'Given the price point at which it has been positioned, the Triber is clearly for first-time car buyers, younger millennials and those entering the workforce in cities where cars for mid- and long-haul drives are needed,' says Pavan Lall.
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
French car-maker Renault's most recent mini crossover best exemplifies what could potentially work for drivers who want a car to navigate busy city roads and congested streets.
The newly launched Triber looks good on the outside, is easy on the wallet, has an above average drivetrain and comes with a suspension that handles pothole-riddled roads with competence.
However, this is not to say that there is no room for improvement in this car.
The interiors of the Triber are fairly spartan. The cost-cutting is evident in the choice of plastics, interior trims, and even in functional devices such as the locking widget on the door, which is so small and fragile that getting in and out of the car is a struggle.
The speedometer and dashboard, too, are bare and basic with little to impress the consumer. If there is one singular feature that stands out, it is the way the car looks from the outside.
There's no mistaking the European design cues that Renault has infused into the car. The diamond logo, which occupies centre stage on the grill, is noticeable from a mile away and is in sync with the vehicle's sharply designed headlights.
The large windows that run all around the front and rear seats give the occupants an open-air feeling. There's none of that claustrophobia one experiences in small cars in this league.
There are design cues and odds and ends that clearly endow the Triber with a more rugged "city ute" (city utility vehicle) kind of feel.
These include the runners on the side of the car, the roof rails on top and, of course, the relatively high ground clearance of 182 mm.
Technically, the Triber, which is made on the same platform as the Kwid, is a seven-seater, even if a small one.
The third row of seats, of course, can be laid back and tucked to extend the trunk space. Either which way, this is the Triber's true differentiator at this price.
The idea at Renault clearly was to design the Triber as a smaller compact crossover, which, at sub-four metres, it is.
The version that I drove was kitted with the 1.0-litre diesel engine that lacks zip and dash and feels thrummy and underpowered.
I wonder how it would perform -- especially if loaded with seven commuters and luggage, since the power delivery felt slight and barely managed to do the job with just me in it.
The insides of the Triber will be a matter of individual preference and debatable, depending on what you currently drive.
Some European cars go for soft-touch instrumentation, but that's not the case here. Renault has stuck to plastics -- as mentioned earlier.
And while the techno bits such as the Apple CarPlay, keyless entry and a large eight-inch infotainment screen are great, there are other essentials like the locking buttons that can be hard to spot in the beginning and take a while to get used to.
The top-end model of the Triber comes with front and side airbags, thankfully, and while the overall interiors don't reflect luxury, there is never a sense of fragility when on the road. That's either because of the suspension or the ride quality.
The Triber, which sits between the Kwid and the Duster in the Renault portfolio, is an affordable option for those who have their sights set on a multipurpose vehicle and want to get something different from, say, a Maruti Suzuki Ertiga.
The other plus is that when the last row of seats is removed, the Triber throws up a mind-boggling 600-plus litres of luggage space, which is almost on par with what some larger vans and tempos offer.
This is great news for commuters who fancy a trip to the hills, or the golf course or long drives to neighbouring towns with the family.
So, who is this car meant for? One could argue that any car can be pitched at any consumer.
Given the price point at which it has been positioned, the Triber is clearly for first-time car buyers, younger millennials and those entering the workforce in cities where cars for mid- and long-haul drives are needed.
Renault, which has had a fair measure of success with its Duster SUV and Renault Logan in the past, has built a reputation for no-frills cars that hold up well on Indian roads and offer value for money.
The Triber also does precisely this. Nothing more, nothing less.
Pavan Lall is a feature writer at Business Standard.