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Renault’s pinning much of its hopes of SUV success on the new Koleos. Based heavily on the Nissan X-TRAIL, its impressive exterior and interior looks look set to be chief weapons

Renault Koleos 2.5 170 SCe All-Mode 4×4-i Xtronic
International Launch Review

Renault re-enters the SUV fray with the all-new Koleos, based on the Nissan X-TRAIL. Australian models get a 2.5-litre petrol motor driving all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and while the driving experience is fine – in a cultured, if unexciting fashion – the Renault’s strongest aspects are its gigantic interior and a sharply styled body. It could be the car to finally bring the French marque success Down Under.

You’re nothing in the automotive game these days unless you’re offering plenty of SUVs in your line-up. Look at the big German brands – BMW, Mercedes and Audi seem to have more SUV models than they have sedans. And almost all other manufacturers are following suit, although some are taking longer than others.

French brand Renault is one such marque, yet it has a ready-made source of 4×4 and crossover know-how as a result of its alliance with Nissan. Any time it wants to develop a new SUV for any sector of the market, it can just turn to Japan and ask nicely to borrow the relevant-sized machine on which to work.

Thus, the Captur was developed from the Juke; Nissan’s phenomenally successful Qashqai begat the Euro-only Renault Kadjar; and now here we have the new, larger Koleos. which is essentially a reskinned X-TRAIL.

Set to go on sale this weekend (August 1), Koleos gets its global retail debut Down Under. Yet the local press launch is still a month away. We couldn’t wait and nor should you. So we drove it in Europe. And the verdict? Read on, but it’s positive so far…

The Koleos name is not new, of course, but the original car was only a modest performer locally. So can the new French offering break the stranglehold others have on this class? One consideration is accommodation. And although strictly a five-seater, this wagon has plenty.

Renault says the benefit of the two-row configuration is improved interior space, and on that score we can’t disagree. The second-gen Koleos has a simply massive cabin. Rear knee room stands at 289mm, but it feels even more generous than that. There’s a 550-litre luggage area and don’t worry if you’re the driver or front-seat passenger – you could wear a stovepipe hat behind the wheel, given there’s 953mm of headroom.

Even entering the classy cabin, dominated as it is by the new portrait-oriented 8.7-inch R-Link 2 infotainment screen and a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster, is cleverly thought out, as the front doors swing open to 70 degrees while the rears go to 77. And the doors’ exterior skins cover the interior sills, so you don’t get your trousers dirty if you climb onboard after a grimy dirt road session.

We also like the exterior, one of Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker’s latest masterworks. His design themes involve C-shaped LED daytime running lights, wide rear lamp clusters that almost meet in the centre of the hatch and distinctive detailing running along the flanks. Although it can often be the case that striking exterior design can be polarising, we think it looks fantastic.

The same superlative can’t be applied to the driving experience, although to be fair to the Koleos, little in this class is a proper road warrior. Nevertheless, Renault has a reputation for road-holding aptitude and the Koleos doesn’t quite match up to those ideals.

It has strengths: the body control is good, given the car’s comfortable ride on fixed-rate springs and dampers, and the steering precise, if not massively feelsome. But that 2.5-litre engine sounds rough when being pushed hard and despite the Xtronic transmission having seven ‘steps’ in it to mimic a true automatic, it still lets the petrol lump ‘flare’ too much during heavy acceleration.

The net result is that driving quickly is fast discouraged, due to the amount of noise generated not matching up to a notable increase in forward momentum. But there’s good news here. Throttle back and drive the Koleos more sedately and the drivetrain adopts a refined air. This couples with the aforementioned smooth ride and superb isolation from exterior noise to make the Renault an excellent cruiser.

We did also try it off-road, but the route laid on by Renault was so tame that it told us nothing of its true abilities. Like the X-TRAIL, Koleos has a diff-lock function in the All-Mode 4×4-i system, but that automatically disengages if you go past 50kmh.

All told, the Koleos is a polished product in many departments. It deserves to sell much better than its predecessor ever did and will do, thanks to its brilliant, roomy interior and handsome styling.

It’s also a fine car to drive, provided you don’t want to get anywhere in a hurry.

Is the Renault Koleos a good SUV? Yes, definitely.

Is it capable enough to unseat the Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson as our favourites in this class? Probably not but it’ll take a direct shootout to finalise our opinion.

2017 Renault Koleos pricing and specifications:
Price: From $29,990
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Output: 126kW/233Nm
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Fuel: TBC
Safety rating: Not tested

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