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DURBAN, KwaZulu-Natal – Continuing its offensive on the entry-level side of the market, Renault South Africa has now launched the Triber. According to the company's local distributor, it's a whole new product that sets itself apart from rivals. We spent a day behind the wheel in KwaZulu-Natal to find out whether there's any truth to the claim.

What is it?

The Triber is effectively a combination of an MPV and a hatchback ... and, with a push, there's a dose of SUV as well. More importantly, it is a seven-seater. However, at only 3,99 metres long, it's extremely compact for a vehicle offering that many pews. Renault South Africa made a point of saying the Triber does not run on the exact same chassis as the Kwid hatchback. It's based on the French firm's modular platform and offers a ground clearance of 182 mm.

Inside, there are air-conditioning vents for all three rows, while the higher specification models have two gloveboxes plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Furthermore, if you like to keep your drink cooled, the centre storage unit is air conditioned. Aside from the base derivative, all Triber models are fitted with an infotainment system that runs through an eight-inch touchscreen offering radio, audio streaming, navigation and further vehicle applications.

But it's the versatility of the seating arrangement that proves the Triber's USP. Renault claims there are some 100 different configurations, if you take all removal, tilting and folding options into account. Should there not be enough space inside, there are roof racks which can carry up to 50 kg.

On the safety front, two airbags ship standard, while the Prestige flagship has four items. ABS with EBD is fitted across the range.

Under the short nose, you'll find a naturally aspirated 1,0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine developing 52 kW and 96 N.m. All three variants (Expression, Dynamique and Prestige) are offered with a five-speed manual transmission as standard (the automated manual gearbox will arrive during the second half of 2020).

Behind the wheel

With the modest power output, it's important to keep in mind the limited performance of the vehicle, even with just two people on board. Still, since it tips the scales at less than one tonne (926 to 957 kg, depending on specification), the Triber is happy enough at the national speed limit. However, if you lower your speed to, say, allow a faster vehicle to pass, it takes a while to accelerate back to 120 km/h.

In terms of its handling characteristics, the Triber dealt with the corners and sweeping roads of the KZN countryside better than I expected, particularly since we were driving (at times) more enthusiastically than owners would likely ever do. The fact the top model is fitted with 15-inch wheels (rather than the 14-inchers on the lower-spec derivatives) likely helps improve the handling.

However, with the seat and steering wheel featuring limited adjustment, the driving position is not exactly perfect; it felt as though I was seated too high in the car (although at 1,87 metres tall I still had sufficient headroom).

Summary

Although the Kwid isn't in the same segment as the Triber, I need to mention it here. For a little more money, the Triber should honestly be the car to consider if you are in the market for a R160 000 to R170 000 vehicle and are considering these two products.

With the Triber, Renault has been able to offer a decent product at a very impressive price. At its current price point, it makes some other hatches look decidedly expensive. On first impressions, the Triber is better than we expected and if you simply must have a seven-seater in the entry-level segment, it's certainly worth a look.

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