Suavely-styled SUV packed with advanced safety kit
- Improved interior quality and usability
- Long wheelbase for spacious rear seats
- Simple, high-specification trim structure
- Impressive 'stepped' CVT transmission
- No petrol engine in range
- No seven-seater available
- Lack of badge kudos
- Intrusive road noise
The second-generation Renault Koleos adds the third, and final, string to Renault's crossover-style SUV bow, joining the Captur and Kadjar to fight its corner in a sector of the market increasingly saturated with rivals.
The list of those rivals is a long one, and includes the hugely popular Land Rover Discovery Sport, Nissan X-Trail, Ford Edge, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and, most recently, the Skoda Kodiaq. The well-received latter is likely to provide stiff competition for the Koleos, not least because it provides the option of a seven-seat format.
Why can't I have a seven-seat Renault Koleos?
Renault justifies its decision not to consider more than five seats on the basis that proportion and styling was more important, rather than 'dressing up the hunchback', and that the addition of an extra tier would simply cramp second row space.
With a 2,705mm wheelbase – one of the longest in its class – the argument in favour of rear seat space has certainly been vindicated. But as to proportion and styling, it strikes us that most of the effort has merely gone into making the front of a large box yell 'RENAULT' as loudly as possible, which it does very well indeed. Besides, if you want a seven-seat Renault, why not try the impressively stylish Scenic?
Still, with easy-fold, 60:40-split rear seats, a powered tailgate at which you may wave your foot when your hands are full of shopping, a maximum loadspace of 1,706 litres and wide opening doors to make the UK's Austin 7-sized parking bays even more frustrating, space and practicality are well up there with the competition.
Another interesting decision given the burgeoning anti-diesel backlash, Renault has shunned petrol power for the UK, only arming the Koleos with a choice of 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesel engines for 130 and 175hp respectively.
- Read more: Petrol vs diesel, which is best for me?
The smaller unit is mated with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive, while the larger features all-wheel drive and is available with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
That latter option - which Renault's dubbed X-Tronic transmission - with its attendant 2.0-litre engine and all-wheel drive is, apparently, slated to be the best-selling model in the UK.
Happily, then, this is are rare example of CVT that doesn't set the engine bellowing off round the rev counter while the car catches up in its own good time. Seven artificial steps built into the system make a pretty decent fist of more closely matching engine revs to acceleration, which will please old school automatic aficionados, and their ears.
For all the easy driving charms of the X-Tronic transmission, the manual 1.6-litre powertrain is not to be sniffed at. The gearchange is light and easy, the engine more than willing. Both the steering and handling of this lighter variant feel somewhat more engaging, and it offers nigh on 10mpg more in the fuel economy stakes.
What equipment do you get in the Renault Koleos?
The model line-up is equally straightforward; that choice of powertrains available in just two trim levels - Dynamique S Nav or Signature Nav. With the former boasting a respectably lavish standard equipment specification, it's unsurprising that Renault expects it to be the favoured option in the UK.
Full leather upholstery, heated front seats and a powered tailgate aside, the only real goodie that Signature Nav brings to the party is the larger 8.7-inch portrait format centre console multimedia touchscreen.
Such a large standard kit list means optional extras are thin on the ground. However, customers can spec the Climate Pack (only available on Signature Nav) which adds ventilated front seats plus heated rear seats, steering wheel and front windscreen should they wish.
A high-end 13-speaker BOSE sound system and automatic parking are also available.
The Parkers Verdict
The Renault Koleos is priced to compete in the heart of one of the car market's most crowded and competitive sectors. To do so effectively, it needs to be pretty special to stand out – especially when you consider that there are (admittedly more expensive) alternatives on offer from Land Rover, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Has Renault succeeded in producing a competent larger SUV for famiies? Yes, undoubtedly so. It's good to drive, with a punchy 2.0-litre turbodiesel and well-matched transmission. It's roomy and good looking. Surprisingly, it's also a quality item inside, with nice materials and control actions. Renault's R-Link infortainment system it still a weak link – but it's far from unique in struggling in this respect.
The big question is whether it's desirable enough to get people away from the premium brands – and as appealing as the Koleos is, we'd have to say that it still lacks that X-factor that draws people into showrooms. It's a shame, because as a rational buy, the Koleos stacks up pretty well.