Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • Limited choice: two diesel engines
  • Impressive CVT automatic
  • We enjoyed the 1.6-litre most

Renault Koleos

First examples of the Koleos is available with a choice of just two diesel engines powering three different drivetrains. According to Renault, petrol versions are not yet important in this sector – although this is changing rapidly.

There is a 1.6 litre unit with six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive, and a more powerful, 2.0 litre unit with either six-speed manual or Renault's seven-speed X-Tronic CVT automatic transmissions, and all-wheel drive:

  • 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 130hp, 357Nm, six-speed manual, front-wheel drive. 0-62mph in 11.4 seconds, max speed 115mph, 57.6mpg, 128g/km CO2
  • 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 177hp, 380Nm, six-speed manual, front-wheel drive. 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds, max speed 126mph, 50.4mpg, 148g/km CO2
  • 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 177hp, 380Nm, seven-speed automatic, all-wheel drive. 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, max speed 125mph, 47.9mpg, 156g/km CO2

We sampled both the 2.0-litre version with CVT transmission and all-wheel drive, and the 1.6-litre car in manual, front-wheel drive guise. Both are equipped with stop-start, a NOx trap and a particulate filter.

The more powerful option

The 2.0-litre (below) variant is most impressive not for the engine itself, but for a CVT system which, in terms of power delivery, feels the closest yet we've experienced to a standard automatic gearbox.

Renault Koleos 2.0-litre engine

As long as you don't push too hard in the quest for performance, the artificial introduction of seven 'steps' in the transmission is appealing – if slightly contrived.

It serves to match vehicle acceleration far more closely to the rise in engine revs than in most CVT gearboxes, yet no perceptible detriment to the freshly buttered banister smoothness that is the hallmark of such systems.

Renault Koleos

However, this is a big car with a towing capacity of two tonnes, and, even if it does remove a deal of faff from the process of making progress, the gentle emasculation of the powertrain by the CVT transmission ensures it's never going to feel exactly sprightly.

Some CVT issues to conted with

Moreover, unless you actually select the seven-speed sequential mode (and there are no paddle shifters with which play if you do), there's little or no engine braking to slow you into corners, which is initially somewhat disconcerting and, thereafter, a mite taxing on the brakes.

By contrast, the 1.6-litre unit governed by a six-speed manual ‘box feels far more eager to respond to the wishes of the accelerator. The gearshift itself is just about slick enough to prevent its use feeling too much of a chore and, in every respect save on paper, the smaller unit actually feels livelier than its bigger sibling.

Renault Koleos comfort

  • Unashamedly unsporty handling
  • Focus very much on comfort
  • Will work off-road, easy to park

Renault Koleos

It's surprising how differently the 1.6- and 2.0-litre models handle. Despite a pleasing tingling of road surface information through the helm when driving straight, which promises much, the all-wheel drive 2.0-litre car's steering never comes to life through the corners.

Though adequately accurate, it suffers from a distinctly rubbery feel and a lack of communication mid-bend that detracts from driving involvement.

Combine this with a degree of bodyroll undoubtedly encouraged by a ground clearance of 210mm and the relative ease with which the nose can wash wide when pressing on, and it quickly becomes apparent that the Koleos isn't that happy when tackling a sequence of tightly knit bends, losing composure with ever greater degree as corner follows corner.

Renault Koleos

Despite having only the front wheels with which to conjure traction, the 1.6-litre car handles far more tidily under similar circumstances. Handling is what we’d call predictable – all you need in an SUV.

Perhaps because there's less mass in the engine room, the steering weight and feel is a marked improvement and the car seems much more eager to turn in on demand.

Around town, the driver's seat must be hoicked high enough to crush your wife's wimple to stand any change of locating the front corners of the car, which makes low speed manoeuvring and parking a trifle more bothersome than it ought to.

Off road, the Koleos plugs along quite respectably, a three-way control switch offering a choice of front-wheel drive, 4WD Auto - which offers all-wheel drive when deemed necessary, and 4WD Lock - which distributes torque equally between front and rear axles, automatically disengaging at over 25mph.

This is a big car, but parking help is on offer. Depending on spec you can have acoustic sensors around the car, a rear-view camera and automatic parking systems.

Renault Koleos handling