Renault Kangoo van review (2020)

Impressive electric version is the pick of the range

Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

PROS

  • Mixture of variants
  • Good standard equipment
  • Roomy for passengers
  • Large load area on Maxi
  • Quiet and clean electric versions

CONS

  • Rivals offer greater payload
  • Noisy cabin
  • Bland cab design
  • Lacks latest safety kit
  • EDC auto thirsty

Summary

The Renault Kangoo is a long-standing competitor in the small van segment. This second-generation version went on sale in 2008, replacing a model that was first introduced back in 1998 – so it has a well-established pedigree, and Renault is clearly confident the Kangoo formula works, given how long it takes the French firm to get around to replacing it.

In fact, a new model is due in 2020 (though may not reach the UK until 2021). Question is whether the current Kangoo, reviewed here, still makes sense versus much more modern competitors.

Renault Kangoo van rivals

Competition in this area of the light commercial vehicle (LCV) market is tough. While the Kangoo is exceedingly popular across Europe as a whole, small van sales in the UK are traditionally dominated by the best-selling Ford Transit Connect and the one-two punch of the Citroen Berlingo / Peugeot Partner twins.

The two rival French vans are the very newest in the sector, and now count the increasingly popular Vauxhall Combo Cargo as part of their family, too. This trio offers exceptional good payload ratings, impressive fuel economy and lots of the latest technology - a tough act to beat and winners of the 2020 Parkers Small Van of the Year Award.

You can see that the Kangoo already has its work cut out. And that's before you consider the Volkswagen Caddy, which is about to be replaced by an all-new model, too.

But with both the Mercedes-Benz Citan and the new Nissan NV250 based on the Kangoo, it seems the Renault still has things to offer if you're simply after a straightforward load carrying solution in a small package.

Renault Kangoo van model range and features

The Kangoo range is certainly comprehensive. Renault offers a standard and a longer Maxi bodystyle, and both regular panel van and crew van configurations – the latter including a second row of seats for carrying more personnel.

Renault Kangoo van review - rear view, white, 2020

A super-short Kangoo Compact model was also available originally, but this was dropped over time due to lack of customer interest.

This neatness of purpose is reinforced by a selection of clever load-managing features – for instance, the Kangoo is available with a multi-position bulkhead, a swivelling bulkhead and even a load-through hatch in the roof (although again the last is no longer listed in the UK pricelist).

Continuing this theme of versatility, in addition to the expected turbodiesel engines, the Kangoo has also been available as an all-electric van since 2011 – in fact, the Kangoo ZE was the first production electric van.

Though others have followed suite with electric vans of their own, Renault has moved beyond them again in 2017 with the Kangoo ZE 33 upgrade, which has by far the longest driving range of any electric van on sale.

Renault Kangoo ZE electric van - plugged in to charge, 2020

What's more, the Kangoo has been used for a wide range of conversions, and is available with an extensive selection of accessories.

Renault has even been experimenting with a version of the Kangoo ZE powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, but you won't yet by able to order one of these at a UK Pro+ dealership.


Renault Kangoo van verdict

For all that it is versatile, however, the aging Renault Kangoo struggles against newer rivals that offer better fuel economy and greater load capacity, harming both its running costs and its practicality.

And though it fights back with good value, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that there are better small van choices.

That said, the Kangoo ZE electric model remains a benchmark if you're looking to move beyond diesel.


Renault Kangoo driving experience

3.5 out of 5 3.5
  • Long-serving 1.5-litre diesel engines offer good performance
  • Can be noisy, not the most sophisticated driving experience
  • Electric Kangoo ZE is well worth considering

At its original launch back in 2008, the Kangoo was available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, while the all-electric ZE model was introduced in 2011.

The petrol engines, which as non-turbo units typically felt under-powered and out of their depth in a van, were phased out over time, leaving a choice of three turbodiesels, all based around Renault’s long-serving 1.5-litre dCi engine.

Renault Kangoo van engines and gearboxes

Initially, diesel power output was rated at 70hp, 90hp and 105hp; with the upgrade to Euro 6 emissions compliance in 2015 the top and bottom choices received a 5hp boost.

Renault Kangoo van review - side view, driving, white, 2020

In 2017 the new and improved ZE 33 all-electric model was introduced, and in the same year firm introduced an optional new EDC automatic transmission.

This Efficient Dual Clutch auto is similar in operation to Volkswagen’s DSG, and is far more sophisticated than the four-speed conventional automatic available when the Kangoo launched in 2008. However, customer reception must have been muted, as it's no longer in the UK pricelist.

The latest engine range (at time of writing in February 2020) continues to offer a choice of three 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesels, now rated at 80hp, 95hp and 115hp.

