Renault has increased their SUV portfolio extensively in the past few years, this experience has put them in good stead with the highly contentious segment. While offerings scattering the price range such as the Kiger, Captur and Duster compete well in their segments, Renault were in need of their own entry into the premium SUV C market. This is where their Koleos fits into the equation. After being on sale in our market for only 2 years with mediocre sales, minor updates to the vehicle have been implemented in the hopes of compelling consumers for what can be described as a handsome, spacious and comfortable option.
While the Koleos nameplate has been around for 15 years, the second generation was first presented to the world in 2016 as a collaboration between Renault and Nissan. Using the Common Module Family (CMF)-CD platform as a basis, much of its underpinnings are shared with the Nissan X-Trail which includes its 2.5l naturally aspirated 4 cylinder motor, revelry to consumers terrified by the thought of French made mechanical machinery.
Since its debut, this is the solitary engine our market has received which is mated to a CVT and now powers only the front wheels as opposed to a four wheel drive option from before. While figures are stated at 126kW of power and 233 Nm of torque, the powertrain selection feels sluggish and lethargic at highveld altitude.
Combined fuel economy isn’t particularly stellar either when compared to its turbocharged competitors, with claimed figures of 8.1l/100 km while our real world test which was dominated by urban routes yielded 9.2l/100km. Expect a much lower number when travelling on the open road to far away destinations as the motor comes into its own after getting up to cruising speed with the X-Tronic CVT optimising efficiency.
While the upward trend for smaller displacements coupled with forced induction dominate the more premium SUV market, what the seasoned naturally aspirated motor in the Koleos provides is robust reliability and less moving parts packaged in a quiet and relaxing driving experience. This is a strong selling point in a vehicle that should on paper be cost effective to maintain into future ownership.
While the Koleos is there or thereabouts in terms of performance when compared to chief rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan or Toyota Rav4, where this particular drivetrain excels is cruising on the open road which is done quietly and comfortably. In fact, the entire on road experience presents any occupants with a plush and pleasant journey which is compliments of the commodious interior and smooth CVT.
When it comes to handling and ride quality, the Koleos enters a league of its own. The steering in particular is one of the standout experiences. Feedback to the driver is an applaudable balance in directness and weight; it is not too heavy to navigate in tighter spaces at slow speed but also not too light in higher speed scenarios.
The suspension confidently soaks up anything you throw at it too. On any road surface we presented to the sizable SUV the imperfections and dirt paths were effortlessly rebuffed by the chunky tyres and supple suspension setup at moderate speed. While it is only front wheel drive, the 210mm of ground clearance and approach and departure angles of 19˚ and 26˚ degrees respectively makes the Koleos highly capable of traversing through some minor undulating terrain or mounting urban pavements without damaging the skid plates and rugged black trim which lines the base extremities of the lengthy car.
On the topic of length, the Koleos holds the title for the longest wheelbase in class measuring in at 2704mm. Its overall length of 4672mm also creates a generously spaced interior allowing for ample head, arm and legroom of which passengers in the second row can easily equate to the experience of a first class airline seat.
Unlike the X-Trail derivative on which it is based, it does not have a third row of seats but its voluminous boot area is rated at 464l and can grow to an impressive 1700l with the rear seats folded down. This can be done conventionally with seat-top mounted levers or with the assistance of boot mounted levers. The electronic Powerlift tailgate when fully raised does hang too low and requires physical maneuver for the height gifted to prevent any unpleasant encounters.
When it comes to exterior updates, not much has changed other than slightly re-designed bumpers and skid plates, revised head and taillights and two tone 18” alloy wheels for the top spec model. Most of the significant improvements have been implemented into the interior and operational features.
In terms of interior technology, the Koleos is available in two trim levels – Expression and the top of the range Dynamique which we had on test. Of the two, the Dynamique is well equipped with all the niceties a family would desire for the duration of a holiday. The comfortable front row of seats are equipped with six-way power adjustment and lumbar adjustability while an easy to reach vertical 8.7” touch screen utilizes R-LINK 2 Sat Nav and Multimedia system which is also operable through a voice recognition system activated from the steering wheel.
While the user interface of the system is an improvement from before, it still doesn’t feel as modern and smooth in operation as some of its competitors. The entire infotainment display as a whole also alludes to an aging design. Smartphone replication to familiar UI’s is available through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via cable which can be done through either USB port which is now located under the center console.
Other niceties which are standard on the Dynamique trim include dual-zone climate control, smart-keyless entry, park distance control and a reverse camera which provides good resolution for navigating the lengthy SUV in small spaces. Occupant safety and driver aids are another impressive selling point of the Koleos, the 6 airbags enable an impressive 5-star EuroNCAP crash rating while the driver has ABS/EBD, blind-spot warning, stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system to help keep things in check.
While the Renault Koleos may have had a hard time lamenting a formidable competition to its chief rivals before the updated model arrived, the well-specced and inexpensive pricing of the brand new Haval H6 will make it even more difficult in the future.
The Expression 2.5 CVT 4×2 model has a retail price of R484 900 while our test model, the Dynamique 2.5 CVT 4×2 will come in at R534 900. Optional metallic paint will cost a meagre R2 522 but keep an eye out for specials Renault dealerships may be running which may present a discounted price. While the Haval may have the price advantage, the additional km in the Renault 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty and 5-year/90 000km service plan may compel reliability conscious buyers in favor of the Koleos.
So where does that leave the flagship French option? Sadly, the changes implemented to the Koleos are mostly superficial in what remains an aging option in the segment which has revolutionized at an alarming rate. It will continue to sell, albeit in smaller numbers than before as it still provides a comfortable and enjoyable experience to those that give it a chance. The expected reliability and ease of maintenance of the Koleos make it a car that has the ability to remain with those who choose it in the years to come. For consumers looking for a mid-sized family hauler that is great for open road journeys and comfortable enough for tatty urban roads, the smooth and relaxing personality of the Koleos is worth giving a chance.