2016 Renault Koleos review 85-1

Renault has been on a bit of resurgence of late, beginning with the fourth-generation Clio back in 2012, followed by the new Captur, Kadjar, Talisman and the Megane (sedan and hatch). The latest piece to this rebirth puzzle is the new Koleos, which made its world debut at the 2016 Beijing Motor Show.

Positioned above the Kadjar and Captur, the second-generation SUV retains the same nameplate as its predecessor, which wasn’t the most memorable of vehicles, let’s be frank. Despite being introduced here in 2012, followed by a facelift about two years later, spotting a Koleos on the road isn’t an easy task, at least for this writer.

Never mind the past then, as the new Koleos will soon be launched in Malaysia come September. The new vehicle brings with it everything new (save for its name), but is it any good? We head on to France to find out if the new Koleos aces it.

A quick look at the heritage first. The first-generation Koleos employed a Renault/Nissan C platform, along with the second-generation (T31) X-Trail’s QR25DE 2.5 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine (Malaysian-spec).

For the new car, Renault has decided to adopt the same development strategy as before, by utilising a common architecture that originated from the Renault-Nissan Alliance partnership. This time, it is the Common Module Family-CD (CMF-CD) modular platform, which also underpins the third-generation (T32) Nissan X-Trail.

This grants the Koleos with a wheelbase of 2,705 mm, an increase of 15 mm from its predecessor. The new vehicle is also longer by 153 mm (4,673 mm), but is shorter by 17 mm (1,678 mm) and sheds 12 mm from its width (1,843 mm) compared to before.

Under the hood, the Koleos continues to employ the Japanese SUV’s powerplant – the QR25DE 2.5 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine (listed as the SCe 170 this time around). Producing 170 PS at 6,000 rpm and 226 Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm, the mill is paired with an X-Tronic CVT, with drive being directed to the front or all four wheels.

For Malaysia, the 2WD powertrain combo will be offered initially; there’s no word on whether the 4WD variant will be made available at launch or later in the future. In other markets across five continents, where the five-seater Koleos will be also be sold, additional petrol and diesel engines, as well as a six-speed manual gearbox are offered as well.

In terms of exterior styling, the Koleos is almost unrecognisable from the model before it, and adopts the same design cues as the latest Renault models, the Talisman and Megane. Cues include C-shaped DRLs, LED front headlamps and rear tail lamps that extend inwards to the Renault badge.

At the front, the Koleos’ grille, with its four horizontal slats, is another hallmark of Renault’s new visual identity. Put together, this bold new look is what what the carmaker labels as a “Powerful Design,” and fulfills Renault’s vice-president of exterior design, Anthony Lo’s requirement that the French marque’s offering should be “instantly recognisable” upon first glance.

Other exterior highlights include 18-inch Argonaute alloy wheels (wrapped with Nexen tyres), chrome side window surrounds and plastic cladding for the vehicle’s lower body section. Those gills under the side mirrors are there purely for aesthetics, as the lines originating from the front headlamps needed a place to end.

Personally, this writer thinks the Koleos is a rather good-looking SUV, with looks that firmly distinguishes itself from its association to the X-Trail, even when both are placed side-by-side. Compared to its predecessor, the new SUV also cuts a more commanding look and stance, despite its reduction in width and height.

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Moving into the Koleos, the main attraction is the large 8.7-inch R-Link 2 touchscreen infotainment system that dominates a large area of the dashboard. The system handles all your multimedia, navigation, dual-zone climate control and telephony needs, and is linked to a 13-speaker Bose sound system and the vehicle’s reverse camera.

The system itself is pretty intuitive and easy to get the hang of, with an interface that feels smartphone-like. Aside from the aforementioned capabilities, other functions like the SUV’s driving aids, ambient lighting and even user profiles are accessed through it. The R-Link system also features built-in app support and real-time traffic info, although those features require an active internet connection via an integrated SIM card.

