Renault Koleos and its Charming Ways

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Renault Koleos appears to be winning the hearts of critics that evaluate vehicles for automotive awards. It was recently selected as the winner in the Large SUV/Crossover 5-seater category by an English news media for the second year in succession.

Given the reasonably strong field of contenders in the market, to be recognised for two years in succession says a lot about this SUV (sport utility vehicle) that sees the combination of French and Japanese roots. We decided to have a drive impression of the Koleos, although it has been in the market for more than a year. Of course, a variant – Koleos Signature – was introduced earlier this year to give it a contemporary standing.

Our acquaintance though was not with the ‘newer’ Koleos Signature, which is a two-wheel drive that has a sunroof and power-operated rear door that opens and closes at the touch of a button. We had the pleasure of driving the flagship part-time four-wheel drive model over a weekend in mainly urban conditions.

TC Euro Cars (TCEC), the distributor of the Renault range of cars, says more than 100 Koleos were sold since this SUV range was introduced. The most popular model currently is the Koleos Signature that appears to be good value for the features it is equipped with. TCEC is still running the tax holiday price promotion with the Koleos - RM169,840 for the Koleos 2WD, RM184,888 for the Koleos Signature and RM194,888 for the Koleos 4WD.

Of course, there are limited numbers available so this might be a good time to check out this range of Renault SUVs before they are sold out. They come with a five-year service package and five-year/unlimited mileage manufacturer’s warranty that add to their good value package.

For the uninitiated, the Koleos is developed from the Nissan X-Trail floorpan by Renault and uses a similar engine and powertrain. This is the synergy that Renault and Nissan share since they belong to the same automotive group. Although the X-Trail is a seven-seater SUV, Renault has chosen to develop the Koleos as a five-seater Crossover.

If you were to put the Koleos and X-Trail next to each other, they would stand out as pretty different vehicles. The Koleos has a busier face with a bigger grille area replete with chrome slats and the big Renault logo. There is also a more bulbous styling with a higher bonnet line than one that tapers in a more rakish manner. For sure, you could tell it’s a Renault Koleos right away.

Renault’s strategy is also to make the Koleos a more premium SUV-cum-Crossover with better quality build and more upmarket trims. That is probably the reason why the Koleos is a bit pricier compared to some of its rivals.

At close to RM200,000, the Koleos 4WD would appeal to those who might like to venture off road now and then to check out one’s vast estates or construction sites. It provides the flexibility of two-wheel drive (front wheel driven), all-wheel drive (in which the system electronically apportions drive between front and rear wheels) and permanent four-wheel drive that locks all four wheels for the rough-and-tumble offroad drive. This is activated via a button on a lower panel of the dashboard, just above the bonnet release.

As our weekend drive impression was purely in urban conditions, we used mostly 2WD. We switched to part-time four-wheel drive once while driving on wet roads. That, however, didn’t reveal much as we didn’t have many opportunities to push the Koleos hard enough to get the system to apportion engine output according to the level of tyre-road traction.

For a year-old SUV that had covered about 27,000km, the Koleos 4WD we drove still felt pretty new and there were no signs of wear and tear, in that there were no tell-tale squeaks or creaks. This took into consideration that this Renault SUV had been put through the mill of a demo vehicle countless time over the period.

The leather upholstery felt nice and accommodating and there is a host of features to ‘individualise’ the settings to one’s preferences. An example is the audible note for the proximity warning all around the vehicle; there are three options and you could choose the one that sounds the most pleasant to your ears. The note set in our test vehicle was rather bold, and annoying to some extent, but we didn’t change it as it was effective.

You could also change the ambient LED (light emitting diode) lighting of the 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen, along with the cabin lights, and there are more than 10 colour options to choose from. Like many modern passenger vehicles, the large touchscreen provides an access to the many functions available, other than those on the steering wheel.

A practical feature we like was that when we slotted the gearshift to Park, the electronic parking brake was automatically activated. This was noted when the light on the parking brake button came on. We just had to push this button down to release the parking brake before driving off.

The seven-inch TFT instrument panel offers drive data electronically, with bar readouts for engine speed (tachometer) and numerals for road speed. An interesting item is the bar readouts for engine output, one each for horsepower and torque. We could note how the engine delivered strong torque early to get moving easily, especially for an SUV that tipped the scales at above 1600kg (Koleos 4WD).

By the way, the Koleos range is only made available with the 2.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine. This 2488cc engine delivers 127kW (171PS) at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4400rpm. The transmission is an X-tronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with an all-mode 4x4 technology, similar to that applied in Nissan vehicles. The Koleos 4WD’s combined fuel consumption is given as 12km/l, which is pretty good.

Electronic seat adjustment is standard fare to select the best possible driving position but we found the door mirrors somewhat larger than expected. When combined with the thick A-pillars we encountered blind spots that forced us to take a second and third look at junctions to ensure that no motorcyclists were approaching either way. It also hindered parking in tight areas in shopping complexes as visual approximation to pillars and kerbs required higher levels of guesses than usual.

Minor glitches aside, the Koleos was pleasant to drive; it moved along easily in urban traffic and its large SUV profile was nicely manageable where parking was a bit tight (guesses included); thanks in part also to the rear camera. Ride was fully appreciable from the MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension set-up; perhaps a bit clunky on hitting speedbumps or potholes harder than usual. Generally, the ride was comfortable for everyone on board.

We did find the anti-roll bars somewhat less effective when taking the Koleos along winding stretches. The body leaned a bit more than expected through our favourite corners; not too much but more than anticipated. That dampened exuberance a bit but the speed we carried was fast enough to gauge its dynamic potential.

On the highway, the engine was hardly stressed, turning under 2000rpm to proceed along at legal speed limits and enjoy good fuel mileage at the same time. During the few short bursts of acceleration, engine roar was quite well muted to measure up to its premium standing. And the body aerodynamics was slippery enough for us to coast along with minimal wind turbulence for a quiet cruise.

As a five-seater SUV, the luggage compartment gains with a greater capacity to accommodate the holiday fare for everyone. And if that is not enough, the rear seatrests are split 60:40 to enhance storage but with fewer passengers on board. It should meet the needs of those visiting Ikea.

The Koleos ticks all the right boxes for a well-rounded large SUV; distinctive styling to belie its French badge, spacious interior for five adults, quiet and efficient running engine with enough punch to get going quickly, and a pleasant and comfortable ride. Yes, it has all the charm to win hearts once you get to know it better.