All are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, which is a rare treat in the small van class - many rivals still only offer five-speed transmissions on lower-powered models.

What’s the Renault Kangoo van like to drive?

Much like the design of the cab, the Kangoo’s driving experience does the job but isn’t likely to excite you.

The steering and pedals are light, and it feels nimble enough around town. But you’ll find you have to put plenty of effort into turning the steering wheel before the van actually changes direction, and the manual gearbox could be easier to get on with.

Renault Kangoo van review - steering wheel, instrument cluster, gearbox

Ride quality is relatively comfy, but the softness here also translates into quite a bit of body roll in the corners.

Refinement seems to have improved with the latest round of engine updates. This used to be quite a noisy van to drive fast, particularly in open-bulkhead versions where there’s only metal mesh between you and the echoing load area, but the most up-to-date models are quieter (although a fixed bulkhead still certainly helps).

Ending on a positive, the 1.5-litre dCi is a long serving and very well developed engine at this stage in its life. It delivers smooth performance, feeling well up to the job of handling the paylod requirements of this small van.

Is the electric Renault Kangoo any good?

The ZE electric models are far quieter and offer the simplicity of a single-speed transmission – which acts just like an automatic – as standard.

The electric motor’s instant torque and energy-recovering braking effect whenever you lift off the accelerator make them easy to drive, too, especially around town. Although they do run out of steam at higher speeds or when faced with a particularly big hill.

Still, as long as you don’t have too far to go – even the newer ZE 33 model barely travels 100 miles in the real world between charges – and can cope with the potential for range anxiety, the electric Kangoo is arguably the best Kangoo.

Having a large battery pack beneath the floor even helps the handling in the corners, and because it is beneath the floor you don’t lose any load capacity, either.

Renault Kangoo cabin & interior

3 out of 5 3.0
  • Plain and very plasticky inside
  • No reach adjustment for the steering wheel
  • Controls and clear and mostly easy to use

Fair to say the Renault Kangoo is not blessed with the most inspired cab design.

It’s spacious, yes, and with a high seating position and large windscreen there’s plenty of forward visibility. But the look of the interior is exceptionally bland, and the quality of the plastics suggest it was all built to a price that would make it fit for purpose and absolutely nothing more.

Renault Kangoo van review - cab interior

Making matters worse, the steering wheel only adjusts for angle - it does not adjust for reach - so you may find it difficult to get your ideal driving position.

Still, the controls and instruments are familiar items from the Renault parts bin, which means they’re generally clear and easy to operate. We particularly like that there is a section of the rev-counter marked 'Eco', an easy way to help you understand the most fuel-efficient way of driving it.

Awkward sat-nav

Some of the details are a bit daft, however. Option the Renault sat-nav infotainment system for example, and it retains its touchscreen capability, even though the screen is tiny and buried deep within the dashboard where it’s impractical to reach.

This leaves you with the slightly awkward manual controls mounted on the fascia. Renault has a penchant for oddly-shaped handbrake mechanisms, too…

Renault Kangoo running costs & value

4 out of 5 4.0
  • Good value pricing and standard equipment
  • No WLTP fuel economy figures
  • Why the Kangoo ZE may be cheaper than you think

Competitive pricing including generous standard equipment means the Kangoo has always been a solid value-for-money proposition.

Renault Kangoo mpg

The Kangoo’s 1.5-litre turbodiesel engines may be old, but they continue to offer good on-paper fuel economy figures, helped by the introduction of stop-start technology in 2013.

For the latest models, which are now fitted with an AdBlue tank to reduce harmful emissions, a best figure of 64.2mpg is available from the middle-ranking 95hp version.

Renault Kangoo van review - driving, 2020

It's hard to compare this figure to rivals, however, as it's not a true WLTP figure, the latest, more realistic fuel economy measuring standard.

Also, be warned that the Kangoo EDC automatic is around 10mpg less efficient than manual gearbox equivalents – though it should also save on clutch replacement costs. In theory.

Renault Kangoo ZE running costs

If you really want a cheap van to run and have a predictable daily distance that fits within the vehicle’s capable range, the ZE electric version of the Kangoo should give you much lower per mile ‘fuel’ costs than diesel.

Even the servicing should be cheaper, as there are fewer moving parts, and if you drive them well, electric vans are lighter on brakes.

What's more, while the purchase price is higher, leasing can be very competitive.

Renault Kangoo warranty and service intervals

This varies a bit with the age of the van. While most were covered from new by a three-year warranty, there was a period where this was increased to a four-year warranty, and now (February 2020) it's back to a three-year / 100,000-mile warranty.

Similarly, most Kangoo vans have two-year / 18,000-mile service intervals - including the latest versions which featuer AdBlue tanks for emissions control.