Elsewhere, there is a generous amount of leather and soft-touch materials to provide an upmarket feel to things, representing a major step up from before, and even exceeds the cabin of its X-Trail sibling. Items like the customisable colour TFT instrument cluster, ventilated front seats and wood-like gloss trim on the centre console compounds the feeling further.

For rear passengers, the Koleos is a major improvement from its predecessor in terms of space (Renault is quoting 289 mm of knee room). It’s also pretty comfortable as well, and there are even amenities that smartphone-totting occupants will appreciate, like dual USB charging ports.

Those concerned about practicality should know that there is 489 litres of boot space (without the tonneau cover installed), and up to 1,690 litres of cargo capacity when the 60:40 split-folding rear seats are laid down. Numerous stowage spaces are also available, and the cupholders located in the centre console are capable of heating or cooling your drinks as well.

Jumping into the driver’s seat, the media drive itself consisted of two portions – a short escapade at a vehicle testing centre, as well as a drive to Renault’s barge the following day. On both excursions, we were handed the keys to an Intens SCe 170 Xtronic All Mode 4×4-i variant of the Koleos.

The first portion was meant to highlight the off-road capabilities of the Koleos, where a single button located beside the steering wheel cycles through the car’s all-wheel drive modes – 2WD, Auto, 4WD and 4WD lock – with the latter ensuring an even split of power (50:50) between both axles.

Unsurprisingly, the Koleos managed to handle sandy paths, steep inclines and declines, as well as bumpy terrain without having the need for a tow, or causing a lot of discomfort to the vehicle’s occupants. Features such as a 19-degree approach, 26-degree departure and a 213-mm ground clearance are helpful stats as well, but the lack of a hill descent control feature or chunky tyres puts the Koleos in the “soft-roader” bracket.

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Impressive as it may be, we don’t expect a majority of buyers to spend a lot of their time trudging through a forest on the regular. Which is why the second part of the drive was a little more relevant for a family SUV.

For the on-road portion, we were told to follow a 109 km-long route that would take us to a barge, and it had to be accomplished within a two-hour deadline. While not a very lengthy (or timely) drive, the route itself saw us making our way through the Parisian capital before making a short stint on the highway and then navigating through various French suburbs.

Around the city, the Koleos’ Nissan-sourced powertrain was pretty capable, providing good low-end acceleration, without the feeling that the engine was being strained. The X-Tronic CVT isn’t the quickest to respond, but be gentle and progressive with the accelerator pedal, and it’s buttery smooth.

Dynamically, the Koleos’ electrically-assisted power steering expectedly leaves a lot to be desired when its come to feedback, but is easy to handle when making tight turns – something city drivers can appreciate. Throughout the drive, there was no lack of confidence navigating the sizeable SUV, even when encountering narrow French roads that could induce butt-clenching moments.

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In terms of comfort, the Koleos did well to dampen most of the undulations it rolled over. From brick to tarmac and even cobblestone roads, the Koleos was a comfortable car to be seated in, on par with its X-Trail sibling and better than the competition (Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V), this writer thinks. NVH levels were also kept in check, save for a few minor shortcomings like the audible whine from the CVT on hard acceleration and noticeable tyre roar when travelling at high speeds.

As for safety kit, the Koleos has six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), ESC, traction control, ABS with EBD and BA, as well as hill start assist as standard. Other additional kit (market-dependant) include fatigue detection, a blind spot monitor, lane keep assist and speed limit signboard recognition.

Like the previous Koleos, the majority of the production of the second-gen model in right-hand drive guise will take place at the Busan plant of Renault Samsung Motors. The CBU model is already open for booking with a price of RM172,800 on-the-road without insurance, which does pose a bit of a problem.

While the new Koleos may be impressive, rivals like the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and even the Nissan X-Trail are priced below it, making them pretty enticing offers while offering nearly the same kit as the French SUV. Be that as it may, there’s no denying that the Koleos brings with it a more premium approach to things, which may be the main pulling factor here.