It might owe a lot to Nissan X-Trail and it may be entering a crowded market segment, but Renault's Koleos is distinctive, refined, clever and - in entry form at least - well priced
Published: Wed, 20 May 2009
Renault Koleos Dynamique 4x2 Petrol
RRP: $29,990 (CVT $32,990)
Price as tested: $31,440
Crash rating: five-star (Euro NCAP)
Fuel: 95 RON Premium unleaded
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 9.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 230
Also consider: Nissan X-TRAIL (more here), Honda CR-V (more here), Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson (more here), Subaru Outback
Overall rating: 4.0/5.0About our ratings
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 4.0/5.0
The Koleos may be Renault's first SUV, but it's certainly no all-new, ground-up soft-roader. A really close look will reveal that there's more than a little Nissan X-TRAIL in there, even if it doesn't appear that way.
As Renault puts it, the Koleos was designed by Renault and developed by Nissan. It is built at Renault Samsung's plant in Korea, making it a true international collaboration that reflects the extent of global pragmatism in the car industry today.
The diverse roots of the new soft-roader, which was previewed by the Koleos "concept" at the 2006 Paris motor show, aren't apparent in its general looks.
The line, albeit on the conservative side for a carmaker known to go beyond the boundaries of respectability at times, retains enough Renault design cues to make it readily identifiable. The twin-nostril front air intakes and distinctive split-tailgate rear end are pure Renault, even if the overall appearance tends to place it more in the mainstream than on the fringes.
The general look (despite the fact Koleos is available in front-drive and well as all-wheel drive form) is one of SUV functionality. The Renault offers a high ground clearance, short overhangs front and rear, decent-size 17-inch wheels, dummy skid plates front and rear, and a highish profile topped by standard roof rails.
The fact that it is essentially a match for X-TRAIL (or Honda CR-V) in overall proportions means it slots seamlessly into the compact SUV genre, pretty much as Renault intended.
Koleos also slots in neatly in terms of pricing, although the waters are a little muddied by its availability in less expensive front-drive form as well as on-demand all-wheel drive. The entry Koleos is less pricey than entry X-TRAIL and CR-V; add all-wheel drive though and the tables are turned, slightly.
But there's no question even the base front-drive Dynamique Koleos ticks most boxes as far as useful equipment is concerned.
With its RRP a tad under $30,000, the entry Koleos has a fair bit going for it. Stability control, six airbags, anti-lock brakes, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels are all standard. The well-kitted interior includes dual-zone climate control, a seven-function trip computer, cruise control with speed limiter, auto park brake, driver-adjusted headlight trim, keyless push-button stop/start, power windows (with rear side sun blinds), chilled 15-litre glovebox, tables behind the rear seats, B-pillar air outlets for back-seat passengers and a heap of storage space dotted around the cabin.
The Koleos exploits the areas under the front passenger's seat, under the rear floor, in the front door armrests and all the usual spots including the deeply-pocketed doors, glovebox and (also quite deep) centre console bin. And the "easy estate" cargo-carrying arrangement, that is part of a Modularity Pack optional on Dynamique but standard on Privilege, is a touch of genius that elegantly -- and without power assistance -- flips the splitfold back seats and cushions fully flat through the simple tugging of a lever on either side of the rear seat back.
The $650 Modularity Pack also includes a forward folding front passenger seat back for loading extra-long items, adjustable-recline rear seats, a removable insert in the centre console, storage space in the rear armrest and a 12-volt socket in the cargo area.
As well, the Koleos comes with a split tailgate enabling quick loading of smaller items into the back.
So the functionality of the Koleos is quite impressive, although it seems at first examination to be a bit smaller inside than, say, an X-TRAIL. In terms of cargo load depth, it does give away something to the Nissan because the overall length is about 70mm less (reducing overhangs as a result), but otherwise there's not a huge amount in it.
The Koleos is actually wider, a bit higher and has a slightly longer wheelbase than the X-TRAIL. And, despite being front-drive only, the base model is actually a tad heavier than the entry X-TRAIL.