However, the original Euro 6 versions (which don't have an AdBlue tank) were rated to 24,000 miles (or two years).

We'd probably want someone to look them over once a year, regardless.

Renault Kangoo trim levels and standard equipment

The Kangoo has been on sale since 2008, and has been updated several times since then – chopping and changing the availability of trim levels and variants throughout.

At one point the top trim level was Sport, for example, but as of mid-2017, the only choices are Business and Business+.

Here’s what you get in the way of standard kit (at time of writing in February 2020).

Renault Kangoo Business standard equipment highlights:

  • DAB radio with aux-inUSB connection and Bluetooth
  • Electric door mirrors
  • Electric front windows
  • Load area lighting
  • Air-conditioning (most powerful model only)
  • Height-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Remote locking with deadlocks
  • Alarm

Renault Kangoo Business+ standard equipment highlights (in addition to Business):

  • Electric door mirrors with folding function
  • Centre console with armrest
  • Overhead parcel shelf
  • Air-conditioning (entire range)
  • Rubber floor in the load area
  • 15-inch alloy wheels
  • Body-coloured bumpers
  • Rear parking sensors

The longer Kangoo Maxi vans get twin side loading doors, while the shorter standard Kangoo only gets a single sliding door on the passenger side.

The Kangoo ZE electric van gets bespoke instrumentation, plus charging port, charging cable and a pre-heating function (allows you to heat or cool the cabin while connected to the mains to preserve battery power for driving).

Kangoo Crew vans get split-folding rear seats and a multi-position bulkhead as standard; they also get twin sliding side doors but you have to pay extra if you want these glazed (which seems a bit unfair on the backseat passengers).

A Kangoo Formula Edition was added to the range as a special edition in late 2017.

Renault Kangoo reliability, common problems & faults

4 out of 5 4.0
  • It's a popular van that's been in production for ages - it should be reliable, shouldn't it?

While the durability of Renault cars has often been questionable in the past, improvements over recent years should hold Kangoo reliability in reasonably good stead.

This is one of Europe’s top-selling vans and has been in production for a long time, so Renault must be keeping owners happy. There are few reports of horror stories, though niggly little problems aren't uncommon. If buying used, check for warning lights, poor starting, poorly fitted trim and sliding doors that don't open smoothly.

Renault Kangoo van review - load area, 2020

Considering how long it's been on sale, there haven't been very many official recalls, either. The largest was related to a power steering fault, but this only applied to vehicles built in 2009 and was identified the same year - so all should have been fixed by now.

Renault Pro+ servicing

Renault does offers specialist light commercial servicing through its Pro+ network should the worst happen – the advantages of this over a regular Renault car dealership include extended opening hours and the ability to turn up without an appointment.

Renault Kangoo safety & security

2.9 out of 5 2.9
  • Safety equipment lags well behind the latest rivals
  • All models now have an alarm as standard

As was standard for a van launched in 2008, while earlier versions did get a driver’s airbag as standard, electronic stability control (ESC) was only optional.

This was rectified during a mid-life facelift in 2013, when ESC was made standard across the range. It’s not quite your average system either, as it also features hill-start assist and a Grip Xtend button.

Grip Xtend juggles the electronics to help you get more traction on slippery surfaces such as snow and gravel.

You do still have to pay extra for an airbag for the passenger, however. Though if your ‘passenger’ is usually parcels or other goods, that probably makes sense.

How safe is the Renault Kangoo Van?

The passenger version of the Kangoo did receive a four-star Euro NCAP score, but this was back in 2008 when the testing regime was much less severe than it is now; the closely-related Mercedes-Benz Citan small van received three stars in 2013, and again the test has been made more difficult since then.

What’s more, even Mercedes called this result ‘not satisfactory’. Renault offers none of the active driver aids we've increasingly come to expect on modern vans.

Renault Kangoo van review - rear view with sliding side door open, 2020

So if you’re looking for a particularly safe small van, we’d recommend going for a much newer model such as the VW Caddy (launched in 2015, and fitted with autonomous emergency braking as standard from 2017), the Ford Transit Connect (2013), or the Citroen Berlingo / Peugeot Partner / Vauxhall Combo (2018-2019).

Still, from 2015 all versions of the Kangoo were upgraded to include a full steel bulkhead – or a multiposition metal mesh bulkhead in the case of the Crew van.

How secure is the Renault Kangoo van?

Deadlocks, remote locking, an immobiliser, the Renault Anti Intruder Device (RAID) and an alarm are all standard on the latest versions.

Until very recently an alarm would have been extra, however, so if shopping for a used example it will worth checking on this, and perhaps budgeting to have one installed if not already fitted.

Which Renault Kangoo is best for me?