At this time of year schools across the country begin to quieten down for the end of the year: students take off on exam leave, teachers celebrate, etc. It isn’t just schools that are slowing down after a busy term, car manufacturers are also busy doing their homework and preparing for a tough period ahead. Renault is using this time to launch the Koleos, its first offering in the very competitive crossover category, and one student who has arrived late in the school year. SUV and crossover vehicles have thrived in the past few years and most car makers have been busy enrolling new or upgraded models in this class. Only now with the school term ending and global sales for larger vehicles down, Renault shows up at the school gates with its new French exchange student, the Koleos.
At first glance the Koleos looks understated in appearance and inconsistent with the flamboyant design that defines many French vehicles. On closer inspection the Koleos has some exotic touches, and love it or hate it you can’t accuse it of being boring. Inheriting the Renault family face, the Koleos has pushed back headlights and a dipping nose adorned with a dominating silver badge. The Koleos adopts a roundness that is highlighted by aluminium roof rails and a tapered back end with wrap-around rear lights. It is unusual in appearance and makes refreshingly little attempt to fit in with its peers.
The interior blends style and practicality well and is a potential selling point for those who value internal aesthetics. A variety of interior equipment levels are available, the tested model had the Dynamique pack which smartly matches charcoal cloth and plastics to chrome effect trimming. There is symmetry throughout the cabin and a simple, easily read instrument cluster makes life easy. However, the centre control console wasn’t very intuitive to use and I found myself having to look down regularly while driving. This was helped by good steering wheel controls and a high set info display mid-dashboard. There are a great range of storage options available, including large door bins, deep centre binnacle and a chilled glove box. More discreet storage is available in a draw under the passenger seat and two underfloor storage lockers in the rear, perfect for hiding contraband from nosy teachers.
Fold down the rear seats and the Koleos provides a totally flat bed with a 1,380 litre storage capacity. The rear seats have a 60/40 split a useful ski-flap, and with the passenger seat folded down items up to 260cm in length can be carried. The rear tailgate is split-opening and the bottom part of the hatch can perform as a useful platform or just as a seat for hanging out at lunchtime.
The Koleos may be new but it already has one friend in class and that’s the Nissan X-Trail, which shares the same platform and diesel motor. This power plant is a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder which produces 110kW of go and a useful 320Nm of torque. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 8.3 litres/100 km. The Koleos trundles along to 100kph in 10 seconds which isn’t bad considering its 1713kg weight. But the acceleration never feels rapid, and the throttle response can be as slow as a Friday afternoon maths lesson. However, once it’s up to speed the Koleos is a competent cruiser.
Out the school gates and onto the road, it rides smoothly, and sucks up any bumps and dips in the road easily. The sound of the diesel motor is always present but the cabin is very well secluded from road noise. The handling is not very agile but it isn’t the fat kid in gym class either and body roll is well contained. Steering could offer more feedback, but it responds keenly to driver input. Twists and turns see the Koleos staying fairly flat and there is good grip for powering out of corners. The 6-speed auto transmission (that has a manual change option) works the gears well, but frequently changes to draw the most from its motor.
Off road and on to the rugby field the X-Trail underpinnings give the Koleos enough skill to make the A-team. Kitted with Nissan’s ‘All mode I” hardware the Koleos has the potential to transfer up to 50% of the driving power to the rear if required. This is made possible by an electromagnetic clutch in the rear diff. Under normal driving conditions it operates as front wheel drive, but change the Koleos into 4WD and it is brainy enough to do the calculations and guarantee good traction.
As that final school bell rings and yearly report cards are handed out the Koleos isn’t top of the class. It achieves well despite its late entry, but is roundly beaten by the X-Trail, upon which it’s based. It is the type of vehicle that will always be an acquired taste and this may prevent it from having as many friends as other crossover models. At a couple of grand more than the X-Trail it’s going to win friends that want a European badge, but the compromises over the X-Trail’s interior functionality (read the review here) will be too much for some. Regardless, the Koleos offers an affordable mix of European flair and Japanese reliability and that combination is always worth a second look.
For the full specifications of the Renault Koleos click through to the next page
Price: from $37,990
What we like:
- It’s different
- Sharp interior styling
- Off road capable
What we don’t like:
- Uncommunicative steering
- Throttle response
Renault Koleos (2008) – Specifications
Capacity (cc) 1995
Bore x stroke (mm) 84X90
No. of cylinders / valves 4/16
Compression ratio 15.7:1
Maximum power (kw) 110
Maximum power (rpm) 4000
Maximum torque (Nm) 320
Maximum torque (rpm) 2000
Fuel type Diesel
Injection type Electronic Multi-point Direct Common rail + watercooled turbocharger
Anti-pollution system Three-way catalytic converter Oxidation catalyser with particle filter
Emissions standard Euro4
Chassis and Drive
Transmission 4X4 six-speed automatic
Front suspension MacPherson type
Rear suspension Multilink
Front and rear driven wheels with auto-adaptive transmission Yes
4×4 ALL MODE-i with ESP transmission Yes
Front/rear anti-roll-bar diameter (mm) 23/19.1
Ground clearance 188
All-terrain: approach/ramp breakover/departure angle (º) 27/21/31
Fuel Consumption and Emissions
Fuel tank (litres) 65
Urban – litres/100km 10.5
Extra urban – litres/100km 7
Combined cycle – litres/100km 8.3
C02 (g/km) 221
Tare mass 1713
Gross vehicle mass 2300
Unbraked trailer 750
Braked trailer 1350
Overall length 4,520
Overall width (exterior mirrors folded/with exterior mirrors) 1,865/2,120
Height (with/without roof rails) 1,695/1,710
Front track 1,545
Rear track 1,550
Boot capacity (to top of rear seatback) 450 (dm3)
Words, Adam Mamo photography, Darren Cottingham