Get-real es­tate

Added style in­side and out turns the Koleos into a gen­uine SUV con­tender

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

SUR­VIVAL of the fittest is the mantra in the mid-sized cross­over seg­ment and Re­nault’s Koleos was trail­ing the herd.

Its prog­eny — the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Koleos rid­ing on a new chas­sis — is a big­ger, more ca­pable beast, de­spite con­tin­u­ing to rely on a 2.5-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine.

Space has im­proved for front and rear seat oc­cu­pants and the cabin am­bi­ence is an ob­vi­ous step up in lay­out and fin­ish.

The plas­tics are cush­ioned in the ar­eas likely to come into con­tact with hands and the in­fo­tain­ment setup is easy to nav­i­gate, which is handy be­cause there are a mul­ti­tude of screens if you want to delve deep into the soft­ware store.

The names of the vari­ants have also changed to align with global cor­po­rate pol­icy, so we now have the front-wheel drive Life start­ing at $29,990 (across the range, the sole gear­box is a con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion), fol­lowed by the Zen in front and all-wheel-drive guises at $33,990 and $36,990 re­spec­tively.

The range-top­ping In­tens is AWD only and adds an 8.7-inch touch­screen, LED head­lamps, power tail­gate, leather trim, 12speaker Bose au­dio and the full suite of ac­tive driv­ing aids for $43,490. Drive-away pric­ing starts at $33,990 for the Life and climbs to $47,990 for the In­tens.

The Zen and In­tens are on sale now, with the Life due in deal­er­ships in Oc­to­ber. Diesel ver­sions ar­rive next year.

Es­sen­tially a more re­fined ver­sion of the Nis­san X-Trail, the Koleos has a strik­ing fron­tend look and a de­cent set of fea­tures to jus­tify the rel­a­tively high en­try price.

Ac­tive driv­ing aids add $1490 in the Life and Zen vari­ants but that’s rea­son­able given the bun­dle in­cludes autonomous emer­gency brak­ing, blind-spot warn­ing and for­ward col­li­sion alert.

The Koleos has yet to be crash-tested but comes with six airbags cover­ing all out­board oc­cu­pants and, given the shared X-Trail plat­form, it should be a five-star car.

ON/OFF THE ROAD

The pack­ag­ing is im­proved but the ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind the wheel will be fa­mil­iar to ex­ist­ing Koleos own­ers, cour­tesy of the car­ry­over en­gine and trans­mis­sion. The new chas­sis and sus­pen­sion en­dow bet­ter han­dling but the ac­cel­er­a­tion is un­changed.

Steep in­clines will in­duce a CVT-in­spired drone as the trans­mis­sion tries to keep the en­gine spin­ning above 4000rpm. It may be ef­fi­cient but it isn’t acous­ti­cally pleas­ing — I’d be adding ear­buds or head­phones to the in­te­rior in­ven­tory be­fore try­ing to haul the claimed two-tonne tow­ing limit.

The lane-de­par­ture warn­ing soft­ware is novel as it sounds like some­one break­ing wind. There’s no dis­put­ing it gets your at­ten­tion and dou­bles as in-car en­ter­tain­ment for the kids on winding roads.

When you’re not try­ing a max­i­mum-thrust as­cent, the 2.5-litre en­gine does a com­mend­able job and is on a par with most of the mills in this class, in­clud­ing Toy­ota’s RAV4. I’d still like to see a turbo un­der the hood and a con­ven­tional au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The steer­ing is pretty well iso­lated from the sus­pen­sion travel so there’s lit­tle kick­back on gravel roads. The sus­pen­sion it­self is rea­son­ably solid, lead­ing to mi­nor jos­tles on rut­ted tracks, though the car re­mains im­pres­sively com­posed.

In com­mon with most SUVs, the rear end will lighten up and try to swing wide if the driver backs off mid-cor­ner. Sta­bil­ity con­trol will in­ter­vene be­fore it gets messy.

The all-wheel drive In­tens feels more planted on its 18inch rims than the front-drive Zen rid­ing on 17s but it will take a week-long test on fa­mil­iar roads to get a de­fin­i­tive view.

VER­DICT

The Koleos is a lot of real es­tate for the money and the Re­nault fi­nally has the style — in­side and out — to earn main­stream con­sid­er­a­tion.

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