It’s been a decade since the Renault Koleos arrived belatedly as the first French SUV in Australia.
A twin to the Nissan X-Trail and pipping hastily rebadged and re-nosed Mitsubishi Outlanders in the form of the Peugeot 4007 and Citroen C-Crosser, the Koleos quickly displaced the Megane small car as the brand’s most popular model locally, before being overtaken by the revitalised Clio city car in 2014.
The second-generation model introduced in 2016, however, has since restored No.1 status in an era of greater sales fortunes for Renault Australia, though the Koleos has struggled to break into the medium SUV segment’s top 10.
Earlier this year, a small update introduced autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and Apple CarPlay (Android Auto was already in place) to the range. That included our review subject here, the entry-level Koleos Life.
Officially listed with a $30,990 RRP, but being offered at $29,990 drive-away for private buyers, it’s significantly cheaper than the next grade up that’s also front-wheel drive, the $35,490 Zen.
Equipment lists offer little excitement or few surprises at this pricepoint in the class.
Not every mid-sized SUV like the Koleos Life, though, is offered with 17-inch wheels with alloy rims (usually steel), rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control (commonly basic air-con), tyre pressure monitoring, lane-departure warning or forward collision warning.
It doesn’t get all its own way, of course. As two examples: a Mazda CX-5 Maxx auto (from $30,690) is standard with LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert; and a Kia Sportage Si (from $28,990) includes high-beam assist, leather steering wheel and gear lever, and fatigue alert.
Buyers need to step up to the Zen for items such as front sensors, navigation, blind-spot assist, heated front seats, or the range-topping Intens for LED headlights (with auto high beam), ventilated seats, Bose audio, and a larger touchscreen.
The Zen is also available with a part-time all-wheel-drive system for an extra $2500.
The Life is also the only Koleos to make an obvious link to its X-Trail relationship – featuring a foot-operated park brake rather than an electronic version engaged/disengaged via a button.
The Koleos’s contemporariness is improved with its two primary, 7.0-inch displays – the TFT digital instrument cluster that’s rare at the segment’s lower end, and the infotainment touchscreen (with swipe and pinch functionality) that’s par for this price. The centre stack just looks a touch bland when it’s not filled with the larger, portrait-style 8.7-inch display found in the Intens.
Want to compare features and equipment across the Koleos range? Click here.
Some extra vibrancy for the display wouldn’t hurt, either. The audio system sounds okay for a base model, without stopping you wishing the Bose unit (also in the Intens) was available as a separate option.
Although the Koleos’s interior design would welcome some traditional French flair, there’s certainly a sense of decent quality through the pleasant surface textures and soft-touch materials common to the front portion of the cabin.
Renault has saved some money by switching the rear door panels to cheaper plastics, though the rear half of the cabin is another key improvement over the original Koleos. Whereas that model largely neglected passenger space, rear passengers are afforded plenty of leg room – and head space – in the latest model that’s 15cm longer (4.67m).
The bench offers plenty of comfort for long journeys, while it wouldn’t be unfeasible to squeeze three adults if necessary for shorter trips. No major omissions, either, with ticks for netted seatback pockets, armrest with cupholders, 12-volt socket, and rear ventilation.
That longer cabin provides the Koleos with a bigger maximum cargo volume compared with some rivals. With 1690 litres after the rear seats are folded, that compares to 1342L for the CX-5 or 1478L for the Hyundai Tucson. The seats don’t lie completely flat, though, and release levers aren’t included.
And unlike the X-Trail, the Koleos isn’t available with a third-row seating option to boost its people-carrying capability.
Boot space is more middle of the pack at 458L – 30L shy of the Tucson’s rear compartment, for example. Convenience features comprise plastic side pockets, cargo blind, tie-downs, bag hook, and a full-size spare wheel.
The Renault Koleos Life is less competitive when it comes to on-road manners. Its low-speed ride varies between brittleness, sharpness and thumpiness, while progress is bumpy along typical country roads – with pronounced tyre noise from the 17-inch Kumho Solus rubber adding to the limited state of relaxation.
There’s no dynamic upside to the firm suspension as the Koleos imparts little enthusiasm for corners – epitomised by steering that is slow and in need of plentiful mini corrections owing to a vague patch just off centre.
The steering wheel will also tug to the sides under purposeful straight-line acceleration, while the front-wheel-drive Koleos Life can wheelspin off the line if you’re too eager with the throttle.
These moments shouldn’t be misconstrued, though, as there’s not that much punch to the Koleos’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that forms a pretty uninspiring combination with a CVT auto.
With the engine’s peak pulling power (226Nm) not registering until 4400rpm, and the CVT providing characteristically lethargic throttle response, the Koleos needs to be cajoled into providing extra momentum.
Push hard on the throttle and you’re greeted with a flare of noisy revs disproportional to actual speed. Overtaking manoeuvres need to be judged carefully. The auto’s initial response is perky, though, allowing for sufficiently quick take-offs at lights and junctions.
And to be fair to the Koleos Life, there are no stand-out auto drivetrains in the medium SUV category’s sub-$30,000 zone – and that includes the entry version of the most popular model, the CX-5 Maxx with an underpowered 2.0-litre.
Official fuel consumption of 8.1 litres per 100km is about average for the segment. Renault Australia only provides an optional diesel engine with better economy on the Intens variant.
A five-year warranty is welcome; servicing is a mixed bag. Renault’s capped-price program is short for the industry at just three years, though its specified maximum annual mileage is 30,000km.
A $349 charge per annum is reasonable, though, if not the cheapest offered and $50 up on 2017’s costs. Roadside assistance is thrown in with authorised servicing up to four years.
So, some good ownership credentials for a European SUV to add to the Koleos Life’s appealing price tag, relatively good equipment level and a spacious interior. If only those positive factors weren’t undone to such a large extent by the way Renault’s mid-size SUV drives and performs.