In an ultra-competitive class, the Renault Koleos is strikingly designed and decent off road, but does little else to stand out from the pack
What is it?
There’s no let-up in this segment’s boom and it still seems as though every manufacturer is either building its first SUV or – as with Renault – expanding its current line-up.
Today’s Koleos is built on the CMF-C/D platform that’s shared with, among others, the Kadjar and Nissan’s X-Trail and Qashqai. It’s based on the not-for-UK Talisman saloon and has already been on sale in selected markets around the globe for the past year.
Although the Talisman is destined to remain outside of the UK, its SUV stablemate is now crossing the Channel (via its assembly plant in South Korea) with the hope of plundering some sales.
What’s it like?
Renault describes the diesel-only Koleos as a “high-end” 4×4. Stepping inside, you are greeted by a pleasant, airy cabin with some good and not so good materials around the dashboard. It doesn’t quite have the polished feel of premium rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
It’s well specced in either of the two initial UK trims levels, with generous safety equipment as standard, too. Entry-level Dynamique S Nav – the pick of the range – gets a panoramic sunroof and a 7.0in touchscreen with sat-nav, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Signature Nav upgrades the 18in alloy wheels to 19in, adds LED headlights and upgrades the touchscreen to 8.7in.
The range-topping Paris Initiale version, tested here, will go on sale at a later date in the UK and adds better quality upholstery, but we’d still stick to Dynamique S Nav.
Interestingly, and perhaps to its detriment, the Koleos is not getting a seven-seat variant – a decision made to keep the car’s proportions sleek and attractive – despite many rivals offering it. Second-row passengers are very well accommodated, though, with plenty of leg room, and the boot is an acceptable size, albeit smaller than the Tiguan’s and Peugeot 5008’s.
In the UK, the biggest-selling model will be the 2.0 dCi 175 AWD in Dynamique S Nav trim. We drove that engine in front-wheel-drive guise (a configuration not available in the UK) with the new CVT unit, and the same engine and gearbox in this all-wheel-drive Paris Initiale.
The 172bhp diesel lump is a decent engine that’ll easily haul a fully laden Koleos on long motorway slogs and there’s adequate low-end torque but the power delivery is a big laggy.
You’re unlikely to be tempted to go for B-road blats. The steering, direct but light, doesn’t inspire you to push the car to its limits. The chassis doesn’t feel particularly agile, either, and there’s a fair bit of body roll through fast corners. Nevertheless, its handling is stable and predictable.
You could be tempted to venture off the beaten track though. Ground clearance of 210mm as well as approach and departure angles of 19 and 26 degrees respectively means all-wheel drive models will take owners further off-road than they’ll likely ever need to go.
The ride is on the firm side, especially on 19in wheels (stick to 18s if you can), but it remains generally comfortable over most surfaces. There’s a lot of road noise at higher speeds, but the slick X-Tronic CVT – which performs like a seven-speed automatic under heavy acceleration and reverts to a more traditional CVT feel in normal driving – keeps engine noise to a minimum at higher speeds.
Should I buy one?
The Koleos is not a hallowed disruptor to the SUV segment and Renault admits it won’t outsell the Captur and Kadjar. Rather, the Koleos conforms to many of the usual – and positive – traits of cars in this class.
Spacious, well equipped and nice to look at, it’s not especially memorable to drive but it’s useful off road. This range-topper is very expensive, though, and makes it hard to recommend over rivals. The real value is at the lower end of the line-up.
Renault Koleos 2.0 dCi 175 X-Tronic AWD Paris Initiale
Location Helsinki, Finland; On sale Now; Price £34,200 (Signature Nav); Engine 4 cyls, 1955cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 172bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox CVT; Kerb weight 1747kg; Top speed 125mph; 0-62mph 9.5sec; Economy 47.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 156g/km; Rivals Volkswagen Tiguan, Nissan X-Trail