Renault Koleos: Practical comfort for the family, with a French twist
It's big, comfortable and luxurious, but is the Renault Koleos any good?
SUCH is the pace at which car companies are unleashing yet more SUVs upon their showrooms, you would be forgiven for missing the arrival of one or two - or a dozen - every so often, writes William Scholes.
Among these recent additions is Renault's new flagship, the jumbo-sized Koleos.
It brings the number of SUVs - or crossovers, if you prefer, in blurred nomenclature of these things - in the French company's fleet to three, with the Koleos sitting above the highly-regarded Captur and Kadjar.
This sort of small, medium and large line-up is fast becoming de rigueur for serious car-makers as they seek to plug all possible niches.
From almost nowhere just a few years ago, SUVs now account for a 30 per cent, and growing, share of Europe's new car market, making the creation of the Koleos an inevitability as predictable as Donald Trump saying something stupid most times he opens his mouth.
The Koleos also offers an insight into just how inter-connected and international the production of cars is in the 21st century: Renault, that most French of organisations, is in an 'alliance' with Nissan and Mitsubishi, and the Koleos shares a platform with Nissan's X-Trail model and comes to these shores from a Samsung factory in South Korea.
Where the X-Trail is essentially a seven-seat version of Nissan's highly popular Qashqai - itself related to the Kadjar - Renault has opted to keep the Koleos a five-seater.
Presumably it expects customers in need of seven pews to opt for a Scenic MPV, even if other manufacturers are piling into the three-rows-of-seats SUV market.
Whether keeping the Koleos as a strict five-seater will be a drawback for Renault remains to be seen, but it has allowed it to focus on making the car a highly-specified, luxurious and practical family car.
A problem with three-rowers like the X-Trail or other key rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Skoda Kodiaq and Kia Sorento is that the rear-most rows of seats are inevitably compromised, both in terms of comfort and access.
Avoiding these pitfalls means there is significant lounging room for even the lankiest frames in the back of the Koleos, where the plump seats are generously upholstered and clearly prioritise comfort.
The boot, unencumbered by accommodating a third row of seats for children, is a healthy 579 litres in volume, rising to 1,795 litres when the seats are folded.
That's likely to be big enough for most requirements, and complements the generally well thought-out and practical touches which help establish the Koleos's credentials as a serious family car.
There is significant lounging room for even the lankiest frames in the back of the Koleos, where the plump seats are generously upholstered and clearly prioritise comfort
Large doors that open widely, sills designed to ensure legs don't get dirty from road muck, big windows, a large, opening panoramic sunroof, lots of storage space for the odds and ends that go with family life and a plethora of sockets to charge smartphones are among the features that mums and dads will appreciate just as much as teenagers.
There are even cup holders which can heat or chill your drink...
Renault has long been one of the most enthusiastic advocates for making family cars safer, and the Koleos is no different.
It's loaded with the latest kit, coming as standard with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot warning, hill start assist, traffic sign identification and even 'overspeed prevention'.
Front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera - handy on a vehicle this large - are also standard.
The finish and quality of materials is generally a notch above what you might expect to find in a Renault, with the Koleos's upmarket leanings underlined by a very high standard of equipment.
It isn't a stretch, in fact, to say that the Koleos's airy interior doesn't feel too dissimilar to Volvo's superlative XC90, particularly when trimmed in a light shade of leather.
The effect is helped by the portrait-orientated touchscreen, a layout shared with Volvo, though the Renault system is not as easy to use. Putting heating and ventilation controls on the touchscreen is, in my view, a mistake - switches and knobs remain the best way of controlling temperature and fan speed, I believe.
The faux wood trim in the Renault's cabin strike a duff note, too.
There are only three trim levels. The entry Dynamique S Nav starts at £28,000 and comes with pretty much everything you would want, with a step up to Signature from £30,300 bringing leather trim, LED headlamps, a powered tailgate and an upgraded infotainment system.
A £36,700 Initiale Paris model tops the range, with 19-inch alloy wheels, plush two-tone nappa leather upholstery, hands-free parking, ventilated seats and a beefed up Bose stereo among its refinements.
There are no petrol or hybrid engine options, with two diesels being offered: a 1.6-litre with 128bhp and 236lb.ft; and a 2.0-litre with 174bhp and 280lb.ft.
Large doors that open widely, sills designed to ensure legs don't get dirty from road muck, big windows, a large, opening panoramic sunroof, lots of storage space for the odds and ends that go with family life and a plethora of sockets to charge smartphones are among the features that mums and dads will appreciate just as much as teenagers
The 1.6-litre is front-wheel-drive with a six-speed manual gearbox, with the more powerful engine coming with four-wheel-drive and the option of a CVT automatic with seven 'ratios'.
On the move the Koleos is comfortable though it does nothing special - not that that should limit its appeal to the target customer; large family-friendly SUVs are rarely bought to be driven on their door handles and sensibly prioritise comfort and ease of use.
There is a lot to like about the Koleos. It is well equipped, with an interior ambience that offers a solid impression of a cut-price Volvo XC90, even if the driving experience falls short of that found in the upper echelons of the premium class.
Space, practicality and comfort are superb virtues for a family car, and on these the Koleos delivers in abundance.
Whether a large, five-seat family SUV fits in with your lifestyle and requirements will, of course, be entirely up to you; but if it does, then the Koleos is well worth consideration.
AT A GLANCE
Renault Koleos Signature dCi 175 4x4 X-Tronic
Price: £34,700. As tested £35,760. Options included: metallic paint £550; spare wheel £110; silver grey leather upholstery £400
Engine and transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo, automatic CVT gearbox with seven 'ratios', four-wheel-drive; 175bhp, 280lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 126mph, 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 47.9mpg (EU combined), 37.6mpg (real world), 156g/km - see P??
Car tax: £500 in first year, then £140 annually
Benefit in kind: 33 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (90/79/62/75), 2017