Renault KWID Plug-In Hybrid Mini Crossover (CONCEPT)

Written By: Brittney B.

Renault KWID PHEV Concept

Of all the outlandishly futuristic vehicles that debuted in 2014, the Renault KWID might be one of the silliest (and smallest). The KWID is a plug-in hybrid SUV with a turbo-charged petrol engine and a battery, which can be charged by a hidden plug behind the grille logo. But it's not your standard rugged, spacious utility vehicle. The French concept, which shows traces of the Renault Twingo's rear-engine platform, is also a hodgepodge of different, daring experiments in automotive design and technology.

Shrinking and rethinking the urban utility vehicle

Renault and Nissan are partners, so comparisons to the Nissan Juke were inevitable, but in this case they're more than warranted. The Juke has already enjoyed enormous commercial success, and its highly efficient electric powertrain and sporty, muscular features were major influences on Renault's new SUV. However, even the Juke is bigger than the KWID, which is a big concept in a very tiny package.

It's not just the size that has critics comparing the KWID to a toy, though. It's a downsized, down-to-earth vehicle that was designed to navigate tight spaces, and it looks like it. On the outside, a matte gray body and bright yellow details almost resemble a rubber shell, especially when a pair of scissor doors open at an upward angle to expose the whole interior. The same color scheme continues inside the cabin, where a wraparound windshield offers a pilot's view and stenciled white details complete the highly unique picture.

Toying with futuristic specs

The KWID isn't just a preview of Renault's next-generation lineup; it's also a big part of Renault's mission to win over the next generation of drivers. Younger consumers are more environmentally conscious and tech-savvy, and the KWID seems tailor-made to target those particular priorities. In addition to its plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Renault also comes with a "flying companion": a helicopter that can hover ahead to monitor traffic or film the KWID in action. In other words, this SUV has its very own drone.

One Renault representative called the drone an "eye in the sky", explaining that it made history by giving KWID drivers an additional perspective on the conditions ahead of them. The helicopter can be controlled remotely by the dash-integrated touch-screen tablet, or programmed to visit pre-set coordinates. Later, drivers can watch "replay" videos of their drive. Of course, coming with its own remote-control helicopter doesn't exactly deter critics who compare the KWID to a toy car.

Renault KWID PHEV Concept

Designing with India in mind

In February 2014, Renault revealed the KWID at the Delhi Auto Expo in India's capital. That October, Brazilian insiders got another glimpse of the drivable prototype at the 2014 Sao Paulo Motor Show. The French manufacturer has design studios in both countries, and the KWID is one way they're expanding their international profile, but its Indian debut is just one of many telltale signs that the Indian market influenced the KWID's creators.

One of the KWID's closest potential competitors actually appeared at the same two car shows in 2014, and seems to be targeting the same Indian and Brazilian markets. Volkswagen's Taigun SUV is another miniature utility vehicle that's designed for city driving, but its one-liter engine doesn't have the environmental capacity that KWID claims to.