Driven: Renault's Koleos is back, and it's better than everJohannesburg - Remember the Renault Koleos? That SUV that arrived a little to early, when hatches were still popular and when people were buying luxury sedans as if they were iPhones...
Well, the Koleos is back, replacing the Kadjar in Renault’s local line-up, looking to take the fight to Honda’s CR-V, the Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford’s Kuga and many, many more in the burgeoning mid-size segment.
Growing in size, boasting a more premium feel than its predecessor, and priced just right on the lower end of the range, it can make for an ideal mom’s (or dad’s) taxi.
Let’s start with the styling of the new Koleos, which is now built in South Korea.
The front and rear lights of the vehicle replicate the full LED lighting signature that is now instantly distinguishable as part of the new Renault design language. Busy from some angles, like the Subaru Forester tested elsewhere in this edition, eye-catching C-shaped Daytime Running Lights extend beyond the headlight units themselves to create a purposeful stance; more masculine than the old car in its demeanour.
High-end models offer Pure Vision Full LED main- and dipped- beam headlights for significantly enhanced night-time visibility. All models however offer permanently-lit tail lights that feature Edge Light technology that generates a clear, bright 3D effect visible both close up and from a distance.
The wide horizontal tail lights give it a wonderful, bold presence on the road making the car look even wider than its official width of 1840mm.
The cars we drove at the launch were all range-topping 4x4 CVT models, fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels.
High tech inside
Renault’s spokesmen claim that the new Koleos is revolutionary when it comes to the on-board experience. It offers a relaxed driving position with good visibility, apart from a slightly intrusive A-pillar. I found that fiddling around with the driver’s seat was needed in order to avoid being blinded by the passenger side door mirror in particular.
A large, vertical, centrally-positioned dashboard display (up to 22cm in the range-topper and with R-Link 2.0) is fully integrated and it provides access to all of the vehicle’s audio and safety systems.
A nifty touch in the cabin is the addition of grab handles either side of the centre console that give the front passenger something to hold onto if you fancy a bit of a rally stage drive on the way to your favourite mountain biking destination. The launch cars sported stylish satin-finish chrome for the steering wheel inserts, gear lever and air vent surrounds, along with a durable and pleasant-to-the-touch finish for the centre console.
The interior also sports cushioned materials for the dashboard and door panels and its standard leather seats and armrests feature contrasting top stitching.
The interior’s ambience can change thanks to customisable LED cabin lighting, with a palette of hues ranging from green and blue, to yellow, red or violet, to complement the mood of the driver.
Another innovative feature worthy of premium models is the front cup holder that can be chilled or heated, stuff you’d want in a Rolls-Royce, basically.
Whether sitting in the front or rear, all New Koleos’s occupants are indulged when it comes to refined travelling comfort, which totally caught me off guard, as I expected it to feel cramped and plastic-heavy inside.
In addition to boasting one of the longest wheelbases in its class, the new Koleos’ wheelbase of 2710mm (and overall length of 4670mm) ensure tons of interior space. In fact, Renault’s launch crew were eager to point out that the Koleos offers more rear knee room than larger vehicles such as the Kia Sorento.
Its healthy cabin space is further complemented by a large ‘adjustable’ boot (464 litres) and numerous practical storage solutions. The boot itself features a convenient removable floor positioned at the same height as the sill to form a flat floor that houses a full size spare wheel (albeit not an alloy wheel).
You’ll also be pleased to note that the Koleos comes with a 5-star Euro NCAP Safety rating thanks to a range of passive and active safety systems.
Go (almost) anywhere
Torrential downpours in the greater Johannesburg area during the week of the Koleos launch ensured that the dirt portions of our test route looked like actually rally stages. Ruts, mud, standing water and slippery inclines were the order of the day.
The Koleos, however, didn’t bat an eyelid considering the challenging conditions, simply soaking up the yumps and bumps and pulling strongly through the CVT box without much drone. Yes, the box will hang onto a ‘gear’ if you mash the accelerator pedal to overtake, but the drone isn’t as intrusive as it is in other models.
With ground clearance up to 210mm in the 4x4 models, you have the option of going into the rough stuff as long low-range isn’t required. The ALL MODE 4x4-i transmission available for the new Koleos features technology that has been proven on millions of Renault’s Alliance vehicles worldwide (Hello Nissan X-trail) and you really can’t fault it for a ‘soft-roader’.
In 2WD mode, the new Koleos runs with front-wheel drive, irrespective of the conditions, for optimised fuel consumption.
In 4WD AUTO mode, the ALL MODE 4x4-i system permanently analyses conditions and grip levels and uses the information provided by its sensors to calculate the ideal front/rear torque split. Up to 50% of available torque can be transmitted to the rear wheels if necessary.
Then, when travelling off-road or in conditions where grip is at a premium, such as mud, dirt or sand, the 4WD LOCK mode allows the driver to engage permanent four-wheel drive at speeds of less than 40kph to distribute available torque equally between the front and rear axles (50/50). This mode is automatically disengaged at speeds of more than 40km/h, or when the engine is re-started.
The new Koleos is available in two trim levels: Expression and Dynamique.
It’s comprehensively appointed from the base level and only one engine choice is available at launch - a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, naturally-aspirated petrol unit with a power output of 126kW and 233Nm of torque.
On paper, the engine and transmission seem old-fashioned compared to small-capacity turbo SUVs, but you’ll be pleased to note that Renault claim a combined fuel consumption of 8.8l/100km.
It also comes standard with a five-year/150 000km warranty and a five-year/90 000km service plan (and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty), with service intervals pegged at every 15 000km.