Renault Koleos Privilège dCi 175 (2008) review

Published:02 May 2008

Renault Koleos Privilège dCi 175 (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

When the Renault Koleos was unveiled at the Geneva motor show the original press information claimed that this was an SUV that 'handles like a hatchback'. But those words have disappeared from the launch pack, where Renault instead cautiously claims it handles 'more like a saloon' than a traditional 4x4. Either way Renault has branded the Koleos a crossover, not one of 'em ol' fangled SUV critters.

The Renault Koleos is a crossover, eh? A word very much in vogue...

Isn't it just. Seems to be something to do with buying public's newly activated environmental conscience. We'll be buggered if we can keep track of exactly what it's supposed to mean, however. Originally attached to sportily performing 4x4s, in the case of the Koleos it apparently refers to the way this car blends hatchback (or should that be saloon?) lines and usability, with compact MPV versatility, and 4x4 capability. That's a lot of 'ilities', but once you have a good look around the car, it does start to make sense.

At 4.52 metres long, and 1.85 metres wide, the Koleos has a suitably small footprint – it's around 30cm shorter than the Ford Mondeo – for a car designed to cope as well with cities as it does with the countryside. Climb onboard, and you'll notice not only a relatively small step up (in fact access front and rear is rather good), but also the wealth of cubby holes and storage bins you'd usually associate with one of Renault's MPVs. There's 70 litres of stowage before you even consider the boot capacity – with highlights including underfloor bins in the back, a sort of tiny removable basket thing in the centre console, and door pockets sensibly shaped to take a 500ml drinks bottle and up to five CDs.

Ok, fine – very handy. But where does the 4x4 bit come in?

Oh, that's easy. The Koleos is based on the same platform as Nissan's latest X-Trail. In fact, although it was conceived and designed by Renault, it was actually developed by Nissan (and it's built by Renault-Samsung in Korea, making it the most integrated Renault-Nissan project yet). This means it also uses the same 'all mode 4x4-i' drivetrain as the X-Trail. The 'i' stands for intelligent, so you get three modes – two-wheel drive, intelligent four-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive lock for the rough stuff.

The intelligent setting reacts so fast – the rear differential is controlled by an electromagnetic clutch – it can counter grip loss even before the ESP system gets a go. On loose surfaces – much of our Moroccan test drive – you can feel it acting to counter slides. But only just, as by the time you've thought about the possibility of that you might, perhaps, maybe, have slightly over-cooked things coming into that last turn, it's already done something about it.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Renault Koleos first drive

But surely the Koleos is just another urban soft-roader?

Of course it is. If you want to go green laning, buy a Land Rover. But compared to all the other wannabe cross-roaders we've seen arrive lately – the Kuga, the Tiguan, the CR-V, hell even the C-Crosser if you like – the Koleos actually has decent approach (27 degrees) and departure (31 degrees) angles. This means it can cope with some pretty undulating terrain. And from mid-range Dynamique S trim upwards, you get ESP, hill hold and hill descent control as standard. This last even works in reverse. Helpful when you've stalled it on the run up a crest.

Stalled it? For a minute there we thought this car was going to be perfect...

Far from it. We drove the top of the range version, which is Privilège spec with the dCi 175 turbodiesel engine (all other Koloes come with the dCi 150, the same four-cylinder unit in 148bhp tune). The top-spec model delivers 173bhp (or 175PS in new money) and a healthy 266lb ft of torque. It's a powerful thing, and although it can't touch the Kuga for green friendliness, it is smooth and refined.

Unfortunately it's mated to an abrupt, switch-like clutch, and a vague six-speed gearbox. You would probably get used to it, but we can't remember the last time we stalled something so often.

It's nowhere near as sporty on-road as the Kuga. Body movement is progressively controlled, but there is more roll, and limited steering feel – although the steering is pretty accurate, and the Koleos does generally go where you point it. On the plus side, the soft suspension settings do translate into genuinely decent ride comfort. Renault reckons it's best in class (and showed us a graph to prove it); after the way it handled the rutted tracks and broken surfaces of the test route, we're inclined to believe this.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Renault Koleos first drive

Anything else we should know?

The interior is nice, but not loin-stirring. There's plenty of passenger room, and the materials feel fine at most touch points – the only exception being the glovebox lid, but that's common on lots of cars. The tailgate is a split opening affair, with a lower section that will take up to 200kg in weight (an ideal seat for changing the walking boots after a particularly indulgent Christmas, then). Equipment levels are generous, especially considering the pricing undercuts rivals – the entry-level front-wheel drive Dynamique starts at £17,995.

Our top dog Privilège is £24,695, but that includes 'super-fold' rear seats (meaning there's a handle in the boot), bi-xenons, a panoramic roof, sat-nav, and a Bose stereo. Intriguing optional accessories include a tent (which looks like it's mating with the tailgate), and a rear seat DVD system that's apparently been crash-tested.

Verdict

The Koleos is a fine first effort 4x4 from Renault. But then it ought to be ok, as it's essentially an X-Trail in a sleeker suit. And since this should help boost reliability (not a Renault strong point in recent years), if practicality and comfort are your preference then this is well worth a look.

However, the Kuga is better on-road, and greener, the Tiguan has a stronger image for that suburban feelgood factor, and you can get much bigger SUVs for not much more money.

Specs

Price when new: £24,695
On sale in the UK: 4 June 2008
Engine: 1995cc 16v 4-cyl turbodiesel, 173bhp @ 3750rpm, 266lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 9.9secs 0-62mph, 117mph, 35.8mpg, 209g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1655kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4520/1855/1695

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: rear three-quarter photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: interior photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: side photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: front three-quarter photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: interior photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: interior photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: front three-quarter photo
  • Renault Koleos 175 dCi drive: rear three-quarter photo
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