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Renault Scala - Introduction

Renault’s Scala sedan is a recent entrant to the hyper-competitive mid-size sedan segment, but has managed to carve a niche all its own. Based largely on the Nissan Sunny, Renault has tried to position the Scala as the more premium of the two, a strategy which has met with measure success. Now, Renault has broadened its product offering with the launch of the new Scala CVT. The Renault Scala CVT is the automatic transmission variant, sporting a compact and frugal continuously variable transmission.


Do petrol sedans make a business case in the Indian passenger car market? Indeed, they do, and with a hike in diesel prices on the cards, a shift back towards petrol propulsion seems like a logical outcome. Automatic transmission variants aren’t too popular in India, and that is for two primary reasons – higher cost, and more fuel consumption. Renault India, however, is betting on increasing its market share by addressing these two primary concerns with the launch of the Scala CVT.


Renault Scala - Design & Engineering


renault scala cvt design

If you cast your eyes over the Renault Scala CVT, there isn’t much to differentiate it from its manual transmission equipped siblings, save for discreet ‘CVT’ badging on the boot. The Scala’s large size is immediately apparent, especially when you look at it in profile, and take in those long rear doors.

Engineered on the same ‘V’ platform shared with the Nissan Sunny, the Scala boasts of commodious interiors, which the company proudly claims rivals the likes of the Mercedes E-Class for rear leg room.

But we’ve discussed the Renault Scala’s design in enough detail in our previous road test, so let’s focus on what’s new under the hood here.

For starters, Renault has borrowed from the Nissan parts bin once again, utilising the CVT gearbox, dubbed ‘X-Tronic’. This X-Tronic gearbox is widely used by Nissan, notably for its US-market offerings, notably the Nissan Versa (Sunny to you and me) and Nissan Sentra executive sedan.

What’s special about X-Tronic? Simply put, it utilises an auxiliary planetary gearset, which helps to reduce the mass of gearbox, making it both compact and lighter. According to Renault, this technology makes the X-Tronic gearbox 10 percent smaller and 13 percent lighter than conventional CVTs, while also producing 30 percent less friction. Less friction means less waste of mechanical energy, leading to greater fuel efficiency.


Renault Scala - Interiors & Comfort


renault scala cvt comfort

Once inside the Renault Scala, the only real visual difference is the gearlever, which relaces the regular H-patter shifter in the manual version. Otherwise, everything from the layout of the dashboard, the seat upholstery, instrument cluster etc is identical to both cars.

It is a comfortable cabin, with the huge rear area being the car’s USP. However, one of the primary reasons for customers to choose an automatic transmission is driving comfort, which the Scala provides with its wide range of adjustability. The seat height is adjustable, and the steering wheel tilts so the driver can find a comfortable position. However, the steering wheel does not telescope, and with the driver’s seat adjusted for the pedal, I found the steering wheel a little too close to my chest, with not enough freedom to move my arms. It’s a minor niggle, but once on the road you soon get used to it.

The seats themselves are quite comfortable, and other than the lack of adjustable lumbar support, there isn’t much to complain about. What should be kept in mind is that Renault and Nissan have engineered this car for practicality, simplicity and ease of use, so while it does not appear fancy, it has all the right appointments a customer may expect.


Renault Scala - Performance & Handling

renault scala cvt performance


The big question is how does the Renault Scala CVT drive? The first, immediate and obvious comparison would be with the Scala manual, while the Renault Fluence petrol, which also uses a CVT gearbox, comes into the picture as well. What is impressive about this CVT is the quickness of response. While driving in stop-start traffic, the immediacy of response is pleasing, the Scala more than keeping up with everyday traffic. There is a soft hum from the CVT gearbox, which is not discernible from the driver’s seat, or at the back, but which you can clearly identify when sitting in the front passenger seat.

It is when you want to overtake, and overtake quickly, that the Scala seems recalcitrant to build momentum quickly. The pulleys in the X-Tronic CVT are hydraulically actuated, and while the engine revs rise immediately when you tap the throttle, the drive takes a while to send all the power to the wheels. This is a typical CVT phenomenon, known as the ‘rubber band effect’, and feels as though the clutch is slipping on a manual transmission-equipped car.

This rubber-band effect is particularly disconcerting on two-lane highways like we found out, on our test route which took us from Mumbai to Kashid. You need to plan your overtaking, and it is worth your while to click the ‘sport’ button to the side of the gear lever. This gives you another 1000 rpm or so of engine revs, meaning the CVT is quicker to respond. Remember, it uses a centrifugal clutch, so more revs at the same road speed means quicker transfer of power to the wheels. It is the equivalent of driving in a lower gear in a manual car. There is also an ‘L’ or low-range mode to this X-Tronic CVT gearbox as well, which gives you a further 1000 rpm or so. The electronics which control the CVT also ensure that the pulleys maintain a shorter overall drive ratio, even when you lift off the throttle. This L-mode is useful on twisty uphill sections, but you will have to live with a raucous engine when you do so.

renault scala cvt sport button

The 'sport' button (circled in red) gives more revs and faster acceleration, but cannot be used in conjunction with L-mode. It's either one or the other.


The Scala’s engine produces max torque at 4,000 rpm and max power at 5,600 rpm, so you have to accept that if you are searching for sprightly performance, you will have to wring this motor’s neck. It pulls easily though, with a free-revving nature typical of small-displacement Jap engines, but don’t expect a shove of power at any point. Drive it intelligently, and it is a competent performer, but it won’t excite.

