Isaac Bober’s 2016 Renault Koleos review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Renault Koleos has been transformed from a dowdy-looker to one of the best-looking SUVs in its class.
2016 Renault Koleos
Pricing From $29,990+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months or 30,000km Safety Not rated by ANCAP Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 126kW at 6000rpm Torque 226Nm at 4400rpm Transmission CVT Drive front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive Dimensions 4672mm (L); 1843mm (W – mirrors folded); 1678mm (H) Weight 1552-1611kg Spare 17-inch temporary Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 8.1-8.3L/100km (combined cycle)
THE NEW RENAULT KOLEOS launched in Australia back in September, indeed Australia was the first country on the planet to get the thing which is now being sold in more than 80 countries around the world. Renault said the reason for launching here before anywhere else was because it sees this SUV as a “core model and a pillar of Renault continued growth in the Australian market”.
That said, I’m sure it also had a whole lot to do with the fact that Australians are snapping up SUVs as fast as they hit the market. Indeed, the SUV segment is the fastest-growing new car segment in the country. But back to the Koleos.
You might already know that Renault and Nissan and now Mitsubishi are in an alliance and, put simply, this means they can share platforms to spin-off their own products and save some coin while doing it. Or, in Renault’s far more succinct description, “build a wider range of vehicles from a smaller pool of parts”.
And, speaking of shared platforms, this Koleos is built on Renault-Nissans Common Module Family architecture which also underpins the Nissan X-Trail, Qashqai and others. Indeed, the Koleos shares not just its platform with the X-Trail but also its engines, all-wheel drive system and transmission.
There are three Koleos variants in the range, and these are Life (from $29,990+ORC), Zen (from $33,990+ORC) and Intens (from $43,490+ORC). The entry-model Life is available only in two-wheel drive trim while the Zen can be had as both two- and all-wheel drive, and the top-spec Intens is all-wheel drive only.
What’s the interior like?
In all, we spent two weeks with the new Koleos, one week in the mid-level Zen variant (4×2) and a week in the top-spec Intens, and I’m very glad for that, because it highlighted some weaknesses in the top-spec model. And, no, you didn’t misread that.
One of my key gripes as we transition to a connected community where all the car’s major infotainment and communication systems are controlled via a touchscreen is the loss of hard buttons for key functions, like climate control. It might be a first-world problem, but there is nothing more frustrating than stabbing away at a touchscreen, while driving, just to turn the air-conditioning fan speed down.
And, so it is with the Koleos Intens which gets an 8.7-inch portrait-oriented multimedia touchscreen. The screen is big enough and easy to use but why on earth did Renault think removing the hard climate controls from the entry- and mid-spec models was a good idea? See, when you’re listening to music and you want to adjust the fan speed you’ve got to pinpoint tap an icon at the bottom of the screen that’s slightly smaller than your finger nail. It doesn’t help that the screen isn’t particularly responsive, meaning you end up tapping at the screen half-a-dozen time before it activates. Oddly, well, I think so anyway, the temperature dials are hard dials and separate from the touchscreen…
By way of contrast, and you can compare via the two images above (Intens is on top) the mid-spec Zen variant offers a 7.0-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen with dials for temperature and a capacitive bar for the fan speed. Sure, the capacitive bar is a gimmick that’s incredibly frustrating but the whole climate control system is a million times better to use than the one on the more expensive Intens variant. Whinge over.
Almost. The fan itself is quite loud when spinning at full speed, to the point where it’s quite hard for people in the back seat to hear what those in the front are saying. Now the whinge is over.
The interior of the new Koleos is a big step up over the old model and a much nicer place to be than its virtual twin-under-the-skin Nissan X-Trail. Despite a smattering of hard plastics strewn in out of the way places, most things you touch are either soft or good quality matte finish plastics. The fit and finish was good, but not a patch on, say, the interior of a Peugeot (yes, Peugeot) or VW Group product. The dashboard layout in either the Zen or Intens is okay with most things easily within reach, let’s not get me started again on the touchscreen and access to climate control functionality in the Intens. There are two USB points hidden in the glovebox and you’ll need to stash your phone/iPod in the glovebox or risk having the cable pinched by the lid, as well as 12V power. There’s an rear air vent, 12V outlet and two USB ports in the back too.
