The launch of the second-generation Renault Koleos medium SUV in Australia is one of the company’s most significant to date. So significant that we are in fact the first market to get the car — not something we’re used to here in our remote corner of the world.
This French rival to the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and imminent new Volkswagen Tiguan is poised to become the company’s top-seller here, which is fitting when you consider the continued rapid growth in this corner of the market.
The new Koleos sits on the same proven architecture as the Nissan X-Trail (fruits of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance) and is once again built in Korea as part of Renault’s alliance with Samsung Motors. It’s larger than before, more upmarket and certainly better value.
Here we take our first drive of a “crucial car for Renault Australia’s future”, hosted by the company at its local premiere this week.
We’ve been told to expect strong levels of connectivity and safety, chic cabin design, class-topping rear seat space and running costs on par with the Japanese brands or lower. Considering all versions are standard with automatic transmissions, the value also looks right up there with the class-leaders — no Euro premium in sight.
It all sounds good, but does it stack up on first impression?
The X-Trail origins are obvious in the Koleos’ proportions, and the similar curvaceous design from the side. However, the frontal styling with prominent Renault badge, L-shaped DRLs and chrome highlights, and the slim tail-lights, offer some points of difference.
Inside the cabin there is far greater differentiation. The entry $29,990 (plus on-road costs) Life and mid-range Zen ($33,990 — $36,490) variants get a 7.0-inch landscape touchscreen with R-Link software embedded in a clean and modern fascia.
Step into the flagship Intens variant ($43,490) and you get the brand-signature 8.7-inch portrait-oriented capacitive screen reminiscent of the upmarket Volvo XC90, replete with very premium customisable ambient cabin lighting. This is sharp value indeed.
The list of standard equipment is quite strong considering the pricing is on par with mainstream Japanese and Korean rivals, and shows the benefits of importing a car here from Korea rather the Europe.
The base car is actually $500 cheaper than the X-Trail ST, while the sub-$45k price point for the Intens undercuts equivalent flagship versions of many rivals.
The front-wheel drive Life version gets six airbags, a tyre-pressure monitor, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, rear-view camera, rear sensors, cruise control, eight-speaker Arkamys sound system (with crisp quality), auto wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, dual-zone climate control, LED cabin lights, TFT digital instruments and a leather steering wheel.
For an extra $4000, the FWD Zen adds an electric parking brake, electric driver’s seat, artificial leather seat trim, heated front seats, push-button start, satellite-navigation, 18-inch alloys and privacy glass. You can add the all-wheel drive (AWD) setup with on-demand torque allocation to the rear axle and a low-speed Lock Mode for an additional $2500.
The top-of-the-line AWD-only Intens adds said 8.7-inch screen and ambient cabin lighting (with five colours), remote engine start, LED headlights, side parking sensors, real leather trim, rear-seat USB points a bigger 12-speaker Bose sound system with a sub, sunroof and an electric tailgate with a hands-free kick-operated sensor.
You also get an advanced preventative safety suite with features such as blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision alert and autonomous braking (AEB) — features than can be added to the mid-range Zen as part of a $1490 option pack.
The Koleos’ cabin is a nice place to be, merging the familiar cabin storage, high driving position and build quality virtues of the X-Trail with some Gallic flair thrown in. There’s also a good 35 litres of storage space scattered about.
There’s little doubting the value equation either. The only downsides are some middling-grade plastics scattered about, the odd bit of bland Nissan switchgear, and the flat, short-based seats.
At 4672 millimetres long on a 2705mm wheelbase, the new Koleos is appreciably bigger than the underwhelming old one, and has gone from being one of the shorter cars in the class to one of the biggest. Rear knee room is up a massive 77mm to 289mm — a claimed class-best.
The rear seats are a highlight, with ample space for two 180cm-plus occupants, large door apertures (77 degrees) and good outward visibility. There’s plenty of storage, rear vents and individual reading lights, though it’s a shame you only get rear USB points on the range-topper. It’s still a nice selling point. You get ISOFIX points, naturally, with mandatory top tethers.
The cargo space is also good, at 458L expanding to 1690L. That's class-competitive.
You also have a full-size steel spare wheel under the floor, and levers embedded in the cargo area to fold the back row flat on a 60:40 basis. It’s just a shame there’s no under-floor storage for the pull-out cargo cover. Worth noting, too, that unlike the X-Trail, which can be had with seven seats, the Koleos is strictly a five-seater.
Under the bonnet of the Koleos is a 2.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine familiar from the X-Trail producing a modest 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4000rpm, matched exclusively to a CVT automatic with a manual mode.
Fuel use on the manufacturer-tested combined-cycle is 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres, though we barely managed under 10L/100km on our (fairly extra-urban-oriented) test route. Towing capacity is a decent 2000kg. The turbo diesel version will launch mid-2017, give or take.
The drivetrain is, as its figures suggest, decent at best. For the urban duties most Koleos’ are destined for, it’ll do just fine. Pottering about at low speeds under moderate throttle is a task managed without fuss.
But plant the foot for an overtake, or even to ascend a steep hill or punt out of a corner, and the lack of low-end torque and the excessive noise from the droning CVT will have you longing for the effortless torque of a smaller-capacity turbo-petrol, or a meaty diesel. At $30K Zen level it’s fine, but in the Intens a better option would be desirable.
Dynamically, the Koleos again will feel most at home in urban duties. Its soft suspension, decent damping and light electric-assisted steering will likely make it an amiable companion, and while there’s some tyre roar, it’s no worse than the top-selling Mazda CX-5.
On twisting roads and over rapid small ruts, the body control becomes middling, with more roll than you’d get in any of the class-leaders such as the Tucson. There’s also a sense of the car being a touch under-sprung at times, given the way it crashes and falls into big ruts. That said, we’ve driven worse.
Funnily enough, on initial impressions the front-drive Zen we drove felt a little pointier than the AWD Intens, on account of its lighter kerb weight. Even spirited driving on gravel never sent more than 25 per cent of torque to the rear in the latter.
It’s worth noting here that the global Koleos development work was done partially in Australia, which is a boon for the brand’s local operation and a sign of how crucial our market is to the program.
We’d caution you by saying that this is a launch review, and as such we drove the Koleos on routes chosen by Renault. We will get cars through the CarAdvice garage soon, and will devote more time to familiar routes and urban environs, so stay tuned if you want a more detailed breakdown.
From an ownership perspective the Renault Koleos is actually outstanding, which may prove surprising. You get a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with full roadside assist, and three-years of capped price servicing at a reasonable $299 a visit.
Even better are the servicing intervals, which are annual. The driver-specific kilometre intervals (based on behaviour) also stretch up to 30,000km between visits (for instance, if you do a lot of country clicks), which is almost industry-topping. Not what you’d expect from a French car, is it? Renault needs to talk about this selling-point more, frankly.
So there are our first impressions of the all-new Renault Koleos, a huge step up over its dowdy predecessor, with a quirky badge, spacious cabin and sharp value on offer. Throw in good ownership costs, and there’s no doubt this car will lure first-timers to the brand.
Renault’s goal of 200 sales a month (about 2.0 per cent market share) seems very achievable. Is it a CX-5/Tucson/Kuga/Tiguan killer? Hard to say based on brief first impressions, but if you like the look it’s worth considering.
We are erring on the side of caution based on the test roads we tackled, but with more time behind the wheel the 7.5/10 awarded here may indeed climb, particularly on the sharp-value upper-spec Zen and Intens versions.
Stay poised for more 2017 Renault Koleos content over the coming weeks.