The handling balance is very good, with excellent straight-line stability thanks to the long 2,600 wheelbase, which is the largest in this class. The brakes didn’t meet my expectations though, with a wooden-feeling pedal and an unpredictable bite point. Keep in mind that if you are using the ‘sport’ or L-mode, you will need to use the brakes more firmly, especially in L-mode. Renault would do well to take a re-look at the braking system.


Renault Scala - Fuel Efficiency


renault scala fuel efficiency scala mileage

Fuel-efficiency has long been the bugbear of automatic transmissions, and a big detractor for customers. But with the X-Tronic CVT, Renault actually has a winner on its hands, since the Scala CVT is arguably more efficient than the manual-equipped car. The ARAI test figures for the Renault Scala CVT rate it at 17.97 km/l, which compares favourably with 16.95 km/l that the manual equipped Scala offers. Even our real-world figures were impressive, the Scala registering an average of 11.6 km/l over our test route, which included stop-start traffic conditions for most of the way. We also drove it rather spiritedly, and had the engine on and AC running while shooting, so it is a truly impressive figure. With a lighter right foot, 13 km/l during everyday driving should be easily achievable.


Renault Scala - Safety


renault scala cvt safety

The Renault Scala CVT comes with an impressive list of safety features, which includes ABS with EBD, dual front airbags, engine immobiliser, and anti-pinch power windows as standard, even on the RxL variant. Don’t forget, this car is sold in North America as the Nissan Versa, and so has to comply with the tough safety norms over there.


Renault Scala - Verdict


renault scala cvt road test verdict

So, does the Renault Scala CVT make a strong business case? At Rs 8.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi for the RxL variant, it is Rs 1 lakh dear than the manual RxL variant. So how does one justify the higher price tag? The marginally higher fuel efficiency, helps the Scala CVT’s case no doubt, and you cannot really put a price to convenience. Look at it this way instead: if you were to employ a driver, it would cost you approximately Rs 10,000 a month, which, if you were to drive yourself, you would recover the additional investment in less than a year. Put that way, the Scala CVT begins to make a lot of sense.

It is cheaper than the Hyundai Verna petrol automatic by close to two lakhs, even in the higher RxZ trim (which costs Rs 9.89 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi), while matching the Honda City AT, Volkswagen Vento AT and the Skoda Rapid AT on price.

If anything, Renault India’s bold pricing indicates its confidence in the product, where it seeks to compete head-to-head, and win. The Scala’s attributes of spacious cabin, high spec level, and safety features, plus the good fuel efficiency that the CVT transmission offers, will surely appeal to car buyers. Renault as a brand is growing in stature, and market share. In the mid-size sedan segment, it already commands an 8 percent market share within less than a year of launching the Scala, and the CVT variant will add another feather to its cap as far as its product offering is concerned.



Renault Scala - Competition Check

Skoda Rapid AT, Volkswagen Vento AT, Hyundai Verna 1.6 SX AT, Honda City AT


Length x Width x Height (mm) 4425 x 1695 x 1505
Wheelbase (mm) 2600
Ground clearance (mm) 161
Kerb weight (kg) 1005 to 1010 (Petrol), 1080 to 1085 (Diesel)
Fuel tank capacity (lt) 41
Boot space (lt) 490
Engine & Transmission
Capacity (cc) 1498 (Petrol), 1461 (Diesel)
Power (PS @ rpm) 99 @ 6000 (Petrol), 86 @ 3750 (Diesel)
Torque (Nm @ rpm) 134 @ 4000 (Petrol), 200 @ 2000 (Diesel)
Gearbox 5-Speed Manual
Suspension & Brakes
Front suspension Mcpherson Strut
Rear suspension Torsion Bar
Front brakes Disc
Rear brakes Drum
Wheels & Tyres
Tyre size and type 185/70 R14 (Steel), 185/65 R15 (Alloy)
Fuel efficiency
ARAI (kpl) 16.9 (Petrol), 21.64 (Diesel)

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Renault Scala Alternatives

Looking for other cars in the same segment and price range? Your choices are many. Click on any model of your choice to go directly to that page, so you can have a quick and easy reference of the specifications and features of competing vehicles in the same segment.

Honda City
Rs. 7.5 Lacs. - Rs. 11.8 Lacs.

Ford Classic
Rs. 5.8 Lacs. - Rs. 8.1 Lacs.

Maruti Suzuki SX4
Rs. 7.5 Lacs. - Rs. 9.5 Lacs.

Mitsubishi Lancer
Rs. 7.3 Lacs. - Rs. 8.1 Lacs.

Fiat Linea
Rs. 6 Lacs. - Rs. 10.1 Lacs.

Chevrolet Optra Magnum
Rs. 8.2 Lacs. - Rs. 10.4 Lacs.

Mitsubishi Cedia
Rs. 8.5 Lacs. - Rs. 8.9 Lacs.

Tata Manza
Rs. 4.8 Lacs. - Rs. 6.8 Lacs.

Volkswagen Vento (2010-2014)
Rs. 7.3 Lacs. - Rs. 9.9 Lacs.

Hyundai Fluidic Verna
Rs. 7.6 Lacs. - Rs. 12 Lacs.

Ford Fiesta
Rs. 7.2 Lacs. - Rs. 10.4 Lacs.

Nissan Sunny
Rs. 7 Lacs. - Rs. 9.8 Lacs.

Skoda Rapid
Rs. 7 Lacs. - Rs. 9.7 Lacs.

Skoda Rapid 2014
Rs. 7.2 Lacs. - Rs. 9.9 Lacs.

Hyundai 4S Fluidic Verna
Rs. 7.7 Lacs. - Rs. 19.2 Lacs.

Volkswagen Vento 2015
Rs. 7.8 Lacs. - Rs. 11.9 Lacs.

Renault Scala Review

No Review Available