All-wheel drive Koleos delivers reassuring grip on muddy roads. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
All-wheel drive Koleos delivers reassuring grip on muddy roads. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

First there was Koleos, then Kadjar, and now we’re back to the Koleos.

Renault SA has oscillated between the two vehicles since entering the popular medium SUV market a few years ago, but the French firm has now decided that the larger Koleos makes a better value-for-money proposition.

At 4,673mm in length the all-new Koleos is one of the largest SUVs in a very competitive segment, outsizing the Honda CR-V (4,591mm), Toyota Rav4 (4,605mm), Mazda CX-5 (4,550mm), Nissan X-Trail (4,640mm), Kia Sportage (4,480mm), Hyundai Tucson (4,475mm) and Ford Kuga (4,524mm), although the VW Tiguan is a little longer at 4,702mm.

The Renault is exceptionally roomy, and buyers who don’t need seven seats will find plenty of stretch-out space and legroom in the five-seater Koleos. A large 464l boot, which includes a full-sized spare wheel instead of a space-saver, takes a decent amount of luggage and extends to a cavernous 1,700l with the rear seats flipped down.

Oddments space is also plentiful with 35l of hidey-holes around the cabin. Two trim grades are available, Expression and the more comprehensively equipped Dynamique.

Renault has introduced the Koleos with very competitive pricing, undercutting most rivals in the mid-SUV market, and the range-topping 2.5 Dynamique 4x4 is one of very few all-wheel-drive segment contenders selling for under R500,000 (see price comparison at the end of this article).

This isn’t achieved with any noticeable cost-cutting and standard features across the range are quite plentiful, incorporating six airbags, stability control, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, cornering fog lamps, and a touchscreen infotainment system including navigation and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

The higher-grade Dynamique lays on features like a 360° parking camera, blind spot warning, electrically adjustable front seats, leather upholstery and a larger 22cm touchscreen with 3D buildings rendered in the navigation system.

Roomy cabin and elevated ground clearance make this Renault a good prospect for family adventures. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Roomy cabin and elevated ground clearance make this Renault a good prospect for family adventures. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The C-shaped daytime running lights worn by the Koleos are part of Renault’s new styling identity, while the Dynamique comes with full LED headlights.

The interior looks smart, styled with satin-chrome finishes and soft materials for all the surfaces that occupants come into contact with. Customisable LED cabin lighting provides a palette of hues for mood lighting.

There’s a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, but the Koleos offers just one powertrain across the three derivatives on sale: a 2.5l normally aspirated petrol four-cylinder engine with outputs of 126kW and 233Nm, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Many prospective buyers might be scared off by the mention of CVT, but Renault’s done a fairly good job of reducing the dreaded “rubber band” effect that often afflicts this transmission type, and there are programmed steps to simulate gearshifts like a regular automatic.

The performance isn’t particularly sporting but the nonturbo 2.5 engine hustles along with fair pace, answering all the questions asked of it in urban driving and open-road cruising without feeling underpowered. Renault quotes a fuel consumption of 8.8l per 100km.

Smart interior gets brushed metal and mood lighting to break up the blackness. Picture: SUPPLIED
Smart interior gets brushed metal and mood lighting to break up the blackness. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Koleos is a generally quiet performer without any intrusive wind or road noise, although there is some CVT-typical engine droning as it accelerates up to cruising speed.

Good ride comfort is one of the highlights of Renault’s SUV, and the fairly long wheelbase prevented it from feeling jittery on the gravel roads that were part of the driving route on last week’s local media launch.

Heavy rain turned those dirt roads slippery, which was a good test of the “weekend warrior” ability of the range-topping 4x4 Dynamique I drove at the launch, and it performed admirably. The vehicle has three modes: two-wheel drive; 4WD Auto, which continuously adjusts the front-to-rear torque split depending on road conditions; and 4WD Lock, which distributes the torque in an equal 50-50 split between the front and rear axles. This mode is automatically disengaged at speeds above 40km/h.

The conditions weren’t rough enough to require the latter mode, but in 4WD Auto the Koleos happily dealt with the slimy surface, maintaining grip and staying pointed the right way even when the pace was pushed.

The Koleos also has a fairly decent obstacle-straddling 210mm ground clearance, and while it won’t scurry through an offroad course like a Land Rover, this Renault is much more than a pavement-posing SUV.

RENAULT KOLEOS PRICES

2.5 Expression - R399,900 (126kW/233Nm)

2.5 Dynamique - R439,900

2.5 Dynamique 4x4 - R479,900

Prices include a five-year/150,000km warranty and five-year/90,000km service plan

 

THE COMPETITION

Honda CR-V 2.0 Comfort - R435,900 (113kW/189Nm)

Honda CR-V 2.0 Elegance - R492,500

Honda CR-V 1.5 Executive AWD - R602,500 (140kW/240Nm)

Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Premium auto - R433,900 (115kW/196Nm)

Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Elite - R514,900

Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite Plus auto - R410,995 (115kW/196Nm)

Kia Sportage 2.0 EX Plus - R508,995

Mazda CX-5 2.0 Active auto - R410,500 (121kW/210Nm)

Mazda CX-5 2.0 Dynamic auto - R436,100

Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD Individual - R557,900 (143kW/257Nm)

Nissan X-Trail 2.0 Visia - R397,900 (106kW/200Nm)

Nissan X-Trail 2.5 4x4 Acenta - R460,900 (126kW/233Nm)

Nissan X-Trail 2.5 4x4 Tekna - R513,500

Ford Kuga 1.5T Ambiente auto - R398,500 (110kW/240Nm)

Ford Kuga 1.5T Trend - R445,900

Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line - R548,500 (177kW/240Nm)

Toyota Rav4 2.0 GX auto - R407,300 (107kW/187Nm)

Toyota Rav4 2.5 AWD VX - R545,100 (132kW/233Nm)

VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI Trendline auto - R433,400 (92kW/200Nm)

VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline auto - R494,800

VW Tiguan 2.0 TSI 4Motion Highline - R577,600 (162kW/350Nm)