Renault Kangoo 1.5 dCi diesel five-speed manual transmission, 63 kW/200 Nm: $24,490 (Manufacturer’s List Price)
When it comes to hot hatches, there are few cars in the world that can keep up with the Renault Megane Renault Sport 250 Cup Trophee on a twisty road. It is both feared and revered by its competitors. In fact, it doesn’t matter which model it happens to be, but any vehicle wearing both a Renault badge and the words ‘Renault Sport’ is guaranteed to be an exceptional drive.
Another thing Renault does particularly well is build a great little van called the Renault Kangoo. It’s an immensely versatile vehicle with an exceptionally good diesel engine and car-like driveability to boot.
The Kangoo sells like hot cakes in Europe with over 1.5 million sold since its launch in 1997. But If you add all the variants including the passenger versions, then that number doubles to three million sales. Moreover, the Renault Kangoo has been the best selling van in its segment for the last twelve consecutive years. That’s a staggering result, but after driving it around for the last week, it’s not hard to see why it’s the popular choice amongst a whole raft of different business applications.
The Kangoo’s key attributes besides its sheer driveability are its user friendliness and practicality. That includes features such as a car-like cabin up front and easy access loading through a lightweight sliding door on the kerb side, along with barn style doors at the rear.
While Renault’s Kangoo might have the load space of a small truck, the driving experience is more akin to a Renault Clio, perhaps even easier. The 1.5 litre diesel engine is an absolute gem, with plenty of low down torque and minimal lag, thanks to a variable geometry turbocharger and the Kangoo’s relatively light 1277kg. It’s an incredibly willing little powertrain too; almost sporty in character with ninety percent of peak torque available from just 2000 rpm. The same goes for the five-speed manual semi-short-throw shifter; it’s perfectly positioned for quick gearshifts and is a cinch to drive around town.
The Kangoo is just as happy travelling at the speed limit on the freeway too, with great steering weight and feel, making for a thoroughly enjoyable driving experience. Cabin noise from the diesel powertrain has been well insulated, less even than some diesel passenger cars we have tested.
Renault lists the Kangoo’s combined fuel cycle consumption at 5.2L/100km and for the first few days we were getting 5.1L/100km, driving solely in and around suburbia and the city. For the remainder of the week though we drove the vehicle hard, as if we had a stack of parcels to deliver and not enough time to make all the drops. The end result is that we can categorically report that no matter how hard you push the Renault Kangoo, you simply cannot use any more than 6.4L/100km. Impressive, to say the least.
We were also hard on the brakes too, and again, the Kangoo’s front and rear discs handled all the abuse we could throw at them, and they remained fade free. That’s a result of disc brakes all round with the added safety advantage of ABS with EBD (electronic brake distribution) and EBA (emergency brake assist).
It’s not hard to figure out why the Kangoo’s on road dynamics and ride comfort are so car like and not what you would expect from a relatively inexpensive commercial van. The Kangoo is related to Renault’s compact people mover, the Scenic, so the ride quality is excellent even over poorly maintained roads. For those folks intending to use the Kangoo for deliveries in and out of shopping malls, it’s even better news; those multiple speed bumps are totally ironed out by the suspension set up.
The practicalities of the Kangoo as a delivery vehicle are aplenty. High on that list is the small car turning circle of 10.7m, meaning, manoeuvring in and out of tight loading docks is a piece of cake and yes, we tried that too.
The kerb-side sliding door opens with very little effort and the wide aperture can handle boxes up to 635 mm wide. The rear barn doors can open through an arc of 90 and 180 degrees allowing for extra wide and tall loads. According to Renault, designers were looking for a level of robustness in the mechanism of the doors given that are sometimes opened and closed up to fifty times a day.
For a small van, there’s a huge area of load space behind the cabin. This diesel model can swallow up to 3.0 cubic-metres of freight and carry a payload of 800 kilograms due to its longer and wider dimensions over the previous model Kangoo. There’s also multiple tie down points and hooks in the load area as well as an entirely useful oversize interior light.
Inside the Kangoo’s cabin, things are equally rewarding. There’s a stack of standard features including Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, power windows and power heated folding side mirrors, air conditioning, RCA auxiliary jack, single CD stereo with finger tip controls, tinted front windows, fog lights and tubular protection bars behind the driver’s seat.
Our test vehicle was also fitted with the optional integrated TomTom Satellite Navigation unit (currently this feature is included in the $25, 990 drive away price for ABN holders), which although useful, we found to be cumbersome, as it uses a remote control unit for inputs. Truth be told though, we didn’t read the manual.
The seats themselves are comfortable and well bolstered for a vehicle in this segment. Although the Kangoo sits no higher than your average passenger car, the driving position is more like that of a compact SUV in that you sit slightly above the traffic, and with excellent forward vision. Ergonomically, it’s well laid out inside with large HVAC (air con) controls and easy to read dials.
Interestingly, you can also get the Kangoo with a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission for the same $24,490 list price as the diesel version, but with a significantly lower payload and substantially less torque; you’d be nuts for not going with the diesel. That said if you’re only transporting lightweight items such as flowers or medical supplies, or not all your staff can drive a manual, then the petrol variant with the four-speed auto would be the obvious choice.
The light commercial vehicle segment is like most automotive segments these days, highly competitive, but Renault’s Kangoo is a standout choice when it comes to a complete package.
It’s also nice to see a manufacturer that isn’t charging a premium for the diesel option these days.