Renault comes up with a practical and easy-to- drive automatic version of its Scala saloon

Renault has launched an automatic version of its Scala saloon. While most automatics are plagued by problems of poor fuel efficiency and responsiveness, the carmaker has addressed this issue in the Scala automatic with the use of the new high-tech CVT automatic gearbox. Renault’s partner company Nissan is one of the few carmakers that continues to pursue Continuously Variable Transmission technology, and this investment is now beginning to bear fruit. The X-tronic CVT featured in this car comes with a steel belt for greater durability and less of the rubberband effect that CVTs are usually associated with.

Initial impressions are good. The engine is quite responsive and the gearbox feels really well suited to urban stop-start driving. This complements the light steering quite nicely, making the Scala effortless to drive in traffic.

It is happy to amble around at city speeds, the gearbox keeping the engine in the 1000-1500rpm band if you only use part throttle. Flat out, the Scala auto is quick – 0-100kph takes 12.1sec, which makes it faster than the more powerful Honda City auto. Its in-gear times are quicker than the Honda as well.

Helping the Scala is its light kerb weight – it tips the scales at just 1040kg – and the fact that the CVT gearbox keeps the engine spinning in the meat of its powerband when you put your foot down.

That said, the Scala’s engine is not one that encourages you to push hard. The motor sounds strained and noisy when you really extend it.

Where the CVT really pays you back is with efficiency. When you aren’t in a hurry, it keeps engine revs down in the more efficient part of the powerband, and every time you lift off the throttle the engine gets ‘disconnected’ from the gearbox, reducing mechanical drag. Renault claims that the Scala auto delivers an ARAI-tested 17.97kpl, which is a shade better than the Ford Fiesta’s dual-clutch automatic variant, which gives 16.97kpl (ARAI-tested).

Otherwise, the Scala automatic is very similar to the manual gearbox-equipped version. You get plenty of space on the inside, a comfortable but slightly bouncy ride and a massive boot.

However, the design of the interiors is a bit too similar to that of the Nissan Sunny, and the Scala automatic isn’t really a car that you can enjoy driving fast. Renault is offering this gearbox in mid-level RxL and top-end RxZ trim only.

At an estimated Rs 8.7 lakh for the RxL, there really isn’t a car that combines the same practicality, space and ease of driving as this one.