photoMulti-purpose vehicles, or MPVs, have to be spacious, practical and powerful enough to carry seven people and their luggage over long distances. They also have to be somewhat luxurious and easy to drive. That’s asking a lot of a car, and only a handful of manufacturers have come close to delivering such a complete package. Renault is now entering this space with the Lodgy. This is the brand that invented the MPV as we know it when it launched the Espace in Europe 30 years ago.

The Lodgy is closely related to the robustly engineered Duster SUV. Its large and boxy exterior points to a lot of space on the inside. In terms of dimensions, it comes closer to the Toyota Innova and is much bigger than the Honda Mobilio or Maruti Suzuki Ertiga. Renault’s designers have done well to make sure it doesn’t look too plain or ungainly. There’s a lot of chrome, especially at the front. Both the front and rear lights are nicely rounded, and there are subtle creases along the sides, all of which give it a good dose of character.

Step inside and, sure enough, there’s acres of room. The seats are placed at just the right height, so that you neither have to climb up nor lower yourself into them; you simply step in. The front seats are comfortable and supportive. The middle row can be either a bench or two individual seats, but they don’t slide back and forth, as they do in some other vehicles. The third row too offers a good amount of space, but the seating position isn’t very comfortable. And, though Renault has provided three seat belts here, it’s best for just two passengers.

With all seats up, you get around 200 litres of boot space behind the third row. You can fold down, flip forward or even remove the third row altogether for some more luggage space—1,861 litres at the most. Or, to maximize your storage with no seating required, you can flip forward the second row as well, and then you’ll have a large cargo area.

Renault clearly wants to target private buyers with its new MPV, and to that end, has packed the top-specification Lodgy RxZ with equipment. There’s a touch-screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, USB, aux and Bluetooth, leather upholstery, a rear-view camera and rear-parking sensors, as well as 12V power sockets and air-conditioner vents for each of the three rows. It does miss out on an internal boot-release lever and automatic climate control, though, and the air-conditioner control knobs feel a bit clunky. Speaking of which, quality in the cabin is a mixed bag. Some things, like the glossy black and chrome centre console, look and feel rich, but other parts, like the door panels and the plastic used on the side pillars, are not of such good quality.

The Lodgy is powered by a 1.5-litre diesel engine. The motor will be available in both 108.5 bhp and 84 bhp versions. Though 1.5 litres may seem a small engine size for such a big car, the torque output of 24.98 kgm allows the Lodgy to pull heavy loads without much stress. As with the Duster, the clutch is a little hard, and there is a bit of turbo lag, but that aside, it’s a superb engine. It accelerates in a smooth and consistent manner, and though its power tapers off after around 4,000 revolutions per minute, it does well as a highway cruiser, helped in part by its six-speed manual gearbox. Because it also shares suspension components with the Duster, it has inherited a good balance of comfort and handling. It doesn’t have the same ground clearance or suspension travel, but for a car of its type, it’s very comfortable.

When it’s launched later this month, we expect the Lodgy to cost around 9-13 lakh. If so, it will sit between the more affordable Maruti and Honda offerings and the expensive Innova. What you will get for the price is a hugely capable seven-seater that appeals a lot to the head, and even a bit to the heart.

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