2017 Renault Koleos Zen 4x2 review

Rating: 7.5
$18,410 $21,890 Dealer
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The second-generation Renault Koleos is a brand new SUV inside and out. Is it impressive enough to win over the SUV loving masses in Australia?
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The second-generation 2017 Renault Koleos has arrived and is ready to take on the juggernauts in the medium SUV segment. The new Koleos is vital to Renault in Australia, with our love for SUVs and the French brand's desire to capitalise on that, largely behind the decision to launch it here before anywhere else in the world.

Renault expects the Koleos will become its largest volume seller here, and has thrown everything at it. Thanks to the Renault Nissan Alliance, it shares its architecture with the Nissan X-Trail and is markedly bigger, better equipped and more competitively priced than the previous generation.

In what is already a well-populated and hotly-contested segment, the Koleos has to offer more if it wants to stand out. More style, more room, more features, more x-factor and more value. So does it?

The sales leaders in the medium SUV segment are relatively consistent. In September 2016, the biggest seller was the Mazda CX-5, followed by the Hyundai Tucson, then the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail. The order remains the same when you look at the figures for sales year-to-date.

The Koleos line-up is clean and simple; the base model Life is available as a 4x2 only and is priced at $29,990 before on-road costs, the mid-spec Zen is available as a 4x2 for $33,990 or 4x4 for $36,490, and the range-topping Intens is a 4x4 only for $43,490. All have a continuously variable transmission with no option of a manual, and all have the same 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine.

That engine is shared with the two Nissan X-Trail 2WD petrol variants, the ST and STL, and the Koleos Zen 4x2 – which happens to be our test car – is priced in the middle of the two five-seaters. The Koleos Zen is also priced between the two similar Volkswagen Tiguan options – the 110TSi Trendline and 110TSi Comfortline.

When you look other 2WD petrol offerings in the segment, it's priced identically to the Kia Sportage SLi, the Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport is a little cheaper at $32,790, the mid-spec Honda CR-V VTi-S is priced at $32,290, the Toyota RAV4 GXL is $31,990, while the mid-range Hyundai Tucson Active X is even cheaper at $31,150.

All except the X-Trail have smaller engines and less power, though the Tiguan's 1.4-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine produces more torque. Under the bonnet of the Korean-built Koleos is a 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine that produces 126kW and 226Nm.

The similarities to the X-Trail aren't just under the bonnet. The Koleos shares the same platform and has a similar profile from the side. The front and rear however, are very different and stylistically a little quirky. A large, shiny Renault logo takes pride of place on the grille and chrome highlights are abundant. The LED daytime running lights are u-shaped, wrapping around the top and outside edge of each headlight and extending down below the housing in-line with the bottom of the large grille.

Some of the external design features are a little unusual and it does bounce light like a disco ball if conditions are right, but the silhouette is arguably sophisticated. It's 150mm longer than it was previously at 4672 millimetres, making it a much more substantial looking vehicle than its predecessor.

The Koleos Zen also scores LED taillights, front and rear fog lights, auto headlights and windscreen wipers and 18-inch alloy wheels. If you want LED headlights you'll need to fork out for the Intens, but it does get keyless entry and the car will automatically lock if you walk away with the key which is excellent if your hands are full of shopping bags. No more fishing around or putting things on the ground to free up a hand to point the key fob at the car and push the button.

The cabin design is clean and well thought out nicely finished. It looks classy and chic but missing the 'French factor' that we've come to expect... it's sensible in its layout and functionality which is another example of just how far the new Koleos has come. The large 7.0-inch touchscreen is fantastic, and doesn't collect smeary fingerprints as easily as many other screens.

It has Renault's R-Link 2 system with navigation and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. The really cool thing about this system is that you can customise your home screen by selecting which features you'd like to create shortcuts to, and even choose from a selection of configurations. The top-of-the-line gets a massive 8.7-inch touchscreen that is reminiscent of the Volvo or Tesla design, but the smaller screen is clear, works fast and is more than adequate.

