Renault Launches the Super-Spacious Triber

One of South Africa's most versatile compact SUVs.

Wynter Murdoch

4 Reasons to test drive the new Renault Triber:

  • Affordably priced, modern, spacious and fuel-efficient;
  • Boasts an attractive interior that is well-equipped;
  • Offers more than 100 different seating configurations to accommodate people and cargo;
  • Features include an eight-inch multimedia touchscreen and reverse parking camera.


Renault’s new Triber – a seven-seat SUV – represents a big shift in small car thinking. Measuring less than four metres long and two metres wide, the model’s stylish exterior frames a cabin that is practical, adaptable, comfortable and well-equipped – the design notable for its people- and cargo-carrying versatility.


Developed and built from a French design at a Renault plant in Chennai, India, aspects of the Triber are said to have been re-engineered to better suit South Africa’s road conditions, though the vehicle has lost none of the robustness which has helped to make it popular in its home country.


“Suspension, particularly, has been tweaked for comfort,” says Venkatram Mamillapalle, CEO of Renault India, who attended the model’s recent local launch. “We were in continuous communication with Renault South Africa regarding the improvement.”


While highlighting strength, safety, fuel efficiency and equipment levels as being foremost among the car’s virtues, Mamillapalle says the vehicle’s super-spacious interior remains its prime selling point. “There’s nothing quite like it on the market. It’s unique,” he maintains.


With more than 100 seating positions available from four interior configurations, the cabin accommodates people as easily as it accommodates cargo and also offers a variety of combinations to house permutations of each.


In Life Mode, for instance, the two, rear-most, easy-fix seats can be removed from the cabin without a need for tools, the vehicle transforming into a five-person transporter that offers 625 litres of luggage space.


In Surf Mode the vehicle becomes akin to a four-seat beach buggy with, not surprisingly, room for surfboards in the interior while, in Camp Mode, it can be converted into a two-seat adventure wagon with space in the back for a bed. In people carrying configuration – dubbed Tribe Mode – it accommodates six passengers and a driver with room for 84 litres of luggage in a narrow but deep boot.


“The Triber represents a totally new concept in SUV design – a well-equipped vehicle with impressive space and the flexibility to accommodate the ever-changing needs of South African motorists, at an extremely affordable price-point,” says Mamillapalle.


Weighing less than a ton and powered by a new-generation, 1,0-litre, normally aspirated, petrol-fuelled engine that produces 52kW and 92Nm, the vehicle is said to return combined cycle fuel consumption figures of 5,5 litres per 100km.


Though the three-cylinder engine is small, it incorporates variable valve timing (VVT) technology to aid performance and is said to be low-cost to maintain – another virtue highlighted by Mamillapalle. “The dual VVT system helps the unit to deliver maximum response at all revs, ensuring optimum acceleration through the gears. This, along with good fuel efficiency and low maintenance costs, makes the unit ideal for South African conditions,” he says, pointing out that the engine is also used on Renault’s Clio and Sandero derivatives sold in Europe and South America.


While, in my view, the engine may not be the Triber’s strongest point – frequent changing of gears are necessary to keep revs within the power band, particularly at Highveld altitude – the vehicle’s appealing versatility as a city commuter, people shuttle or weekend voyager stands it in good stead. Bottom line is that it will get you to places you want to go – though, perhaps, not at breakneck pace.


According to Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s head of design, the idea for the Triber stems from values of conviviality and sharing. “The model has been conceived to adapt,” he says. “It offers an attractive, robust and compact design and re-invents space for all. We are very proud of our breakthrough, which turns a length challenge into a miracle within four metres.”


Overall, the vehicle boasts numerous SUV styling cues that contribute to its aesthetic appeal – projector headlights, high ground clearance (182mm), skid plates at the front and rear, strong shoulder lines, flared wheel arches, body cladding and roof rails capable of carrying loads of up to 50kg.


The interior, too, is well-equipped, the array of impressive standard features extending to keyless entry, a navigation system, reverse camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, air-conditioning controls front and rear, and remote central locking.


Other comfort and convenience features include slide and reclining second row seats, 31 litres of stowage space in the cabin, cup-holders and 12-volt electrical sockets fore and aft, a cold storage facility within the centre console and a handy drawer under the driver’s seat.


Safety is another positive point for the Triber. Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes, airbags for driver and front passenger – extended to side airbags on top of the range Prestige derivatives – emergency lock retractors on first and second row seat belts, LED-styled daytime running lights and a reinforced body structure.


The interior features dual-tone trim, silver and chrome highlights, an eight-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, a USB port, a digital instrument cluster, a gear shift indicator on the tachometer to help drivers maintain optimum speed for better fuel efficiency, and a trip computer. The reverse park camera incorporates guides to help precise manoeuvring, as well as sensors on the rear bumper to alert drivers to impending obstacles.


On the road the vehicle copes well with the inflexibilities of potholed tarmac, its high ground clearance aiding negotiation of deep depressions. The ride is comfortable and compliant, though in hard cornering body roll is apparent. Electrically powered steering is light, the helm remaining easy to twirl whether the vehicle is travelling at parking speed or at the national speed limit. Brakes are good with an easy to modulate pedal.


Transmission – which is to the front wheels – is via a five-speed manual gearbox that shifts accurately through the gate. Clutch action is light. While road and engine noise appear adequately damped at cruising speed, the powerplant’s gruff note – typical of units of three-cylinder configuration – tends to intrude when the engine spins at the top end of its rev range.


On the visibility front, the driving position is commanding, with the all-round view good thanks to well-sized windows which also help to make the cabin feel light and airy. Switchgear falls readily to hand and fabric upholstered seats are supportive.


In all, the vehicle impresses for its equipment levels and degree of comfort it offers, as well as for its remarkable versatility as a people mover or cargo carrier. Models in the three-derivative range are sold with a two-year/30 000km service plan and a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty. Service intervals are set at 15 000km intervals.


Renault Triber Prices

  • Triber Expression: from R164 900
  • Triber Dynamique: from R174 900
  • Triber Prestige: from R189 900