The bottom line though is that the Koleos is quite accommodating, with good overall headroom and shoulder room, and adequate rear-seat legroom that only suffers when taller occupants are travelling up front.
The slightly truncated cargo area means you'll tend to remove at least the front wheel of a bicycle to get it in comfortably. No standing back at a distance and flinging it aboard as suggested in the TV ads for first generation X-TRAILs. In compensation is a full-size alloy spare wheel under the rear carpet.
The general presentation of the interior is neat and tidy. The control layout is thoroughly conventional and to be honest, there's no distinctive Renault feel to the cabin although functionality rates high enough and it's all quite comfortable. Well-shaped seats with driver's side height adjustment (but no lumbar adjustment as on Privilege versions) and two-way steering column adjustment make for a pleasantly comfortable experience.
On the road, the base Koleos is gratifyingly refined. The ride is smooth and absorbent, verging on plush. Overall noise levels are almost unexpectedly low and the front-drive Koleos points well, up to a point. Push it a bit harder and you'll get some definite signs of understeer, prior to the stability control stepping in, as you twirl the somewhat over-assisted wheel.
If the front-drive version of the Koleos feels pretty much the same as other on-demand compact SUVs that's no surprise, because practically all of them run, most of the time, as front-drivers anyway. Where the Koleos displays its traction shortcomings is usually when taking off from a standstill, maybe with some lock applied, on a loose uphill surface. Here, the front wheels continue to scrabble for traction where on-demand systems will quickly utlise the rear differential to minimise the fuss.
The lack of all-wheel in the entry car is in some ways a pity because the Koleos looks good in terms of its generous ground clearance (better than X-TRAIL and much better than CR-V) and tight front and rear overhangs.
Helping the smooth, refined aspects of the Koleos is the X-TRAIL's 2.5-litre petrol engine. The all-aluminium, variable valve timing four-cylinder engine winds out 126kW at 6000rpm, along with 226Nm or torque at a highish 4400rpm, and drives through either a six-speed manual or constantly variable CVT transmission.
In manual form, it's an easy-driving, responsive combination that doesn't suffer any notable lack of low-speed torque as a perusal of the power figures might suggest. We haven't spotted a torque graph, but we'd suspect the curve is generally pretty flat.
It's also smooth and quiet, and doesn't mind taking a look at the 6000rpm redline occasionally -- with encouragement from the slick-shifting gearbox. The engine is good for 9.6L/100km average fuel consumption and produces a CO2 figure of 230g/km.
The bottom line is that the base Koleos stands close to top of the class in terms of refinement and comfort and, with a Euro NCAP five-star safety rating, it is politically correct as well. It also does nicely in terms of over the ground performance too, provided you're not expecting some degree of off-roading ability.
And it's outstandingly equipped, even at competitively priced, sub-$30,000 entry level. Renault in fact makes a play of both Dynamique and Privilege models being visually virtually inseparable, with little other than different-style 17-inch alloy wheels to differentiate them visually. No cringe factor for entry buyers, but no real one-upmanship for buyers of the $42,000 Privilege model either.
If the Dynamique version of the Koleos has any shortcomings, they are related to it being in no way a bush-basher. Choosing the entry level Koleos, it is not possible to even think about the odd, even slightly off-road excursion.
That considered, the only other notable deficit affecting all Koleos models, from all-wheel drive to CVT and 2.0-litre turbodiesel, is that, when it comes to the crunch, the load area is not the most generous in class -- and that's where the slightly more spacious X-TRAIL range steps in.
If you believe a French badge wins out over a more pragmatic Japanese badge every time, then Renault has the answer for you.
Editorial prices shown are a “price guide” only, based on information provided to us by the manufacturer. Pricing current at the time of writing editorial. Pricing prior to editorial dated 25 May 2009 may refer to RRP. Due to Clarity on Pricing legislation, RRP for those editorials now means “price guide”. When purchasing a car, always confirm the single figure price with the seller of an actual vehicle. Click here for further information about our Terms & Conditions.