Car reviews - Renault - Koleos - Intens
Roomy cabin – particularly the rear seat, loaded with equipment, strong diesel, smart automatic continuously variable transmission
Room for improvement
Overly firm front seats, diesel lacks refinement, lumpy steering, average ride quality, poor tyres hamper handling
The Koleos range grows with a Renault diesel option that proves anything but Intens
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29 Jun 2018
DIESEL dominates over petrol power in the Renault Koleos Intens 4x4.
This is no subjective assessment – yet – but rather for power, torque, claimed economy and even performance, the new Koleos diesel launched in August 2017 drips with advantages compared with its petrol sibling, which arrived a full year earlier.
It is, however, unavailable in either Life or Zen specification as petrol is, with buyers needing to first spend more on the flagship all-wheel drive Intens, and then more again for the diesel option.
On-paper the Koleos Intens 4x4 diesel might look to be the natural choice, but naturally there will be some reservations about its lofty pricetag.
Price and equipment
The Koleos Intens 4x4 costs $43,490 plus on-road costs with a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine poached from the Nissan X-Trail, with which it shares its chassis and other parts.
Yet this 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder costs a further $3500 at $46,990 and it widens the drop to the next-cheapest Koleos, the petrol-only $36,490 Zen 4x4, from $7000 to a full $10,500.
At least the single diesel specification is very well-equipped, with the Intens adding over the Zen an electric tailgate, LED headlights with automatic high-beam, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), auto reverse-park assistance, full leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats with full electric adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, and 12-speaker Bose audio.
That is in addition to 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, a 7.0-inch colour driver display and 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen with satellite navigation and digital radio, all of which are shared between the Zen and Intens as standard.
Being based on an X-Trail, the Renault boasts one of the roomiest cabins in the medium SUV class. Rear legroom is a clear highlight, with large SUV-rivalling acreage complemented by a low transmission tunnel and slimline centre console that barely affects middle rider room. There are also two USB ports, air vents and even soft-touch door trims back there, plus a supportive backrest and bench, to make this among the most accommodating rear quarters to be found in this segment.
Move elsewhere in the cabin, however, and the Intens becomes less intensively competitive. The front seats are overly firm, while the shiny dashboard plastics do not meld with the dimpled grain of the door trims. The doors clang shut, and the buttons and bin lids lack a tight feel, endowing this interior with only a veneer of quality. A Mazda CX-5 GT and Peugeot 3008 GT trounce this effort.
The touchscreen is also fiddly to use, with almost a need for a stylus pen to firmly prod its functions into activation, an issue accentuated by the slow response time of the system. The Bose audio sounds excellent in its mid-range, but it starts to crumble when cranked up. There is a theme here.
And although the cabin might be spacious – particularly the rear seat – the boot is not capacious. There is a full-size spare underfloor, with a subwoofer housed inside it, but the 458-litre volume is at least 42L short of expectation. When the tailgate was first lifted, this tester’s immediate reaction was that it should be bigger.
Engine and transmission
It might not be difficult to trump the Koleos petrol’s 126kW of power at 6000rpm, and 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm, but the diesel does it by only 4kW and an enormous 54Nm.
With 130kW at 3750rpm and 380Nm at 2000rpm, the Koleos diesel also proves to be a more effortless performer given how low in the rev band those outputs are produced. That trait will only become more apparent and welcome when loading this 1743kg medium SUV with kids and luggage, which makes the reduction in towing capacity from 2000kg to 1650kg disappointing.
The Koleos diesel might weigh 135kg more than its petrol sibling, but it is a strong performer aided by a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that does a sterling impression of a good torque-converter auto. The only downside is that it pushes revs too high on even slight hills, which is at odds with the diesel’s characteristics, and that in turn affects refinement. It certainly is noisier than a CX-5 or 3008 diesel, to name two.
Even so, claimed 9.5-second 0-100km/h is three-tenths faster than the petrol and feels about right, while combined-cycle fuel consumption of 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres is 1.2L/100km thriftier – although we achieved 8.2L/100km in mixed conditions on test.
Ride and handling
There is a core competency in every facet of the new Koleos that is initially impressive. Its ride quality is decently comfortable, the steering is direct and the handling is generally well balanced.
As with the engine noise and interior furnishings, however, a lack of depth and detail lets it down. While the ride is good, it can fray at the extremes – becoming too pillowy and allowing plenty of head-toss over large bumps and undulations, or feeling jittery over successive small ones. Together with excessive road noise, the Renault starts to feel underdone in terms of refinement.
The steering, by contrast, is impressively fluid when threading this medium SUV through country road corners at speed, but around town the weighting of the system turns heavy when parking.
Through corners the handling errs on the side of nose-heavy understeer, unsurprising given the heavy diesel up front, but it can be quickly neutralised. Even in the dry, though, the standard Nexen N-Priz tyres are terrible in terms of their low grip and propensity to squeal even at modest pace.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are all standard.
The Renault Koleos has not been tested by ANCAP.
With annual or generous 30,000km servicing intervals, Renault charges a competitive capped-price of $369 for the first and third service, and $683 for the second check-up.
In the big picture the Renault Koleos Intens 4x4 diesel is enormously impressive, and indeed it starts with that big cabin loaded with an enormous amount of active safety and luxury equipment.
The exterior looks like a chic European (albeit made in South Korea) model should and its performance is strong, yet a five-year warranty and affordable servicing will appeal to the head (and wallet) as much as the decent diesel economy does. It generally steers well, too.
It does not take much of a scratch below the surface, however, to reveal an ultimate lack of polish here. It threads through the noisy engine, the mismatched plastics, hard front seats and dated infotainment, right through to ride and road noise refinement issues, and a bad tyre choice.
The diesel does make for a better Koleos than the petrol, but not by as much as the on-paper figures might indicate, and it seems unnecessarily elitist to introduce the engine only in an expensive top model.
All of which leaves Intens 4x4 ahead of its Nissan X-Trail sibling, or a Toyota RAV4, but well behind the likes of a Mazda CX-5 or Peugeot 3008. It certainly is a case of being mid-pack for this median-average medium SUV.
Mazda CX-5 GT from $47,390 plus on-road costs
Superior in every way to the Renault, the CX-5 is brimming with polish and panache.
Peugeot 3008 GT from $49,490 plus on-road costs
Expensive and lacking an all-wheel drive option, but otherwise roomy, classy and punchy.
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