Keeping the cabin environment comfortable, the Zen has dual-zone climate control and the driver and front passenger seats are heated. The seats may be a little firm and flat but they are supportive – with the exception of a slightly short-feeling seat-base – and covered in softly textured faux leather. The front seats are electrically adjustable and you can manoeuvre yourself into a nice high driving position with good visibility on all sides quite easily. The leather steering wheel fits nicely in hand, and has buttons for cruise control, voice command, radio and phone.

Renault claims there is 35-litres of space scattered about the cabin, and that's easy to believe thanks to the generous glove box, deep centre console bin which houses two USB ports and an AUX outlet, and large door pockets. The cabin has LED ambient lighting which creates a bit of atmosphere and makes it feel more expensive than it is. The use of a few cheap plastics here and there, and the inclusion of bargain-basement switchgear are the main detractions from the overall quality and luxurious feel inside.

It has a rear-view camera with rear parking sensors, and if you'd like, you can add an optional safety pack with blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. A sunroof is an optional extra too.

The rear doors open nice and wide, making it easy to climb in to what is one of the most spacious backseats in this segment. In fact, Renault claims the impressive amount of room in the second row is class-leading. There's 289mm of knee room, as well as bountiful head room and elbow room.

The seats are covered in the same leather-like material as the front seats, so they are soft and feel good. The base is very flat but there's room for three, and there's lots of storage room with map pockets, large bins in the doors and two cupholders in the fold down armrest.

For those who already have little ones, or those who are planning to expand the family, there are two sets of ISOFIX points and the Zen gets privacy glass on the rear windows. There are rear air-vents which is good to see, the reading lights are bright and well angled, and there is a 12V – no USB though unless you jump up to the top-spec.

The Zen also misses out on a handsfree tailgate, so you have to open it the old fashioned way. You'll also notice there are no hidden seats under the floor, the Koleos is strictly a five-seater.

Boot space is almost on par for the class at 458-litres and that expands to 1690L with the rear seats folded down. The top-selling CX-5 only offers 403L, the Tucson 488L, while the X-Trail has a lavish 550L. The loading lip is a good height, the opening is wide, there are levers in the boot that make it easy to flip the seats down from the back and a full-size spare wheel under the floor.

The Zen is also available as a 4x4 with on-demand torque allocation and a low-speed lock mode for an extra $2500. The Koleos's 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine produces 126kW/226Nm and it's teamed with a continuously variable transmission with a manual mode. If you like your SUV's with a diesel engine under the bonnet – then maybe hold off because a turbo diesel is expected to arrive here mid-next year.

At low speed around town the Koleos is in its comfort zone. It lacks a low-end torque so overtaking, steep hills and the like will make the CVT scream and tyre noise is noticeable too. The CVT is decent enough, and at urban speeds if you don't drive it hard it's more than capable of handling its duties in smooth and comfortable fashion.

The suspension is soft with good damping for the most part, but over large bumps and potholes the rear end can come crashing down if you hit it with a bit of pace. Body control is tested around tight corners, but the electric-assisted steering is light and direct making it a breeze to drive around town whether you're parking or weaving through traffic.

Combined claimed fuel consumption is 8.1-litres per 100km, however we spent most of our time in urban environments and saw numbers around 11L/100km which is close to the claimed 10.4L/100km. Braked towing capacity is two tonnes.

Renault offers a really good ownership package with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, full roadside assist and three years of capped price servicing. Services are typically due annually, but Renault also offers driver-specific intervals that can stretch it up to 30,000 kilometres, depending on how you use your car.

The Koleos still has a bit of Frenchness about it, but the rough edges have been smoothed out. The cabin design is impressive and there is loads of space.

If you can handle the out-there looks, the Renault Koleos is well priced and could be the SUV for you if you don’t mind standing out from the crowd.

Click on the photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.