The interior feels a little bunker-ish, meaning there’s a small glasshouse and a dash that seems to be mounted quite high. It doesn’t restrict vision around the thing, but nor does the interior feel particularly light and breezy – although the large sunroof (standard on Intens) does help a bit. The easiest way for me to describe it is to say it feels a little like the inside of a Hummer H3… only the quality is much, much higher.
The front seat is comfortable if a little flat in the base which will only annoy those travelling longer distances, like I was when I was testing it. There’s good adjustment on the seat so that drivers of all sizes will be able to find a good driving position, and there’s also reach and height adjustment on the steering column.
Over in the back there’s plenty of room for three adults (and both front and rear doors open nice and wide although they do feel very heavy so be careful opening them on hills as I managed to jam a leg in the door on more than one occasion – my house is on a hill), although the middle seat in the back isn’t shaped the same as the outboard seats and thus won’t be great on long drives. The flat-ish transmission tunnel means that you’ll be able to place your feet in front without having a to play footsies with the passengers sat beside you. There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and top tether anchors for all three positions. The rear seats are a standard 60:40 configuration.
For those with kids, it’s worth mentioning that my two found it a bit tricky to climb into the back. Thanks to the 210mm of ground clearance and a lack of things to grab onto to help pull themselves up into the car, and a slippery door sill kids will need a helping hand. And the same goes when climbing out with my daughter slipping off the door sill and almost slippery-sliding out the door… luckily Dad was there to catch her.
The boot offers 458 litres of storage space with the rear seats in place, and up to 1690 litres with them dropped down. Folding the rear seats is a one-touch operation from the boot via handles, but you do have to reach right into the boot to grab the handles which isn’t overly convenient, and the seats don’t fold totally flat. The Intens variant gets a powered tailgate and you’ve only got to waggle your foot under the bumper to get it to open, so long as the key is, say, in your pocket.
What’s it like on the road?
There’s only one engine available for the Koleos and that is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm. This is mated to a CVT which Renault-Nissan call X-tronic and fuel consumption is a claimed 8.1L/100km in the 4×2 variant and 8.3L/100km in the 4×4 variant.
This is the same engine that ran in the old Koleos, but Renault (er, Nissan) claims tweaks include increased compression ratio, lighter components, and friction reduction. What does all this mean in the real world? Quite a bit and particularly where the 4×2 variant is concerned which feels a lot nippier than its 4×4 sibling, and that’s despite there being little weight difference between the two: 1552kg Vs 1611kg.
That said, and despite the relatively low output, neither variant of Koleos feels underpowered, and I spent plenty of time schlepping up and down the Blue Mountains with the family on-board. Plant your foot and there’s a very real sense of acceleration, which is not something you normally expect from a car equipped with a CVT.
While plenty of people like to rag on CVTs, the Nissan unit in the Koleos is good with none of the stretchy, revving-but-not-going-faster feeling you get in some examples. That said, it can be a little clumsy at low speeds as you come on and off the throttle, and I’m talking speeds less than 60km/h. Above that it becomes smooth and can handle hills and overtaking without a struggle. There’s a manual mode for the transmission, but I’ve never really understood the point of ‘changing gears’ with a CVT.
The front-drive Koleos we sampled didn’t handle a whole lot differently to the active all-wheel drive version and that’s probably because we didn’t drive it in a situation where traction was limited and thus both behaved as front-drive cars. When it comes to cornering the Koleos feels a little heavier than it is, with plenty of body roll and suspension that while plush struggles to cope with harder hits. Indeed, anything more extreme than the smallest of lumps in the road sends a heavy jolt through the body.
The steering is heavy, but at least the weight is consistent, and quite slow meaning you end up, until you get used to it, not turning enough and then having to wind on more steering to avoid running into a kerb.
The brakes are progressive in their action but the soft ride means there’s a lot of pitching and diving under brakes. And don’t think I’m expecting the Koleos to be more like the Audi SQ7 we recently tested, not at all, that car’s a performance SUV and the Koleos isn’t. But, even by normal SUV standards the Koleos favours a wallowy ride with poor bump control.
