Japanese-engineered, French-designed, Korean-built. Could this be perfection?
Renault thinks very highly of Australia. With our wide variations of terrain, seemingly endless thirst for SUVs, and demanding conditions, we’ve become the country of choice for a lot of testing and automotive product refinement. The Renault Koleos is a great example of that, with a lot of local input going into the development of the second-generation family SUV.
With underpinnings from the Nissan X-Trail and unique styling, the Koleos is a truly tempting proposition. Its bold lines, interesting surface play and captivating details make it quite a sight on showroom floors and out on the open road. And while it’s clearly set up to thrive in an urban setting, all-wheel drive models are more than capable of handling some rough stuff.
Split up into Life, Zen, and Intens trimlines, along with the range-topping diesel, the Renault Koleos might just be the European family SUV for you that won’t break the bank.
“This French rival to the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and imminent new Volkswagen Tiguan is poised to become the company’s top-seller here, which is fitting when you consider the continued rapid growth in this corner of the market.” - CarAdvice
While the first-generation Renault Koleos looked a little challenging (especially its dumpy rear end), the second-generation bears no resemblance to the outgoing model or the Nissan X-Trail with which it shares its underpinnings. Only the sharpest eyes can catch the similar door panels, but when taken as a whole, it’s nearly impossible to see the Japanese influence on the design.
And that’s as it should be, after all: The French are known to be great designers, especially in the automotive industry, and so they were given free reign over the aesthetics of the Koleos. Its large headlights, framed by C-shaped LED daytime running lights make for a truly remarkable sight at night, with the large Renault lozenge in the centre of the grille leaving you with little room to guess what it might be. The sides are an exercise in surface play, with the swollen wheel arches meeting the doors in a way that truly delights. The rear is especially noteworthy for its wide, slim taillights, adorning a rather upright tail.
The Koleos actually resembles a far more traditional SUV than its French roots might suggest, with a very mature, squared-off look to it, not at all like the curvaceous and more stylised high-riders like the Mazda CX-5 and even the Nissan X-Trail.
Engine & Drivetrain
“…the potentially more impressive performance of the (petrol) engine is slightly dampened by the Xtronic CVT mated to it.” - Wheels UAE
When the Koleos was initially introduced, it was offered exclusively with a 2.5-litre petrol powerplant nicked straight from the Nissan X-Trail. With 126kW/226Nm on offer, this unit offers impressive refinement and a linear power delivery, and is a great motor if life with your Koleos will only see you drive out of town every once in a while.
The gem in lineup is actually the more powerful diesel, again borrowed wholesale from its Japanese cousin, that was brought around in August 2017. The 2.0dci engine produces a meaty 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque, with the latter figure being of more importance. While still mated to a CVT-automatic, the diesel has been remarked as being well-behaved, with the typical levels of refinement you'd expect from a modern oiler. This engine works well both in town and on the open road, with plenty of torque for the motorway and decent response for the urban sprawl.
The entry-level Koleos Life and lesser Zen models send power to the front wheels, while the higher Zen and top-spec Intens put down power to all four corners. All cars get the CVT automatic transmission, and while even the best CVTs play second-fiddle to conventional torque-converter or double-clutch automatics, it's worth noting that the X-Tronic unit in the Koleos (developed together with Nissan) is one of the very best in the business.
“Renault has taken a good thing and made it Frencher.” - CarsGuide
In recent years, Renault cabins have taken on a very distinct design language, and this is evident here. Top-spec Intens models enjoy a large tablet-style screen (not unlike the kind you’d find on a modern Volvo) that tackles infotainment and climate control settings, while lower-spec models have a smaller touchscreen and a separate climate control panel. Aside from that, you’ll find the Koleos’ cabin to be very European in its presentation, far more neat and tidy than some of its Asian rivals (that can sometimes be far too fussy). Everything falls easily to hand, though admittedly, the infotainment interface could use some work.
While the Koleos’ Japanese sibling offers up to seven seats, the Koleos is a strict five-seater. As a result, the amount of rear legroom on offer is nothing short of incredible. Six-footers can easily lounge in the rear with room to spare, while cargo space is equally impressive, replete with underfloor storage to hide unsightly things.
Behind the Wheel
“The power is more than enough at motorway speeds, and the diesel is a decent engine that will easily haul a fully laden Koleos on long motorway slogs. There is also adequate low-end torque." - Autocar
The Koleos is described, largely, as a friendly car to drive, with its light controls and easy-to-place demeanour ensuring it never feels a handful in town. Behind the wheel, you get the distinct impression that this is a car designed to ferry you effortlessly and smoothly rather than get the hairs on your neck standing, which is sensible given that this is a car aimed primarily at families.
You will appreciate the supple ride and low noise levels both in town and at speed, with the only real aural intrusion coming from the engines. Both the petrol and diesel units roar under heavy acceleration (neither are particularly pleasant to the ear, more so the oiler), and that's down to the cogless transmission. CVTs are best driven in a mature and sedate fashion, as they don't respond well to sudden demands. Renault has insisted that the Xtronic gearbox in the Koleos has been retooled to provide the impression of a conventional stepped transmission, and while it's certainly one of the better units we've sampled, it's still no match to a regular auto.
