It has been a tough start to the year for Renault.
A few weeks ago, we heard that the last factory-backed French manufacturer to sell cars in Australia was pulling out to leave the 122-year-old diamond badge in the hands of an independent distributor.
Daniel Ricciardo left the Formula One team, although someone should let their website people know…
And on top of that, the mid-sized Kadjar has bid farewell to our shores, and the compact Captur, which is between generations, has been delayed. Which leaves the now five-year-old Koleos as the lone book in Renault’s SUV bibliotheque, which makes sales tricky.
In fact, only 15 Renault cars were sold in January, against 243 commercial vehicles.
But the brand isn’t beaten yet, and as such the Koleos has been given the ‘Black’ treatment to inject a bit of extra value into the line-up.
With a list price of $37,490 before options, the 2021 Renault Koleos Black Edition (technically an MY20 car) is based on the mid-spec Koleos Zen ($36,490) but comes with – you guessed it – black trim (roof rails, side steps, mirrors) and new 19-inch wheels, which are black.
There is the requisite ‘Black Edition’ badge, too.
It also includes your choice of Metallic Black, Metallic Grey or Universal White paint at no extra cost, plus complimentary on-road costs to give the Black Series a drive-away price of $36,990 – just $500 more than the regular Zen’s list.
In that context, the Koleos Black Edition represents pretty solid value. A shame, then, only 400 have been allocated to our shores.
|2021 Renault Koleos Black Edition|
|Engine configuration||2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power||126kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||226Nm @ 4400rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Power to weight ratio||77.6kW/t|
|Fuel claim (combined)||8.1L/100km|
|Fuel use (combined)||9.3L/100km|
|Main competitors||Nissan X-Trail | Mitsubishi Outlander | Peugeot 5008|
The rest of the equipment list is pure Zen.
A 7.0-inch touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, integrated R-Link 2 navigation and media software is in the middle of the dash. Dual-zone climate control and an eight-speaker 3D surround-sound system are also included, as are heated front seats and the ‘cool guys don’t look at explosions’ walk-away central locking.
Plus, it has one of the coolest LED running and rear lamp signatures going around.
Even the projector halogen headlamps fit with the package (you have to spend about six-grand more to get LED lighting in the $42,990 Koleos Intens, although cars arriving from March this year will score LED lamps as an update), and from the outside at least, the Black Edition looks pretty good.
It’s worth noting, too, the dynamic cornering lamps work well, giving a nice little puddle of illumination when you turn the wheel at night. I found them far more useful than the extra wash of LED units, particularly in the wet at night.
In fact, the entire design of the Koleos has held up well. The chrome strakes and flourishes around the car do give it a substantially classy presence, which is heightened by our car’s black-on-black set-up.
The Koleos is a good size, too. Sort of straddling the medium and large segments, much like, say, the Nissan X-Trail.
The popular Nissan supplies the underpinnings for the Koleos, including the 2.5-litre engine and constantly variable transmission (CVT). But as I’ll note shortly, there’s possibly one very good reason the X-Trail outsells the Renault by a factor of 10-to-one.
|2021 Renault Koleos Black Edition|
Inside the Koleos, the cabin has excellent room in the back row and boot (458L that expands to 1690L). The car is a five-seater only, and so there is great leg and head room for rear passengers, plus the bench is comfortable and includes a central armrest with cupholders. Rear passengers also have air vents and a 12-volt socket.
Up front, the layout of the Black Edition is clean and quality enough, with some nice – but kind of isolated – elements like the carbon-fibre-style panel on the passenger side. You get storage in front and behind the shifter (which includes chilled cupholders) and a centre storage cubby.
As with the back, the front seats are comfortable and all materials feel nice to touch; however, there are still a few ergonomic issues to get used to, despite using the Nissan as a base.
I know, I know. A French car with curious switchgear.
I will confirm that as a French car owner, you do get used to these things, but it doesn’t stop you from getting things wrong every now and then. Case in point, the switches on the steering wheel that look like volume controls are for the cruise control, as the volume is on the ‘audio stalk’ that sits behind the wheel itself.
