Car reviews - Renault - Koleos - range
Strong value equation of Life and Intens model grades, roomy cabin, competitive technology, good steering and handling
Room for improvement
Average engine response, ordinary refinement betrays premium look, merely decent ride quality could be smoother
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1 Sep 2016
JUMPING quickly from on paper to off the shelf, the Renault Koleos flicks down the gauntlet to rivals such as the medium SUV segment’s sales-leading Mazda CX-5.
Steel wheels, a plastic steering wheel and manual air-conditioning are all to be found on the $29,190 plus on-road costs Mazda CX-5 Maxx automatic that hogs a quarter of that model’s sales. Alloys, leather on the tiller and dual-zone climate control, meanwhile, can be found with the $29,990 Koleos Life 4x2 that further offers automatic headlights and wipers, and rear parking sensors.
The Renault gets a 2.5-litre petrol engine, versus the Mazda’s 2.0-litre unit, and the now Euro-styled Koleos has become so large – stretching 4672mm long to the CX-5’s 4540mm – that its cabin is among the roomiest in the class.
Renault clearly hopes punters will be pulled in to showrooms by the styling panache, pricing and packaging, in whichever order.
The smooth yet muscular look of the Renault’s new medium SUV has transcended the oafish original model designed by Samsung in South Korea for the brand.
Although Nissan X-Trail mechanicals have been utilised, the Koleos has been styled and developed in its native France.
In terms of cabin design and finish, the Koleos does not feel as premium as its exterior styling might suggest. A TFT speedometer and tachometer display is standard across the range and is a highlight, however parts of the dashboard have a thin veneer of shiny soft-touch plastic covering while the rear door trims are hard on all but the $43,490 Intens 4x4 range topper.
The Intens 4x4 also leads with colour-adjustable door mood lighting, twin rear USB ports and an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen that works like a tablet, complete with pinch-to-zoom functionality for the standard nav.
It also leaves the middle-tier Zen 4x2 and 4x4 appearing like odd models out, offering neither the extraordinary value of the Life 4x2 nor the premium feel of the flagship – a flourish of fake leather with front seat heating, plus nav on a smaller screen, is nothing special for $34-37K.
If the exterior is highly stylised then the cabin is more pragmatic overall, with broad and comfortable seating and among the most rear legroom in the segment (backed by standard airvents for back riders), although the rear bench fails to do anything clever in terms of flipping and folding beyond that of the expected 60:40 split backrest that enhances load lugging capability.
A square and usable luggage space falls about mid-pack for boot volume (more capacious than CX-5 and Subaru Forester, less vast than Hyundai Tucson and X-Trail) with the Intens 4x4 again coming to the fore offering an electric tailgate that can be opened by an arms-full owner waving a foot under the rear bumper, which automatically leverages it.
Loading up a Koleos could, however, affect its performance and economy that each fall into the same category as the cabin materials – the drivetrain is not as premium as expected, particularly for the price of the higher model grades.
At entry pricing the Nissan-sourced 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder and automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) are perfectly adequate partners.
The engine is coarse and noisy even on light throttle, particularly as the CVT quickly and adeptly raises revs towards where peak 226Nm of torque is delivered (at 4400rpm), although the Koleos becomes perky as the tachometer needle climbs towards the 6000rpm power peak of 126kW.
These outputs were competitive around a decade ago for a 1608kg medium SUV, and although there are many competitors that slog it out with similar issues, equally new models such as Volkswagen’s imminent Tiguan offer the promise of smooth turbocharged torque and greater refinement.
A Renault 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder would be a treat in the Koleos, especially because it is an SUV that is otherwise a solid drive.
Although some elements of road noise refinement – particularly on coarse chip surfaces – fight for attention with the thrashy engine, the Renault is no dynamic dud. A nice, small steering wheel is connected to a smooth, progressive and fluent system that rivals the CX-5 and is demonstrably superior to that in the dull X-Trail.
The suspension is firm, and perhaps around town in particular it is too restless in response to small road imperfections for a family car that could be asked to help send back-seated babies to sleep. The dampers clunk noisily over larger potholes, but there is actual little intrusion into the cabin, no doubt aided by the chubby 60-aspect 18-inch tyres of our tested Zen 4x2 and Intens 4x4 variants.
An upside to the firm ride was found over the course of a very challenging drive program – in terms of both bitumen cornering and dirt track hauling – over which the new Koleos failed to flinch.
Despite its tubby kerb weight and generous ground clearance, suspension control is excellent over sizeable undulations, while the Renault offers impressive agility during quick changes of direction. Along with the good steering, the Koleos can be a fun drive, with a nicely balanced and responsive chassis that would comfortably deal with more power.
The overall impression is that the new Renault Koleos is an overwhelmingly competent vehicle, which is not a backhanded compliment.
The ride is solid without being special, the cabin is loaded without feeling lush, leaving performance and refinement the only negatives – but even then, the Koleos is decent. On the flipside, the price and equipment equation is spot on, the interior is roomy and the chassis capable.
There are no soaring highs nor devastating lows, but rather – finally for Renault – simply a consistent line of solid achievement. And, for many buyers, merging European styling with generous space and functionality might just be good enough.
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