With all-paw traction available on higher end models, the Koleos is a relaxed and reassuring car to drive, even on unsealed surfaces. The suspension tuning means that you'll have to hit something considerable before you ever feel uncomfortable in the cabin, allowing you to easily do miles on unsealed surfaces without too much care. Long-distance touring is best served by the diesel engine, with its improved range and more gutsy nature.
It's worth bearing in mind that while all-wheel drive is nice to have, you have to really think about whether you need it. With the Intens petrol variant, you'll pay dividends in terms of both dynamics and fuel economy, with the official figure of 8.1L/100km a far cry from the more realistic 10L/100km you'll see on a regular basis. If you're spending most of your time in town, consider a front-wheel drive model instead. And if all-wheel drive is a must-have, then look no further than the top-spec diesel, which will also serve up a more reasonable 6.1L/100km fuel figure (based on official testing).
Safety & Technology
“The Koleos doesn’t have an ANCAP rating which seems like an oversight for such an important vehicle to Renault in Australia… “ - Practical Motoring
Standard safety kit is impressive on the Koleos, with a full suite of airbags, traction control, and stability control coming in as standard. The Koleos’ physical structure is also incredibly strong, giving it great amount of passive protection. The curtain airbags cover both front and rear passengers, which should be of some comfort to those looking to employ the Koleos as the daily family runabout.
Technology is well-served here too. While the large portrait-style touchscreen is the reserve of the flagship Intens model, a full-colour digital instrument display is standard across all models. The Intens also gets things like full-LED headlights (halogen on some trims) as well as autonomous emergency braking. It’s regrettable that AEB isn’t standard across the range as it is on some of the Koleos’ main rivals.
The Renault Koleos is a much, much stronger contender in its current form than the model it replaces. It looks better, drives better, packs great value and offers lower running costs than other European marques, and fulfils the desire that some buyers have of owning a more sophisticated European brand without the associated running costs. Sure, the gearbox could be better and it misses out on some safety kit if you don’t opt for the Intens model, but overall the Koleos is a great urban-SUV contender that has enough ability to shine both in town and out on the open road.
Rivals worth considering include the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5, with the former leading the way in terms of overall refinement in the segment and the latter a shining light in terms of ride and handling. However, if you want comfort and comfort alone, the Koleos is almost unbeatable, especially in town. We’d suggest looking at a 4x2 Zen model, as the all-wheel drive isn’t really necessary for the majority of buyers. However, the all-wheel drive diesel sitting at the top of the range offers greater comfort, kit, and punch than most contenders on this end of the market, proving that style can come at reasonable prices.
CarAdvice – 7.5/10 – “The Renault Koleos is a huge step up for the French brand. Can it topple the CX-5, Tiguan and co? It’s in the mix, at the very least.”
Wheels UAE – 7.5/10 – “It’s not the perfect crossover, but it gives customers a unique mix of East and West; French good looks with solid Japanese foundations. These, along with a spacious interior and a relatively refined ride make it a much stronger contender in this class, where its predecessor struggled to make a mark.”
CarsGuide – 4.0/5.0 – “Renault has done an excellent job in styling the Koleos – inside and out this SUV is stunning. Using Nissan excellent hardware underneath means it doesn't just look good either. There's a lack of refinement in the ride and the engine could do with more grunt at times, but for day-to-day urban use with the occasional adventure on dirt or gravel the Koleos is perfectly fine. The value for money is excellent, especially with the Intens – cheaper than the top of the range X-Trail with more features.”
Motoring – 76/100 – “The second-generation Koleos looks the goods in terms of styling and backs it up with what is arguably the roomiest cabin in its class. And, although the Nissan X-TRAIL based mid-size SUV doesn’t bring any major drivetrain changes other than the current non-availability of a turbo-diesel, it does come across as a more refined performer. Apart from the continuously variable transmission, there’s more to like than dislike.”
Wheels Magazine – 4.0/5.0 – “The Renault Koleos has come a long way, and it’s a vastly improved product. There are areas where it could do with a little more polish and the mechanical package is nothing special, but when it comes to carting around five people in comfort Koleos finally has the right stuff.”
Practical Motoring – 4.5/5.0 – “The Renault Koleos might be a twin-under-the-skin to the Nissan X-Trail, and others including Nissan Qashaqi but it has both a unique look and feel. The engine has just enough grunt and the CVT is a good match, there are usability issues with the touchscreen in the top-spec Intens and the active all-wheel drive is unnecessary. But, the five-year warranty and the fact the Koleos looks like an expensive car, as well as being a roomy one might be enough to get it on your list.”
WhichCar – 4.0/5.0 – “It’s the second coming of the Koleos, with Renault’s mid-size SUV renewed for a second generation. This time around, the Koleos gets transported from the back of the pack to the pointy end.”