The Renault Koleos is able to crunch past regular off road obstacles. You may need better rubber to plough through mud. Picture:DENIS DROPPA
The Renault Koleos is able to crunch past regular off road obstacles. You may need better rubber to plough through mud. Picture:DENIS DROPPA

Renault certainly knows how to cobble together a hot hatch. The Megane RS and Clio RS ranges are proof enough. But what of a proper SUV that won’t trip when driven off road?

We currently live with the new Renault Koleos on long-term test. It’s a part of an influx of newbie SUVs in 2019 with 4WD pasted on their rumps, promising family practicality with go-anywhere capability. The Koleos with its interesting styling replaces the rather attractive and more fluidly penned Kadjar as the company’s headline and large SUV offering for this market. Having ingratiated itself quickly enough through the consequences of daily peak hour traffic, a 9.8 seconds time for the 0-100km/h sprint and a pretty thirsty 10.4l/100km/h average, the only question that remained is how it would perform in an off road setup? Using terrain specifically designed to test the real competency of any SUV claiming to be 4x4, our Dynamique CVT 4WD grade walk enjoys adjustability at the touch of a three setting switch between 2WD, Auto and 4WD.

Unfortunately for the Koleos, on the day we chose to unearth its grip levels the offroad course was muddy from days of rain in the area. You can’t rely on its Auto setting. It hasn’t the immediacy required to successfully scale soggy surfaces.

The on-hand traction is clever enough to deal with axle working crevices but it needs momentum. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The on-hand traction is clever enough to deal with axle working crevices but it needs momentum. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

With full lock 4x4, the Koleos has the much-needed all wheel traction but it quickly gets caught out by axle twisters, bogging down momentarily as the electronic traction system deciphers what is going on.

In mitigation against this you may need a fistful of momentum where the torque distribution system seemingly reacts better and faster for successful climbing up obstacles. It’s not a pretty way to work but it’s the only way in lieu of the car lacking in proper off-roading mechanisms like a diff-lock and a low-range gear. But the rest of its arsenal, the 126kW and 233 Nm on tap from a normally-aspirated 2.5l 4-cylinder petrol engine and X-tronic CVT with seven speeds combine well enough to ensure it beats the odds.

A set of knobbly off-road tyres will enhance its off-road performance against mud. At R479,900 the Koleos 4WD is a hybrid of family and off-road driving usage that’s perfectly in the realm of segment expectations, like typical farm roads or gravel tracks leading to remote holiday spots. It should also win against the usual sand dune route should you want to point its shiny nose towards Mozambique or Namibia. It’s just not ideal if your travels will include hacking through previously uncharted paths.