Car reviews - Renault - Koleos - 5-dr wagon range
25 Sep 2008
By GORDON LOMAS
RENAULT has been in the SUV wilderness, missing out on the urban crossover phenomenon until now.
The arrival of the Koleos in two and four-wheel-drive layouts, with diesel and petrol engines and the choice of manual, automatic and CVT transmissions signals the first tangible result of its nine-year alliance with Nissan.
The Koleos is a collaboration between three countries - France, Japan and Korea, being designed by Renault on a donor platform from Nissan’s X-Trail and built at the Renault Samsung plant in Busan, Korea.
The six-model line-up starts from $29,990 and tops out at $41,990.
On face value, Renault has made a good fist of its first endeavour into the compact SUV playground, but then it had the advantage of sitting back for all these years, watching how rivals tackled this flourishing segment.
So when it came time to make a move Renault had a little help from ally Nissan by borrowing the X-Trail platform, enhancing it and adding the French brand’s no-compromise approach to safety and equipment.
The result is wrapped in an exterior looks a little confusing in that it features a bit of everything, blending the designs of a station wagon, SUV and a people-mover.
It stands out from the crowd with its clamshell-style split-opening rear door, beefy wheel-arches and generous ride height (206mm for the petrol, 188mm for the diesel).
The Koleos is a competent ride around town, where Renault admits it will do most of its work, yet it can be taken to national park trails and dirt passes with confidence.
It is definitely no serious rock-hopper but those are few and far between in this segment, where the urban jungle carries most of its work load.
Around town there is above-average vision all-round and the Koleos trucks along as efficiently as a smaller passenger car.
The 4x4 diesel, hooked up with a six-speed manual, is the pick of the bunch thanks to its mid-range response, neat shift action and energy off the line.
That said, it will easily lose momentum while tootling around town in sixth at 60-70km/h, requiring you to (quite uncharacteristically for a diesel) shuffle back a couple of cogs.
The CVT gearbox can be a little confronting at times, particularly when there are some gradients to tackle. At times it is either on or off and you sometimes have to stab the throttle to urge it to kick down, particularly in overtaking lanes.
Fuel economy for the petrol 4x2 manual is 9.6 litres per 100km (9.3L/100km for the CVT), and 9.5L/100km for the 4x4 CVT. Diesel versions of the 4x4 improve on that, to 7.9L/100km for the manual and 8.3L/100km for the auto.
The Koleos is a competent and capable chariot that can be taken for light-duty off-road excursions with confidence. The ride quality is a standout, although on some surfaces there was a degree of suspension noise which crept into the cabin.
The cabin layout is neatly arranged and uncluttered, with all the controls close at hand and offering intuitive functionality.
This five-seat SUV outstrips the widely acclaimed Volkswagen Tiguan in key dimensions and there is ample storage space and decent flexibility with the rear seating arrangement - if you take up the optional Modularity Pack on the Dynamique trim versions.
The driving position is a little awkward in that it is hard to find the optimum adjustment. There is also marginal lateral or side support from the seats, which is particularly noticeable on choppy bitumen or poorly graded dirt tracks.
One tick for the Koleos is that safety is not compromised and all occupants are supplied with decent levels of protection, with eight airbags cushioning the cabin.
Renault has a streamlined options list, including metallic paint ($800), the Modularity Pack (standard on the Privilege - $650), a panoramic glass sunroof ($1890), bi-Xenon headlights ($1950 - Privilege only).
There is no provision for satellite-navigation, although Renault says that it will be available later as an accessory.
Among a couple of dozen items on a Koleos-specific accessory list is the provision for a two-person tent that can be attached and secured to the rear hatch for $600.
Renault has not differentiated between petrol, diesel, 4x2 or 4x4 versions by refraining from adding specific badging on the rear. The Koleos is covered by Renault’s three-year/150,000km warranty.
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