Much has been made of the ground clearance of 210mm and, sure, this is decent ground clearance for an SUV but a poor approach angle of 19-degrees and short travel suspension means the Koleos is best suited to well-graded gravel roads. And, even in the 4×4 variant which is an active all-wheel drive, meaning, it’s predominantly a front-drive car unless a loss of grip at the front end is detected in which case drive is sent to the rear. Sure, there’s a 4×4 Lock switch which can be used in low-grip situations, like wet grass but if you stuck with the 4×2 variant you wouldn’t be missing much.
What about the safety features?
The Koleos doesn’t have an ANCAP rating which seems like an oversight for such an important vehicle to Renault in Australia… Away from that, all variants get six airbags, a reversing camera with both static and a moving guide line to tell you whether your current steering angle will see you hit the gutter when parking. There are rear parking sensors standard across the range, while front parking sensors are available on Zen variants and side parking sensors for Intens.
The Intens gets automatic high and low beam and in our test the automatic high beam worked well, only reacting late a couple of times when cornering. But that wasn’t the system’s fault as there were a lot of trees around. There’s also autonomous emergency braking as standard on the Intens and as a cost-option on the Zen, it works at speeds above 30km/h. The Intens also features lane departure warning which works at speeds above 70km/h and turns down the volume of the radio and rumbles, which sounds more like a fart, through either the left or right speakers. It’s not an active system and so won’t tug at the steering wheel.
The Intens gets blind spot warning which is a cost option on Zen as well as Renault’s Easy Park Assist, but because I know how to park a car I didn’t try out the system.
Why you’d buy it
Well, the Koleos certainly feels more luxurious than its Nissan X-Trail sibling, offers plenty of room inside and comes with a decent five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. It’s not the sharpest handling SUV on the market and it’s unlikely to be used by those who want to push further than a gravel road, even in all-wheel drive trim. That means it’s target is most likely to be city types who favour a high driving position and a classy exterior design.
Renault Koleos key features:
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- 17-inch Esqis alloy wheels
- Rear parking sensors
- Rear view camera
- Front LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
- Front and rear lights with 3D edge effect
- R-LINK 2 multimedia system with voice control and custom home screens
- 7-inch landscape orientation capacitive touchscreen, AUX, 2 x USB ports and fingertip controls
- 3D sound by Arkamys with eight (8) speakers
- Cornering function in fog lights
- ECO Mode
- Automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensor
- Automatic dusk sensing headlights
- Dual zone climate control air conditioning
- Front LED cabin lights
- Front centre storage console with sliding armrest
- Dark carbon cloth upholstery
- Leather steering wheel
- Satin grey roof rails
- Instrument display with colour 7 inch TFT screen and personalised design settings
- Full size temporary spare wheel (steel)
The Zen variant adds:
- 4X2 and 4X4 driven options
- Electric parking brake
- Electrically adjustable driver’s seat with electric lumbar support
- Heated front seats
- Engine start button
- Remote central locking with Renault Smart Key Card
- R-LINK 2 navigation and multimedia system with voice control and custom home screens
- Dark carbon artificial leather upholstery
- 18-inch Taranis alloy wheels
- Rear privacy glass
- Optional Sunroof Pack: electric sunroof and automatic dimming rear view mirror
- Optional Safety Pack: Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS) – Interurban, Blind Spot Warning system (BSW), Forward collision Warning system (FCW)
The Intens variant adds:
- 4X4 driven wheels with All-Mode 4X4-i technology
- Pure Vision LED headlights with automatic high/low beams
- Remote engine start
- Blind Spot Warning system (BSW)
- Forward collision Warning system (FCW)
- Lane Departure Warning system (LDW)
- Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS) – Interurban
- Easy Park Assist parking assistance system
- Side parking sensors
- Hands-free power tailgate
- 8.7-inch portrait orientation capacitive touchscreen, AUX, 2 x USB and fingertip controls
- BOSE® audio system with 12 speakers, subwoofer and digital amplifier
- Black leather trimmed upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats
- Electrically adjustable driver and passenger seats with driver electric lumbar support
- Ambient cabin lighting
- Electric panoramic sunroof (front opening, tilting, sliding and anti-pinch)
- Chrome trim fog light surrounds, lower side body and rear bumper
- 18 inch Argonaut alloy wheels (two-tone)
- Chrome front and rear door sill plates
- Wood grain effect cabin trim
- Rear seat USB charging ports
- Factory fitted option (no additional cost): Platinum Grey or Chestnut Brown leather trimmed upholstery