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French carmaker Renault has joined the plethora of manufacturers striving to capitalise on the Australian fascination for compact–sized SUVs and Crossover vehicles, launching the Koleos in both four- and two-wheel drive.

David Twomey

Proudly boasting the slogan “Right For the Land Down Under” the Koleos, it’s based on a Nissan X-Trail platform, is designed by Renault and built in the Renault Samsung Motors plant in Busan, Korea, is the first truly ‘global’ product to emerge from the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Whatismore, they could be right, the Koleos is keenly priced and extremely well equipped, offering a range of two-wheel and four-wheel drive models, with either petrol or diesel engines and starting from a very sharp $29,990 price point.

 2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

Renault Australia Managing Director Rudi Koenig says the company expects to sell at least 150 a month of the EuroNCAP Five-star safety rated Koleos.

He said the company was in a position to capitalise on greater sales demand and it expected the Koleos to become the top-selling Renault model in Australia.

In a novel attempt to focus on the “real-life” use of such vehicles Renault’s launch of the Koleos was billed as an “outback adventure”, which began with a five-minute helicopter ride from Melbourne Airport to one of the city’s premier private schools Xavier College, where the assembled media boarded a fleet of Koleos’ for a short drive through the “urban jungle” to nearby East Camberwell Tennis Club, which was followed by more trekking through the “urban jungle” to Donvale Pony Club.

A bit gimmicky you might say but the truth is, and Renault is pulling no punches about this, these cars will spend a lot more time trekking from school, to tennis club, to pony club than they ever will confronting the rigours of outback Australia.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

In intrepid “Mum” style we confronted the rigours of mid-morning traffic, the demands of speed humps and the challenges of roundabouts and the Koleos tackled them all with assurity, quietness and comfort.

However, Renault wasn’t going to let us get away without proving some of the very real off-road capabilities of the Koleos and at the Pony Club, had laid out an off-road course that was reasonably challenging and certainly proved that in four-wheel drive form the Koleos can handle modestly rugged countryside.

It certainly won’t leave you stranded when confronted by steep inclines or declines, offering both Hill Descent Control and Hill Start – both of which worked very well, and can make it’s way over grassy knolls and muddy tracks.

Having handled the most rugged of “urban jungle” challenges we headed out of the city into the hills for the chance to experience the Koleos on the highways of Melbourne Yarra Valley wine country, another challenge the Koleos and its ilk must regularly deal – the “Sunday drive”.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

Here it became apparent that the range-topping Koleos Privledge, with its 2.5-litre petrol engine coupled to a CVT gearbox, was a quite, smooth and very peaceful place to be, unless you turned the volume on the premium Bose sound system up too far.

What it also showed was that presented with a few substantial hills, and only two people on board, the Koleos petrol engine was a bit challenged, needing to hunt downwards for another ratio to maintain a reasonable amount of forward propulsion.

It wasn’t a huge problem but it left us looking forward to trying the Nissan-sourced 2.0-litre dCi diesel engine in the lower spec Dynamique.

When we later got into this car we weren’t disappointed and although the vehicle was the six-speed automatic, which get a 110kW engine rather than the 127kW engine that’s fitted to the six-speed manual, it was as we expected a much strong performer.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

The drive back to Melbourne across rising and falling country roads was again smooth, quiet and this time not plagued by a need to drop down a gear, making our progress just that little bit more relaxed.

We also spent some time on dirt roads on the way back to Melbourne and again this proved that the Koleos, was reassuring competent on surfaces with less than optimum grip, never once feeling anything but confident.

Launched in Europe in June, the Koleos is the first 4WD crossover vehicle to be produced by Renault and will be sold in over 40 countries around the world.

Renault says the lines of Renault Koleos were designed to be both distinctive and expressive.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

The front-end of Koleos features the grille-mounted Renault logo flanked by air intakes and modern elliptical headlamps.

The side aspect of the Koleos betrays its 4WD calling and ruggedness.

Renault says the arrow that flows from the rear lights along the car’s flanks to the front gives Koleos a particularly assertive character. The distinctive lines of its hatch form a movement that spills from the bottom of the rear window to converge on the rear logo which sits on a gloss black finish plaque.

It adds that the elegant exterior is enhanced by practical features such as a split-opening, ‘clamshell’-type tailgate to assist cargo area access and more.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

The upper part of the hatch permits access to the boot in cramped spaces and allows items of more than one metre wide to be carried. When lowered, the bottom part of the tailgate serves as a handy seat for two adults (up to 200kg) and we can attest to that having used it for just such a purpose.

Standard exterior features include: body coloured bumpers, chrome-effect front and rear skid plates, 17-inch alloy wheels, satin chrome door handles and aluminium roof-rails.

