The medium-SUV market can be overwhelming. I can just imagine you nodding in agreement right now. There are dozens of choices, so making that short list can be a challenge. Have you looked at the Renault Koleos?
It is based on the Nissan X-Trail, which makes it a French car borrowing the platform from a Japanese manufacturer, but is produced in Korea. But don’t let that deter you, because this French wonder is actually not a bad thing.
The most notable change for the MY20 Koleos is the absence of a diesel engine, with only one petrol simplifying the line-up.
A styling update in the form of new chrome trim, alloy wheels and skid plates is included, along with LED fog lamps and a new exterior paint colour, Millesim Red, which this top-of-the-line 2020 Renault Koleos Intens 4x4 has. It gives the Koleos an even more distinguished appearance.
Priced from $45,490 before on-roads, the Koleos Intens has an impressive array of features, namely hands-free parking system, front/rear/side parking sensors, a rear-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.
The options available are metallic paint, and leather upholstery trimmed in chestnut brown or sand grey. The sunroof pack, which includes a panoramic sunroof and auto-dimming rear-view mirror, is standard on the Intens.
Stepping into the cabin, the highlight is the 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen that houses the R-Link 2 infotainment system. I don’t mind the portrait layout as it reminds you of a phone, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto don’t display as nicely letterboxed into a horizontal screen.
A phone tray can fit bulky phones, with the choice of two USBs, and one auxiliary and 12-volt connection.
Also, using the infotainment system's digital buttons is a bit hit-and-miss, as you need to press directly in the middle to get them to work, which makes it hard if you’re driving on a rough road. Half of the dual climate control is on the touchscreen, and the other half are physical buttons, which can take some getting used to.
However, the placement of the volume controls behind the steering wheel is smart, as it declutters the steering wheel controls and is also in easy reach for your fingers – once you get a feel for where those controls live.
Storage options are plentiful with big door pockets, a deep square central armrest, and different-sized cooled cupholders that can be covered over with a sliding lid.
The overall quality of the interior is nice, with woodgrain effect and satin chrome trim on what appear to be hard-wearing plastics and rubber on the dash and doors, and the changeable ambient-coloured lighting, which is standard only on the Intens, gives it life at night.
The seats with white stitching are supportive over a long journey and keep you comfortable for every season with heating and ventilation, and the panoramic sunroof brightens up the dark-hued interior.
It is a big step up into the rear seats of the Koleos, which might be a struggle for little ones, but it does cater for baby seats with ISOFIX points on the outboard seats. Vision out the windows is also good for the kids. It is comfortable for adults, with a long seat base, miles of leg room, and roomy foot room. However, thanks to the panoramic sunroof, head room is limited.
You could fit three adults in the back, given the transmission tunnel isn’t very large, so there won’t be too much stepping on other people's toes, and the seats can recline if your rear passengers fancy a nap. Other must-have features are adjustable air vents, a fold-down armrest with two cupholders (shallow though they may be), and a 12-volt, auxiliary, and two USB connections.
There is plenty of storage in the door pockets, and extra room in two map pockets on the back of the front seats. The cabin quality carries over to the rear, with ambient lighting also present.
The electric tailgate doesn’t sound any annoying beeps and is hands-free by swaying your foot under the rear of the car. Boot space is 458L, and once the 60:40 seats are folded down via levers from the boot, that stretches to 1690L measured up to the roof.
Under the floor tray is a spare 17-inch wheel, and while it isn’t a space-saver, it doesn’t match with the 19-inch wheels already fitted to the car. Rounding out the well-appointed boot is a 12-volt connection, two side storage pockets, four tie-down hooks, and a parcel shelf.
The 2.5-litre petrol engine produces 126kW and 226Nm, and is paired with an 'X-tronic' CVT auto transmission. It won’t exactly set the world on fire. It can take some time for it to get going onto a freeway entrance, and with a full passenger load on board, the lack of kilowatts could be felt.
It takes 9.8 seconds to get to 100km/h with a top speed of 199km/h. But, of course, the majority of the time spent would be on 60km/h roads ferrying the kids to and from school, and on your daily work commute, which the Koleos does just fine with. It’s pleasing to see there are no driving modes as well.
However, if you do take it out on the freeway, the ride has a pleasant firmness to it, with road noise on the quiet side. It is noticeably more refined than the X-Trail. But, your eyes will need to divert from the road to access the speed limiter and cruise control, with the mode switch mindbogglingly placed out of sight near the cupholders.
A turning circle of 11.4m is around average for the segment, and with the addition of auto high- and low-beam lights and rain-sensing wipers, there’s not too much you have to think about.
Displayed on the infotainment screen is a global score helping you to keep the fuel consumption low. With a decent amount of time spent in peak-hour traffic, we got 10.0L/100km, which is more than the combined claim of 8.3L/100km. But with some freeway driving in there, it would get close to that claimed reading.
It is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with up to five years of roadside assist. Servicing is every 12 months or 30,000km, with each service costing $429, apart from the more comprehensive fourth service coming in at $999.
The Koleos is a handsome yet polarising SUV, with its French quirks thrown in for good measure. Packed with all the necessary safety features, it presents a comfortable and highly practical car, especially if you often have rear-seat passengers.