Renault’s first SUV goes under the knife, with a new nose, some augmentation and a far tighter front end.
Renault Koleos Overview
For a first foray into SUV territory, Renault did a pretty good job with the Koleos. In 2008, the French company released a petrol and diesel drivetrain with three transmission and spec choices, laid on the standard goodies, and started the range below $30K.
The new tweaks to its face make it less polarizing, and a revised trim, more standard fare and tighter suspension may see a few more Renault SUVs on Aussie roads.
Renault Koleos Engine
Both the diesel and petrol powerplants essentially stay the same: a Renault-sourced 2.2-litre four cylinder turbodiesel matched only to a six-speed automatic with sport shift, and a 2.5-litre Nissan-derived petrol four with either a five-speed manual on the entry-level car, or a CVT (continuously variable) sport-shift auto transmission on the higher two spec levels. The manual 4x2 was not available for test, however only 10 per cent of sales are attributed to the base manual, with the most popular model proving to be the 4x4 Dynamique.
The diesel engine, with 110kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at 2000rpm, is torque enough, but ironically lacks the punch of the 126kW/226Nm petrol on the straight and narrow, the latter helped by the converter in the CVT.
The diesel boasts a 8.5 per cent reduction in fuel economy and 9.5 per cent less C02.
Both engines will need to be changed over soon, as they are only Euro 4 compliant.
Renault Koleos Interior
The entry-level Expression spec has been enhanced, with the addition of standard climate control and a centre-console mounted sat-nav system standard across the range. The sat-nav is excellent, based on TomTom software and accessible with a user-friendly toggle stick and shortcut buttons below the shifter, next to the electronic park brake. Renault boast it is the first car in the segment to offer sat-nav as standard in Oz.
New interior finishes give a more quality and ergonomic feel, with the Expression getting a new, dark charcoal trim. Given the main buying audience is apparently young families, it’s a smart move.
A little mirror to keep an eye on the second row near the visor and map lights is a nice touch for The Parentals, and the kids have fold-down trays with a hole for cups, and cubbies underfloor keep goodies away from the eyeline of would-be thieves.
The mid-spec Dynamique gets black leather as standard, and an electronically-adjusted driver’s seat to match. Carbon fibre and aluminium trim highlights add a touch more class, and the funky flat-floor boot/second row system, which is triggered by a latch handle in the boot and flips the second row base cushion to the footwell to allow the rear seat to fold completely flat for cargo space, is now standard instead of a cost option. The clever clamshell boot remains, as does the full-size alloy spare in the boot, and the second row still has window blinds and rake adjustment to recline the seat backs by a few inches on the long trips.
The Privilege spec remains relatively in tact, with a beige leather interior now featured as a no-cost option and aimed at the other main buyer demographic – the empty-nesters.
Renault Koleos Exterior & Styling
The redesigned front end is the major shake up with this car – gone is the small, diamond-topped company grille and wide-set, slanted eyes that gave the cute Koleos a rather surprised or stunned expression. The grille is larger and incorporated with the headlamps to give the impression of a more upright nose, with LEDs on the leadlamps and body-coloured wing mirrors.
A new palette option, Cayenne Orange – or a dark burnt orange – is the new hero colour for the top-of-the-line Privilege, which also gets bi-Xenons and a panoramic glass roof as standard, and sits on two-tone 18-inch alloys.
Renault Koleos On The Road
The Koleos is quite competent, with extremely high level of safety and five stars to boot.
The cabin is well damped, the Bose stereo is excellent, a standard sat-nav with easy menu controls is a nice touch, and the leather trim is lush – unfortunately, the seats are pew-like with minimal hip and underthigh, and when combined with the command driving position, feels more like a bar stool or a bench. Lumbar is good, however, so the seats shouldn’t make you sore on long journeys. The wheel is upright and typically French in its slightly offset, truck-style position, and is overservoed, but has good reach and adjustment.
The launch drive took in highway, suburban and rural tarmac roads with a gravel loop, with the opportunity to test the standard hill descent control on the 4x4 models (Dynamique, which is both 4 x 2 and 4 x 4, and the 4 x 4 only Privilege).
The descent control holds the car in first gear at 7km/h max, using the ABS wheel sensors to trickle down hills without the need to brake or accelerate – it is the same system as the Nissan X-Trail, and works very well (though 7km/h can sometimes feel a little speedy, believe it or not!). Heavy braking brought on the new auto hazards, which send the amber warning lights strobing almost comically, like a light about to fuse out. But over ruts and the odd small burm, the car handled well enough – its tendency is still to understeer when velocity and physics overwhelm rubber, but the front of the car doesn’t fall all over itself, like the previous version, thanks to some tweaks of the independent suspension. High-speed bump and rebound is quite admirable, though the car is not nearly as dynamic as the class-leading VW Tiguan or Subaru Forrester.
Renault Koleos Challenges
Dealerships are few and far between, particularly in the populated Sydney and Melbourne areas, with only 20 dedicated dealerships nationally. However, a plan is in play to expand this number by 2013, with six dedicated dealerships in and around Sydney alone.
Resale is also questionable, though this has also been addressed with a new five year, unlimited km warranty with five-year roadside assist for Renault’s passenger car range.
Renault Koleos Verdict
The value equation for the Koleos is persuasive, with $1500 more spec on the base car and no price rise – and only $1000 flat for dealer delivery and stat charge pricing, keeping the Expression under the $30K mark at $29,990. Both the Dynamique and Privilege boast $3Ks worth of extra spec with a $1000 and $500 price rise, respectively. Particularly given its price point and buyer demographic, the car is a solid and affordable alternative in an overburdened SUV/MPV/UAV marketplace.
Renault Koleos Competition
The SUV segment is huge, and the Koleos is up against the likes of the Toyota Rav4, Hyundai’s ix35, Mitsubishi’s ASX, its alliance partner Nissan’s Murano and X-Trail, the aforementioned Forester and Tiguan… the list goes on. The Koleos is cleverly designed and marketed as a different alternative, offering high spec and safety, to directly appealto the mums and the empty-nest types that want something different. And with this in mind, it will roll along reasonably well.