving. The Lodgy excels in the way it carries its occupants. It comes with a McPherson strut suspension in front and an H-torsion beam non-independent rear suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bars on both axles.

Just like the Renault Duster, its sibling, the Lodgy has a pretty flat ride quality, with the suspension on the firmer side. There is not too much body roll evident compared to other MPVs. Bumps, potholes and rumble strips were discarded without any effort. NVH levels are excellent. At a speed of 100 kmph, the engine is ticking over at just 2,000 rpm and with plenty of sound deadening around the cabin and under the bonnet, it is hardly audible inside. Neither is wind noise or road noise, which will make long drives quite pleasant.

Six-speed transmission
Six-speed transmission

Performance

The Renault Lodgy is powered by the tried and tested K9K 1.5 litre (1461 cc) four-cylinder diesel engine. It’s a fairly simple, straight forward engine that has proven itself in multiple applications. The Lodgy will come with two power outputs – an 85PS / 200 Nm option with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 110PS / 245 Nm option with a six-speed manual transmission, similar to what the Renault Duster offers. We drove the RXZ 110 variant.

The clutch is fairly light, but has a long travel. The six-speed gear shift is smooth and slots in easily with a pretty narrow gate, and reverse gets a lock ring. Start up the Lodgy and you barely feel any vibrations in the cabin. In fact, if you switch on the AC and the rear blower, they are far noisier than the engine.

The Lodgy builds peak torque at only 1750 rpm and at low speeds there is noticeable turbo-lag, especially if you slow to a crawl in second gear for a mammoth speed breaker. However, if you learn to adapt to this behaviour it becomes fairly straightforward to drive. Once out on the open road, it picks up quickly in the remaining four gears. In sixth, the engine is its most relaxed. At 100 kmph, it is only doing 2000 rpm. And that translates to decent fuel economy too.

1.5 litre DCi 110PS engine
1.5 litre DCi 110PS engine

Our drive was too short for any accurate fuel efficiency calculations, but the MID (which shows instantaneous fuel consumption, average consumption, range, outside temperature, trip meter and odometer) showed the Lodgy was giving about 14.2 kmpl overall against an ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 19.98 kmpl.

On the highway, overtaking is fairly easy as this engine revs quite quickly. Power-to-weight ratio of about 79 bhp per ton also works in its favour, compared to other MPVs. It can get to a claimed top speed of 170 kmph, although our drive did not allow for such speeds.

The electro-hydraulic power steering system weighs up nicely and gives just the right amount of feedback to the driver. It feels very car-like to drive – you really don’t feel like it’s an eight seat vehicle. Quick lane changes don’t induce too much body roll and the brakes are sharp and confidence inspiring.

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Features

The Lodgy packs in quite a long feature list too. It’s easier to list what’s missing – automatic climate control. Besides that omission, it has everything else one would need. It has power adjustable mirrors, with the mirror controls now on the dashboard (unlike the odd placement in the Renault Duster). Power windows get a one-touch feature on the driver’s side and all four have an anti-pinch feature. It gets speed-sensing door locks, but no individual door locks – so if you have children in the rear, be sure to engage the child locks, as just tugging the inside door handle will open a door, even if it is locked. Seat belt warning, two airbags and ABS are also standard.

The Lodgy is the only MPV to pack in cruise control as well. It also gets a speed limiter – the cruise control rocker switch on the dash can be set to provide either function. This is pretty convenient for both highway cruising as well as adhering to speed limits. It’s needed, because in the Lodgy you really don’t feel the speeds you are doing.

The touchscreen infotainment system packs in GPS navigation and a reverse camera display, besides Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming. The “steering mounted” audio controls are behind the steering in typical Renault style (and take some getting used to).

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What we think

After about a 100 km spent with the Renault Lodgy, driving from Whitefield, Bengaluru to some distance beyond Kolar and back, we think the Renault Lodgy has tremendous potential. It has the space and flexibility to lure buyers away from other MPVs – especially those looking to carry seven people at most times. It will also appeal to sedan buyers who occasionally need extra seats, as the ride quality and handling is almost as good as any sedan. And it is loaded with features – so if you have to have just one vehicle for all purposes, the Renault Lodgy ticks all the right boxes. The downside is probably limited only to its bland looks.

With inputs, driving and filming help from Arjun Ankathil

Coming soon: Renault Lodgy video review

Photo Gallery

Technical Specifications

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Renault Lodgy video review: