The Renault Kangoo Maxi Crew is a van that's designed to offer buyers two cars in one - a van for work, and a big, boxy wagon for play.
Starting at $27,990 and based on the long-wheelbase Maxi van, the Kangoo Maxi Crew model adds rear windows and a second row of seats – bringing an extra level of practicality to the range.
The twin sliding doors of the standard van are retained, and a 60:40 split bench seat has been fitted. With the seats up, the rear cargo space is reduced to 1300L. If more space is required, the rear seats fold flat allowing a more generous 4000L (or 1.3m3
in van-speak, matching the Maxi load-lugger). Its carrying capacity is 750kg.
The redesigned front with a large black plastic ‘face’ and integrated fog lights results in a more aggressive look that, combined with a revised interior, gives the Kangoo Crew an element of style that could well resonate with pragmatic buyers.
The Kangoo Maxi Crew features both cruise control and speed limit options, as well as a ‘Highway’ mode that automatically adjusts the high beam headlights to dip for oncoming traffic at night. Other tech additions include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and the Renault's connection was one of the quickest and easiest systems we have used in a while.
The interior feels very light and there is plenty of headroom – the Crew even features a storage bin above the windscreen (which we are sure would quickly fill up with parking receipts and loose change).
Ergonomics are a mixture of European excellence and French quirkiness. The heater/air-con controls in the center of the dash are clear to understand and have been improved from the rotary dial on the 2013 model to simple press buttons and a digital display. However, the remote radio volume and Bluetooth controls are on a steering column-mounted stalk hidden by the steering wheel, making it somewhat of a blind fumble to hit the correct option while in motion.
The cabin can be further spruced by a premium pack for $1390 that includes a touchscreen media system with satellite navigation as well as rear parking sensors. The navigation unit can be had on its own for $950.
Seating in the back is spacious, with passengers afforded plenty of legroom and the aforementioned hat-space. The seats are comfortable enough for around town trips, but can be a bit saggy and spongy on the sides so aren’t really up to long journeys. There are two ISOFIX mounting points on the rear seats, but at the time of our test there were no ADR child-seat anchor points in the back.
Folding the seats is a smooth and simple process and gives you a full flat-floor. There are eight D-ring cargo tie downs in the rear and a handy plastic lip on the tailgate to allow easy sliding of loads. A neat optional feature ($1490) is an integrated cargo barrier that can separate the load bay from the rear seats, but also slide forward when the seats are stowed, protecting occupants from loads that may shift while driving.
On the road, the Kangoo feels more car-like than its van body suggests - indeed, the Kangoo shares its underpinnings with the European-market Scenic MPV, and it feels more like a boxy small runabout than a purpose-built stuff-shifter to drive.
Our test loop took in a mixture of urban, industrial, highway and country roads. The open space of the Kangoo’s load bay meant more road noise than in a comparable ‘car’. Renault says it has enhanced the sound-proofing of the new model, with noise-absorbing foam in the roof, a new ‘acoustic’ windscreen, and reshaped door mirror housings - and in general it is quiet for a commercial vehicle.
The Kangoo Crew is offered only with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel producing 81kW of power and 240Nm of torque, which is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. No Kangoo models can be had with an automatic 'box worldwide, but a self-shifter is on Renault’s global radar, and according to Renault Australia it could gain a dual-clutch transmission at some point.
Renault claims an impressive 4.7L/100km consumption figure for the diesel, down from 5.5L in the pre-facelift model. The Kangoo Maxi features an Eco mode that adjusts engine power mapping depending on throttle input. This is combined with a shift-light indicator on the dash to aid drivers in maximising their economy - but there's no start-stop function offered.
There is noticeable diesel rattle at low revs and up hills, and you need to drop down a few gears for steep inclines. But at low speeds it's quiet and the gearbox is light and easy to use. We noticed a slight notchiness from first to second gear, and that the engine responded best between 2000-3000rpm.
Vans are typically hard to see out of but the Kangoo's big wing mirrors offer plenty of visibility, and despite its size it has a respectable 11.9m turning circle. While it is front-wheel-drive, the Kangoo is fitted with Renault’s ‘Extended Grip’ traction control and stability function for added piece of mind when you've got a precious load on-board.
On the topic of safety, the Kangoo has not been tested by ANCAP - but the seven-seat ‘Grand Kangoo’ passenger variant (not available in Australia) received four stars in Euro NCAP, and that model - unlike any version sold locally - has front-side airbags as standard. These can be optioned on the Maxi Crew for $490, which comes standard with dual head airbags for front seat occupants only. Another safety consideration is the lack of a reverse-view camera on any model, and buyers can't even option one.
Business buyers with an ABN are eligible for a 12 per cent price saving off retail and as it is listed as a commercial van, and the purchase is 100 per cent tax deductible when used for business purposes. And being targeted at small business owners who tend to use their work vehicles as a branding and advertising tools as well as actual tools of the trade, the updated model is available in eight colours (metallic paint is an additional $800).
The Kangoo range is sold with a three-year/200,000km warranty and a capped-price service program with intervals of 12 months or 15,000km, with pricing set at $349 per year.
The Renault Kangoo range has seen 60 per cent sales growth year-on-year, and the local arm is aiming for a total of 3000 LCV sales in 2014 (up from 2200 last year and 1100 in 2013). The refreshed Kangoo - with the addition of the flexible Maxi Crew van and more aggressive pricing - is expected to spearhead this growth.