But even then you can’t use the cruise-control buttons on the wheel until you activate it down on the console.
Yes, familiarity comes with time (and yes, the Peugeot system is easier), but it is still worth calling out.
The same goes for the credit-card-style key that looks like a credit card, but is bigger than a credit card so doesn’t fit where your credit cards go. It’s just a bit naff, and feels like Renault is being different just for the sake of it.
|2021 Renault Koleos Black Edition|
|Options as tested||-|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five-star (2018)|
|Warranty||5-year/unlimited km (7-year has been offered as a promotion)|
An area we would like to see some additional flair, though, is on the dashboard.
Compared to the larger 8.7-inch portrait-layout touchscreen in the range-topping Intens model, the 7.0-inch media screen just looks a bit small in the Renault’s dashboard fascia. Things work, the Apple CarPlay implementation had no issues, and there are plenty of ways to customise it, but it just looks a little drab.
Speaking of customisation, you can change the instrument display to a number of different read-outs and colours, which is pretty cool.
Front passengers have two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet to use, too. It’s also worth noting that while not fancy, the air-conditioning works well and the interface is easy to use. Heated seats are standard.
So, ça va?
Not quite. Once you hit the road, not everything is quite as magnifique.
The up-spec 19-inch wheels may look snazzy, but they create a much harsher and firmer ride than on the (regular) 18-inch items. It feels as though the rolling stock has been changed with no adjustment to suspension damping settings.
You feel all manner of surface changes, with the car erring toward an underdamped response to larger bumps. I understand the need for softer suspension to afford a more compliant ride, but the thinner sidewall doesn’t do anything to absorb the general unpleasantness of sharper hits.
It’s not uncomfortable by any measure, just perhaps a reminder that bigger wheels may look nicer in photos and better on spec sheets, but they don’t always translate into a better product. What’s more, the booming nature of the tyre noise is pretty constant as well.
The 2.5-litre engine isn’t the newest kid on the block, but it is an honest performer. Mated to a CVT and driving the front wheels only, the Koleos can feel sharply urgent off the line (occasionally spinning the wheels on slick painted lines or tram tracks), but as power (126kW) doesn’t peak until 6000rpm, and torque (226Nm) until 4400rpm, the energetic start can feel short-lived.
Mid-rev-range response is quite limited at urban speeds, but out on the open road the Koleos tootles along quite happily. In fact, the car is quite settled as a tourer (booming tyre noise notwithstanding), and as such may work for that crossover role of an urban runner, plus a distance tourer for many families.
But remember that point about why the X-Trail is possibly more appealing?
The two cars are priced closely together (X-Trail ST-L FWD is $37,850 MSRP), so there’s no huge benefit for choosing the Renault or Nissan from the showroom, it’s when you own it that things start to add up.
A three-year capped-price service plan on the X-Trail will cost you $826 and five $1539. Compare that to the Koleos, which uses the same engine and driveline, and you’re looking at $1287 for three years and a whopping $2715 for five. That’s almost $1200 more in just five years.
Factor that with a resale equation that favours the Nissan, and you can see why even the cool LED tail-lamps aren’t enough to win mass buyers in the Renault camp.
It will be an uphill battle for Renault this year, but things are looking up. The brand is revitalising its range overseas, so we may see some of that trickle into Australia with the new distributor. Ricciardo may have gone, but Australian F1 hopeful, Oscar Piastri, is looking ever better for a spot with the French team.
The Koleos was offered with a seven-year warranty offer up until the end of 2020, but I imagine this will feature for buyers in 2021, as the car is getting a few more goodies across the range to help with value.
To that point, the 2021 Renault Koleos Black Edition is putting up a good fight for a smart-looking, well-featured and spacious SUV, but it runs in a very competitive segment, so it might need more than a bit of je ne sais quoi to move up the sales ranks.
Perhaps we’ll see more special editions or some servicing offers put onto the table, together with sharper pricing overall, to give the Renault the boost it needs.