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Car reviews - Renault - Koleos - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Standard equipment levels, new frontal styling, five-year warranty, diesel engine, cabin storage
Room for improvement
Road holding, ride, cabin ergonomics, CVT transmission, road noise, cornering ability

Renault logo30 Nov 2011

By MIKE COSTELLO

THE Renault Koleos compact SUV has never caught on in Australia, despite belonging to one of the local market’s most dynamic and popular segments and sharing many components with the popular Nissan X-Trail.

The brand, which has nearly doubled its sales here for the year so far, needs this to change if it is to continue its upward progression.

With this in mind, Renault has introduced a facelifted version of the car, adding a much less polarising front grille, a raft of standard features and improving the fuel economy of the diesel engine.

The redesign at the front end is a welcome addition, adding an air of class missing from the previous version. Indeed, the press fleet looked quite at home parked on the stately grounds of Werribee Mansion in Victoria, where the launch was held.

The panoply of standard features on all variants – most notably the satellite navigation system – is a major positive, while the standard leather seats on the volume-selling Dynamique variants look and feel excellent.

The Koleos features a commendable cabin feel. The first thing you notice is the chunky leather steering wheel and soft-touch leather surfacing on all the major contact points on the doors, dash and centre console.

The car’s less utilitarian styling means it is not as capacious as its X-Trail cousin, but clever packaging touches such as handles in the boot to fold the rear seats flat into the floor, as well as the abundance of storage cubbies throughout the cabin, go some way to making up for this.

Rear seat passengers may not be quite so enamoured with the average leg room and asthmatic air vents mounted in the B-pillar.

The dash is full of ergonomic oddities – some more acceptable than others. The satellite navigation controls mounted on the transmission tunnel are easy to reach and quite intuitive once the driver becomes acclimatised.

We have a less favourable opinion of the radio dials and the cruise control button, both of which are located far too low on the instrument fascia. The silver finish around the dashtop navigation display annoyingly reflects on the windscreen as well.

The volume-selling petrol engine – sourced from the X-Trail – gives honest and capable performance, but the droning of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) dulls any sense of excitement from the driving experience.

We recorded fuel economy of 9.5 litres per 100km on the road loop across Melbourne’s outer fringes, made up predominately of high-speed back roads.

The turbo diesel engine is a better bet, combining punchy performance and plenty of low grunt with a much livelier six-speed conventional automatic transmission.

The claimed improvements to fuel economy come courtesy of low-drag alternator, and we found the claimed official consumption of 7.6L/100km to be relatively accurate.

We drove the diesel version of the car over a combination of high speed bitumen and a selection of fire trails which presented no real problems for its off-road system – also shared with the X-Trail.

The car’s ride remained composed over the bumpy terrain, while the hill descent control system proved its worth by safely navigating a steep and slippery gravel decline.

Amazingly, despite its extra 94Nm of torque, the diesel engine has a braked towing capacity 650kg in arrears of the petrol (1350kg compared to 2000kg). Renault puts this down to the six-speed automatic, which cannot handle the same loads as the CVT.

Despite this unfortunate statistic, we still feel it’s a shame the oil-burning option isn’t available across the range, even though Renault states that it previously offered the engine on the entry-level Expression with little success.

Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar did not definitely rule out adding more diesel-powered variants when we put this to him at the launch, however.

The soft ride and super light steering of the Koleos are understandably geared toward pottering around town in stop-start traffic, and in these environs the car feels right at home.

At speed on the highway, the car feels less composed and more unstable, exhibiting disconcerting bodyroll through the bumps and twisties. Road and wind noise inside the cabin is also on the high side.

It must be said that the diesel felt substantially more planted than its petrol sibling, likely due to it being more than 100kg heavier than equivalent petrol versions.

While there are things to like about the Koleos – namely its long list of standard features and excellent five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty – it fails to ignite passion in a jam-packed and highly competitive vehicle segment.

It is not as dynamic as similarly-priced fellow Europeans such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Yeti, less stylish than the Kia Sportage and not as practical as the closely-related X-Trail.

The Koleos is by no means a bad car, but it’s also not a particularly inspiring one, and in this segment, that’s not really enough.

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