2009 Renault Koleos Review and Road Test

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2009 Renault Koleos Dynamique Petrol 2WD Road Test and Review

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Renault Koleos Dynamique 2WD petrol, six-speed manual - $29,990

  • None fitted.

CarAdvice Rating:

- by Paul Maric

That’s why the Koleos is such a run of the mill car. It’s built as an SUV and does everything like any other SUV does. It was with keen interest that I jumped behind the wheel to see just how well this French soft-roader would fit into the already crowded Australian market.

Clutching the credit card styled key was an interesting start. It’s certainly compact in comparison to a regular car key, but its versatility carries a big question mark. Where exactly do you put it? If you put it in your pocket it protrudes when there is anything else in your pocket and it’s impractical to place on a keychain with any other keys.

The interior is what you come to expect of the French, there are buttons absolutely everywhere and as with most Renaults, some are placed in totally odd locations. Take for example the speed limiter/cruise control switch, it’s located next to the engine start/stop button.

Once you spend a bit of time with the car, you become familiar with the location of all the buttons. Although frustrating at first, they become second nature relatively quickly.

The sound system which comes standard in the Koleos is an impressive unit. It’s only a four-speaker unit in the Dynamique being test driven, but the Privilege comes with a seven-speaker sound system with sub-woofer.

Curiously, the stereo controls are located behind the steering wheel and are another one of those things which take time to get used to before becoming second nature.

The front seat passenger had plenty of leg room with minimal intrusion from the front wheels. The rear seat passengers were a little bit limited in comparison though. The height of the floor caused their knees to touch the seat backs. There was ample head room though, due to the Koleos’s higher roof line.

Luggage for one international guest was easy to fit in the boot. The split opening tailgate made easy entry for luggage, but the rear wheel arches were a bit intrusive, making horizontal space slightly limited. The boot floor was also quite high to accommodate the spare tyre, this compromised slightly on vertical space.

As the Koleos is built in Korea, I was expecting a ghastly combination of rough plastics and poor build quality. But, it was surprisingly well put together. The dashboard plastics feel sturdy and well built, it would have been anyone's guess as to the car's origins.

With a car load of passengers and luggage, the Koleos was surprisingly pokey and responsive. It needed to have each gear revved out considerably, but there weren’t any points where I felt it was struggling with the load.

The manual gearbox and clutch are very fluid and easy to operate. It’s the type of car that could be driven by anyone.

The only real issue with the Koleos is the way it handles – or doesn’t. The body roll is quite vicious, to the point where it feels awkward to push the car into a corner, both intentionally and unintentionally. As you turn in, the car begins to roll on the outside wheel and just keeps going.

The situation is hampered even further with a finicky stability control system that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or it’s going. There are points where it will apply vicious amounts of braking and times when it will let things slide.

Steering and braking is impressive in both regards. Accurate steering response and agility make it equally easy to deal with on the open road and in the city.

Although styling is subjective, I don’t mind the design. It looks far better in the metal than it does in pictures – I promise!

The Koleos is relatively useless off-road. Like most of its competition in this price range, the fartherest they will go off-road is pot-holed bitumen or dirt covered roads. Strangely enough, the diesel four-wheel-drive version of the Koleos has 18mm less ground clearance than the two-wheel-drive petrol variant – which is still rather limited at 206mm.

But, you can’t expect a car like this to succeed off-road. This type of vehicle is built for very mild off-road use. Having higher expectations is fruitless.

Under the bonnet lies Renault’s 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine. Producing 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4400rpm, with recommended premium unleaded petrol, the engine is coupled to either a six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed automatic (diesel) or CVT (petrol).

Prices begin at a reasonable $29,990 for the six-speed manual 2WD petrol Dynamique and end at $41,990 for the CVT automatic petrol Privilege.

It’s hard to fault the Renault Koleos when you look at the price and the package it offers. That is until you start driving it. It’s let down entirely by the appalling handling. It really needs to be fine tuned before it can be considered as a real competitor in this price range.

It’s a tough market and one that is harsh on contenders that don’t step up to the plate. Take one for a test drive though and form your own opinion. For me, it just doesn’t cut the mustard, no matter how French it is.

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