When Renault decided it should enter the small SUV segment, the French carmaker made a clever move… The company realised that 4x4 territory isn’t its forte, and they asked partner Nissan for some help.
Renault even decided to outsource the production to Samsung Motors in Korea… So, the Koleos is the product of an interesting threesome between France, Japan and South Korea - but in simple terms the Koleos is an X-Trail with a different body.
The Koleos is offered in both all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive versions.
The 4x4 line-up consists of two petrol models – one with a six-speed manual gearbox, the other with a CVT automatic transmission – and a six-speed manual diesel derivative.
Locally Renault offers two engines, a 126kW 2.5-litre petrol and a 127kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel (only in the 4x4 derivatives).
Under the skin the Koleos’s X-Trail/Qashqai genes features the same excellent 4x4 system. And on the South African media launch Renault was keen to show just how competent the Koleos is at doing the "rough and tough".
To prove Renault’s point we were sent on a tricky 4x4 trail to test the Koleos’s off-road capabilities. And thanks to Nissan, the Koleos didn’t disappoint at all.
Its electronically controlled all-wheel drive system boasts three settings - 2WD, Auto and 4WD Lock. The system employs an electronic coupler to seamlessly divert power from the front to the rear wheels, should traction become compromised.
The torque split is electronically calculated, and is variable up to a 50:50 front/rear torque split. Known as All-Mode 4x4, the system delivers all the power to the front wheels during normal conditions.
On our 4x4 trail, facing some challenging conditions with little traction such as loose gravel and rock climbing, the 4WD Lock did a skilful job.
Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist are added gizmos boosting the vehicle’s 4x4 credentials.
Ground clearance comes to 206 mm, with associated approach and departure angles of 27 and 31 degrees respectively.
The quirky-looking Koleos was designed by Renault’s team in France who attempted to give it a muscular appearance.
Typical SUV frills such as chunky side panels and roof rails compliment other in your face design elements such as oversized headlights and a prominent grille.
But at 4.52m long and 1.85m wide the Koleos is quite compact for everyday city driving too.
There is plenty of room for passengers; however, the Koleos especially deserves credit when it comes to practicality.
For example there is a useful split-opening tailgate, with the boot offering 450-litres of space which can increase to 1 380 litres when you fold the rear seats flat. And the folding those seats down are as simple as pulling two levers resulting in a flat load bay.
Renault also added some of the Scenic’s clever stowage ideas to the Koleos, and there is a plethora of cubbies and binnacles such as under-seat drawers and underfloor compartments.
Naturally there are a host of luxury and convenient features to keep passengers comfortable. In typical Renault tradition, safety standards are key with a host of active and passive safety features to protect occupants.
Although the Koleos is impressive off-road most owners will hardly ever go off tarmac with it. So, how does the Renault perform in normal conditions?
Although the ride is a bit dull the Koleos’s on-road capabilities are good and on the go the SUV offers a smooth ride soaking up bumps and uneven surfaces. Road grip and overall stability is acceptable too.
Vital to the Koleos’s handling is a fully independent suspension, consisting of front MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear axle, while gas-filled dampers and anti-roll bars further enhance the Renault's ride.
Performance is acceptable and the 2.5-litre petrol takes almost nine and a half seconds to reach 100km/h, while the diesel model will achieve it in about 10 seconds.
Power output for the 2.5-litre petrol is rated at 127kW @ 4 000 r/min while torque is 226Nm @ 4 400 r/min.
In diesel guise the maximum output is 127kW @ 4 000 r/min with a torque figure of 360 Nm @ 2 000 r/min.
So, will it succeed?
Our first impression is that Renault did an excellent job in its aim to give the world another SUV. (Well, the looks are a bit odd…)
But it is arriving quite late to a party with a lot of impressive guests such as its own Nissan step-brothers (the X-Trail and Qashqai), the VW Tiguan, the Honda CR-V and then, of course, the very competent Subaru Forester.
Though Renault execs are confident that the Koleos will boost its local sales claiming that the demand for small, versatile SUVs is still growing…
Also, dare one presume that the Koleos won’t be plagued by Renault’s reputation of questionable reliability as it is part of a new era of Renaults (and that the Koleos isn’t sourced from France)?
At first glance the perceivable quality appears good and overall the Koleos has a solid feel.
So, one can just hope that Koleos buyers will indeed have a satisfying owner’s experience. Renault South Africa is also blunt that the company made a lot of wrong turns in the past, but that it is revitalising its reputation – but I guess only time will tell.
Koleos 2.5 4x2 Manual Dynamique: R270 000
Koleos 2.5 4x4 Manual Dynamique: R285 000
Koleos 2.5 4x4 CVT Dynamique Premium: R330 000
Koleos 2.0 dCi 4x4 Manual Dynamique Premium: R345 000
Prices previously provided were incorrect