The exterior differences between the entry-level Dynamique and top-of-the-range, Privilege, are subtle. Both models are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels (with differing designs) and the Privilege is fitted with front and rear parking sensors as standard.

There are no styling, or badging, cues to differentiate between 4×2, 4×4, petrol or diesel models.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

We’d agree with Renault that the driving comfort, noise levels and interior design of the Koleos interior set it apart from most compact SUV’s.

All controls fall easily to hand and the flowing dash design is finished in soft touch materials. A leather-wrapped steering wheel (height- and reach-adjustable) and gear shift is standard on all models.

A raft of equipment aimed at taking the stress out of motoring includes the Renault keyless card and start button function, automatic handbrake, headlamps and wiper activation, dual-zone climate control, satellite audio controls, cruise control (with speed limiter), power windows, roof-mounted child-minder mirror, electronic child locks and adjustment of the exterior mirrors.

The comfort of rear seat passenger is enhanced by two, b-pillar mounted, air vents with fan speed controls located on the back of the centre console. Folding tables are also integrated in the back of the front seats.

 2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

The Dynamique interior is finished in dark charcoal with cloth trimmed seats, complete with satin cabin highlights.

The Privilege is trimmed in beige leather and fitted with heated front seats with electric controls for the driver, and perimeter entry is also standard.

The ‘Modularity Pack” (standard on Privilege, optional on Dynamique) includes an ‘easy estate’ system which enables the 60/40-split rear bench seat to be folded away at the flick of a lever.

The pack also includes a forward folding front seat back which allows items up to 2.6m long to be transported, adjustable incline on rear seat backs, a removable centre console insert, rear armrest storage and a 12-volt outlet in the cargo area.

 2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

An optional electric panoramic sunroof is also available.

In typical Renault fashion there is plenty of storage all around the cabin and the dashboard includes an air- chilled, 15-litre glovebox, while the storage space in the centre console is extremely large. Extra space is provided in a drawer located beneath the front passenger seat, door bins will take a 500ml bottle and the lidded stowage space incorporated in the armrest is ideal for CDs.

The Dynamique is equipped with a single CD, AM/FM audio system whilst the top-of-the-range Privilege is fitted Bose® developed audio system which comprises a digital amplifier, seven loudspeakers and a sub-woofer.

All Koleos models are fitted with an auxiliary audio input for MP3/iPod connections. Particular attention has been paid to effective damping of both mechanical and road noise. Effective use of balancer shafts and a twin-mass flywheel damper has been made to minimise cabin intrusion from the diesel engine along with engine subframe filtering and soundproofing materials.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

Electronic Stability Program is standard on all models and in emergency braking situations, drivers can count on ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA) and ESP with understeer control.

Even before the latter kicks in, the all-wheel drive transmission control system intervenes to adjust the front/rear torque split as soon as the first signs of oversteer or understeer are detected.

Koleos will be available in 2WD petrol and 4WD petrol and diesel powered variants.
The 2WD Dynamique is powered by the 2.5-litre petrol engine and is available with a six-speed manual or CVT.

The 4WD Dynamique is a powered by three engine/transmission combinations. The 2.5-litre petrol is fitted with a CVT and two variations of the 2.0-litre diesel engine are available. The six-speed manual dCi is produces 127kW while the six-speed adaptive automatic transmission is mated to a 110kW engine.

2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

The top of line 4WD Privilege is only available in petrol/CVT format.

Both engines fuel economy is equally impressive with the 2.0-litre dCi manual version returning a combined useage of 7.9L/100km and the automatic 8.3L/100km. CO2 emission for both models are 209g/km and 221g/km respectively.

The 2.5-litre Euro4-compliant petrol engine delivers peak power of 126kW at 6000rpm and maximum torque of 226Nm at 4400rpm. On the 2WD Dynamique models the engine is paired with a manual six-speed gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 4WD Privilege comes standard with CVT.

 2008 Renault Koleos First Steer

The 2.5 engine is extremely fuel efficient with the 2WD manual version returning 9.6L/100km while producing 230g/km of CO2.
2008 Renault Koleos Model Range:

Dynamique 4×2 2.5 petrol, 6-spd manual $29,990
Dynamique 4×2 2.5 petrol, CVT $32,990
Dynamique 4×4 2.5 petrol, CVT $36,990
Dynamique 4×4 127 kW 2.0 dCi/6-spd manual $39,990
Dynamique 4×4 110 kW 2.0 dCi/6-spd auto $39,990
Privilege 4×4 2.5 petrol/CVT $41,990

Options:

Metallic Paint $800.00
Modularity Pack (Dynamique Only) $650.00
Panoramic Glass Sunroof $1890.00
Bi-Xenon Headlamps (Privilege only) $1950.00

The Koleos will go on sale in first week of October.




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