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