Renault is renowned for offering pocket-friendly hatchback and compact crossover models, but the Koleos is neither a hatchback, nor compact. Given its lofty price tag (on the wrong side of R500 000) and the multitude of acclaimed competitiors in its segment, the French family car needs to demonstrate something special to stand out.
We like: Highly-specced, surprisingly capable off-road, generous cabin space.
We don't like: Pricey, limited to just one powertrain
- Price: R529 900 (September 2020)
- Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol
- Gearbox: CVT
- 0 to 100 kph: 9.8 sec
- Fuel economy: 8.3 L/100 km (claimed)
- Power/Torque: 126 kW/233 Nm
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What is it?
The Renault Koleos is one of the more stylish and distinctive offerings in the family-car segment.
Yes, we reviewed this generation of the Koleos in April 2019, but for 2020, Renault SA has given its flagship SUV some mild updates. What's new, you may ask? There are minor visual changes at the front and rear, a new alloy wheel design, plus some convenience upgrades in the forms of an electronic handbrake and a powered tailgate. Inside, there are some updated trims. Mechanically, the Koleos' powertrain is unchanged.
The range comprises 3 derivatives (in 2 trim levels) and the subject of this review is the flagship derivative: the 2.5 Dynamique 4WD. The Cars.co.za comparison tool highlights at least 6 rivals at this price level and we've filtered the results to include all-wheel-drive rivals with automatic transmissions; the Koleos' major competitors are the latest iteration of the Toyota RAV4 (2.0 AWD GX-R) and the Subaru Forester 2.0i-S ES.
How it fares in terms of…
Performance and efficiency
With just one engine and transmission combination, we can't help but wonder how the Koleos would fare with a turbodiesel powerplant.
The Koleos is powered by a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder petrol engine, which it shares with its Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi alliance cousin, the X-Trail. In the French contender, the motor produces 126 kW and 233 Nm and it's exclusively mated with a continuously variable automatic transmission. While it's not marketed as a performance vehicle, the Koleos is claimed to accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in 9.8 sec (for what that's worth). In terms of economy, we saw an indicated consumption figure of 9.9 L/100 km, which is some way off the firm's claim of 8.3 L/100 km.
Performance is, at best, average. Although the aforementioned RAV4 and Forester also feature old-school naturally-aspirated powertrains, several of the Koleos' rivals are propelled by smaller-capacity turbocharged engines that feel punchier to drive. Is it a deal-breaker, though? Not at all, but with the CVT, you have to adapt your driving style to exact smooth progress – there are no gearshifts and the engine can become quite vocal under hard acceleration. Despite the louder-than-expected engine note and lack of responsiveness, the Koleos doesn't feel underpowered in and around the urban environment. In-gear acceleration is its weak point, so overtaking manoeuvres between 80 and 120 kph require forethought.
The update gives the Koleos a revised front end as well as redesigned alloy wheels.
In terms of ride quality and handling, the Koleos has a pleasant and comfortable big-car feel. We were initially irritated by a constant rattle in the luggage bay (we suspected a poorly-fitted panel), but once the warning triangle had been stored correctly, the cabin was free of annoying noises.
Given the Renault's large footprint, we were expecting a relatively heavy steering feel, but the tiller was effortless to twirl. The suspension was quite forgiving too: the restyled 18-inch alloys are wrapped in 225/60 R rubber and the generously sidewalled tyres contribute to the pliant ride quality.
These high-profile 18-inch tyres soaked up most of the bumps on the poor quality roads we subjected it to
South Africa is (shall we say) blessed with an extraordinary variety of road surfaces and during the Renault's tenure in our test fleet, we drove the test unit on some of the worst grades of gravel road – as well as some light sand – to get an idea of its true capabilities "off the beaten track".
If you think the Renault Koleos is a bit of a poser SUV and lacks any off-road credentials, your assumption is very wrong. The numbers alone are good, with 210 mm of ground clearance with approach and departure angles of 19 and 26 degrees respectively. Gone are the days when you needed to use an additional lever to activate a vehicle's 4x4 modes; these days, it's a matter of flicking a switch. The Koleos has 3 modes; 2WD for normal tarmac situations, Auto will activate 4WD in slippery conditions and 4WD Lock will send 50% power to each axle at speeds of up to 40 kph.
Gone are the days where you need a second lever for the 4x4 modes. This switch is all you need.
Much like its smaller Duster sibling, the Koleos is surprisingly capable when traversing roads of poorer quality or that offer low levels of grip. It does lack a low-range transfer case, so be mindful of biting off not wading into really tricky situations. We found the Renault to be admirably stable when traversing gravel at speed, with the automatic 4WD system cleverly directing power to the axle with the best traction to keep the car well-planted.
Features and Practicality
The Koleos interior with its digital interface
Top-spec offerings from Renault are usually generously equipped and this flagship Koleos is indeed fully-loaded: the only option available is metallic paint. The vertically-orientated infotainment system does take some getting used to, but to its credit, it supports Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Having said that, the Android Auto interface doesn't quite work with the vertical screen – the layout looks odd. The instrument cluster's layout, however, is fresh and modern, with a central speedometer/rev counter. You can toggle between themes too and change the colours of the display.
The vertical infotainment screen takes some time to get used to
Standard features include leather trim, a 6-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, multifunction steering wheel, auto wipers, front/rear park sensors with reversing camera, as well as climate control. Safety wise, Renault has fitted its Koleos with 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control and blind-spot warning.
Rear passengers are well catered for. Not only are aft occupants availed commendable levels of leg- and head-room, but with a brace of USB chargers, there's no worry of smartphones or tablets running out of battery power (provided you've remembered to bring along the cables!).
In terms of luggage space, the Koleos doesn't offer the largest bay in the segment, but there should be enough space (464 litres) for most families. If you need even more space, the rear seats fold down to avail 1 800 litres, which is perfect for a full-size mountain bike and a set of golf clubs.
Rear passengers are well looked after with plenty of space, plus charging facilities for devices.
Pricing and after-sales support
This top-spec 2.5 Dynamique 4WD retails for R514 900, which includes a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are at 1 year/15 000 km.
Some conservative (or risk-averse) buyers may be concerned by Renault's reputation for iffy reliability or below-average after-sales support (not without merit), but don't be fooled by the Koleos' "sophisticated" French exterior styling; it's based on the well-proven Nissan X-Trail. Besides, taste is subjective... consumers are looking for a number of factors, such as safety, practicality and economy when it comes to family SUV shopping.
In most of those respects, the Koleos is more than adequate and, don't forget, it's comprehensively equipped. As we've said in previous reviews, if you are looking for a spacious, well-specced all-rounder, this Renault is worth a closer look. If you're put off by its steep asking price, however, visit our used car section where demo Koleos units with under 2 000 km on their odometers are listed for more than R50 000 off the list price...