Taking the long road in the new Koleos
Renault’s new SUV is smooth riding and spacious, but the continuously variable transmission doesn’t like the hills
Renault’s new-generation Koleos Dynamique 4x4 has joined the Motor News long-term fleet and we will be evaluating the French SUV over the next six months.
Replacing the slightly smaller Kadjar, the Koleos recently entered SA’s highly competitive midsized SUV market with a pair of good selling points: it’s one of the roomiest vehicles in its segment, and also one of the best priced.
The Koleos undercuts most of its rivals and the top-of-the-range 2.5 Dynamique 4x4 — the subject of this test — is one of very few all-wheel-drive contenders in this segment with a sub R500,000 pricetag.
That’s not due to any specification corner-cutting and the R479,900 vehicle comes fully loaded with features like a 360° parking camera, blind-spot warning, electrically adjustable front seats and leather upholstery.
That’s in addition to standard features across the three-model range, which include six airbags, stability control, automatic headlights and wipers, cornering fog lamps, and a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.
It’s a smart-looking interior with its leather and brushed-metal finishes, and the customisable mood lighting also gives the cabin a classier appeal.
As for the aforementioned roominess, the Koleos is slightly larger than rivals like the Toyota Rav4, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Ford Kuga, and Hyundai Tucson, with only VW’s Tiguan superior in length. This graces the Koleos with a generously sized cabin, which we tested to the full by packing in five passengers and their suitcases and drove from Joburg to KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast for a long weekend trip.
The seven-hour journey passed by without any gripes from the rear-seat passengers, who were snug but far from squashed, and the 464l boot comfortably swallowed everyone’s luggage (even those who packed extra bags in wilful disregard of the driver’s instructions).
The boot contains a full-size spare wheel instead of a Marie biscuit, a feature that’s particularly welcome should you get a flat on a long trip, as you won’t have to crawl at low speed to an obscure town in search of a puncture repair or the right-sized tyre for your car.
With the rear seats flipped down this Renault’s 1,700l cargo space is also large enough to fit a 29” mountain bike inside without having to remove one of its wheels, which I’ve found is quite a rarity and is usually reserved for large SUVs.
All the cabin surfaces that occupants come into contact with are softly padded, which makes a big difference on extended journeys compared to resting your elbows on something hard.
My one gripe over the long trip was the continuously variable transmission (CVT), a gearbox that’s becoming ever more popular with the motor industry because it’s a lot cheaper than other types of automatics. It’s the only transmission available in the Koleos, and it’s mated to a 2.5l petrol engine with outputs of 126kW and 233Nm.
The CVT works fine in normal urban driving, with programmed steps to simulate gearshifts like a regular automatic, but the dreaded rubber-band effect comes into full play when cruise control is engaged on an open road, particularly a hilly one.
Up a hill, instead of using the engine’s torque to maintain the selected speed, the Renault’s cruise control sets the revs soaring at high rpm, which makes for an unpleasantly loud drone while also guzzling more fuel. The drone got so bad that shortly into the Joburg-to-KwaZulu-Natal trip I disabled the cruise control and rather took a chance on running the N3’s speed-trap gauntlet using the time-honoured watching-the-speedo method.
Our test vehicle averaged about 10l per 100km on the trip, which isn’t bad considering how fully loaded it was.
A highlight of this Renault SUV is its neat handling and comfortable ride, and its smooth-sailing nature extends to rough gravel roads, which it tackles without the suspension feeling agitated.
The 4x4 Koleos is capable of more than just gravel roads. Apart from its front-wheel-drive setting, the vehicle also offers a 4WD auto mode that automatically adjusts torque between the front and rear axles as driving conditions demand, and 4WD Lock which splits the power 50/50 between front and rear.
This, along with its lofty 210mm ground clearance, should make it a half-decent adventure vehicle. We will test the off-road ability and report on it in a follow-up article in the next few weeks.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Capacity: 2,488 cc
Type: CVT automatic 7-speed
Type: Two-wheel drive with selectable 4WD auto and 4WD Lock
Top speed: 199km/h
0-100km/h: 9.8 seconds (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 8.3l/100 km (claimed); 10.0l/100km (as tested)
Electric mirrors, electric windows, leather seats, dual-zone climate control with air vents for rear passengers, hands-free key card, cruise control, automatic LED daytime running lights, cornering fog lights, electrically adjustable front seats, six airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, hill-start assist, parking sensors, reversing camera, blind-spot detection, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, central locking, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, cooled/warmed cupholder, infotainment system with 22cm capacitive touch screen, navigation, voice command, 225/60 R18 tyres
Warranty: 5 years/150,000km
Service plan: 5 years/90,000km
Lease*: R10,291 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Renault Koleos 2.5 Dynamique 4x4
Roominess, price, ride quality
Family SUV with great value for money
****Value For Money
Honda CR-V 1.5 Executive AWD, 140kW/240Nm — R602,500
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Elite, 115kW/196Nm — R514,900
Nissan X-Trail 2.5 4x4 Tekna, 106kW/200Nm — R513,500
VW Tiguan 2.0 TSI 4Motion Highline, 162kW/350Nm — R577,500
Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD Individual, 143kW/257Nm — R557,900
Toyota Rav4 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD, 127kW/203Nm — R508,100