New models - Renault - Koleos - 5-dr wagon range
First drive: Koleos is Renault's SUV for all seasons
French crossover lobs in petrol, diesel, 4x2 and 4x4 guises priced from under $30K
25 Sep 2008
By GORDON LOMAS
RENAULT Australia has finally joined the compact crossover crowd with its Koleos SUV, which it hopes will lift its total annual sales volume by 40 per cent.
This would grow Renault's business domestically by between 5000 and 6000 sales a year, but it is still a long way short of the rather flambouyant prediction of 20,000 annual sales made at the extravagant relaunch of the brand in 2001.
The Koleos is derived from the Nissan X-Trail platform and comes with the choice of 2.5-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engines, mated to three transmissions: six-speed auto, six-speed manual and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Prices pitch right at the heart of the crowded compact SUV segment, starting at $29,990 for the 4x2 manual petrol variant. There are six versions of the Koleos, topping out with the deluxe-spec 4x4 petrol CVT at $41,990.
The range-topping equipment grade is the Privilege (available only as a 4x4 petrol CVT), which improves on the basic Dynamique specification by picking mod-cons like beige leather, heated front seats, a powered driver's seat, front and rear parking sensors, a Bose sound system and a Modularity Pack, which includes numerous rear-seat storage and adjustment possibilities.
The Koleos is a collaboration between France, Japan and Korea, with Renault responsible for design, Nissan supplying the X-Trail platform and the Renault Samsung Motors plant in Busan, Korea (an 80 per cent-owned Renault subsidiary) building the car.
As such it is the first genuinely global product to come from the Renault/Nissan marriage - almost 10 years after Renault secured 36.8 per cent of Nissan.
The Koleos comes in either two or four-wheel-drive configurations, both of which boast a towing capacity of 2000kg. The exception is the 2.0-litre diesel linked to a six-speed automatic (in which case it is 1350kg).
The petrol engine produces 126kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm, while there are two power figures for the common-rail turbocharged diesel.
When the diesel is hooked up to the six-speed manual it delivers 127kW of power and produces 360Nm of torque, however, six-speed automatic versions have been deliberately detuned to 110kW and 320Nm to protect the auto transmission from overheating.
There are high levels of standard equipment, with all models coming with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a keyless card start/top button function, automatic handbrake and dual-zone climate-control.
The Koleos is the 10th car Renault has produced that carries the maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash rating. It comes standard with ESP electronic stability/traction control, dual front, side and curtain airbags and three child seat anchor points for the rear seats.
All-wheel-drive is reserved for the 2.5-litre petrol with the CVT transmission and both the manual and auto versions of the diesel.
The 4x4 system includes Hill Start Assist (HSA) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) functions. WHile HSA prevents the vehicle from rolling, HDC maintains progress at 7km/h without the need to use the brakes - both on gradients of more than 10 per cent.
A switch on the centre dash enables the driver to select between auto mode, in which the front/rear torque split is electronically controlled according to demand, or lock mode, when drive is fixed at a constant 50/50 front/rear torque split. A further option is to employ a front-drive-only mode.
Ground clearance for the petrol Koleos is a decent 206mm, while the diesel stands 188mm off the ground. Approach and departure angles of 27 and 31 degrees respectively, compare favourably with the X-Trail at 26 and 22 degrees respectively, while the X-Trail offers 200mm of ground clearance.
The Koleos comes with a horizontally-split tailgate, with the bottom half able to support up to 200kg.
On top of a functional and practical interior there is up to 70 litres of storage space, including a chilled 15-litre glove compartment.
Because of the Koleos’s greater dimensions in length, width and height compared to the Volkswagen Tiguan, Renault says that it has reconsidered what it deems as its direct rivals. The Koleos is now primarily targeted at the donor X-Trail itself, plus the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.
“Initially from a branding perspective we thought the Tiguan was going to be the rival, but after seeing it first-hand and looking at its dimensions we have now had a rethink,” Renault marketing communications manager Craig Smith said.
Renault is conservatively targeting 150 sales per month, but says that once it is fully established the Koleos will be responsible for attracting more than 5000 sales a year in Australia.
On year-to-date figures Renault is 10 per cent ahead of last year at 2100 sales.
“It is our most important model because we see it growing our total volume by up to 40 per cent,” Renault Australia managing director Rudi Koenig said.
Renault says 4x4 versions will account for 85 per cent of sales, while the split between petrol and diesel will be 50/50.
Nevertheless, it says that if it has called the mix wrongly then it can guarantee supply of whatever variant is in higher demand within a month. It says that is something many of its competitors cannot offer, with some waiting periods stretching out to six months.
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