- We like...Split tailgate, easy drop seats
- We don't...High price, gawky looks
This is Renault's first off-roader. But is it talented enough to stop you from buying a Freelander or a CR-V?When it comes to making an off-roader, Renault is late to the party. It’s not made a full-on field-crosser before, though there have been all-wheel-drive variants of the Espace, Scenic and Kangoo. Now, courtesy of the tie-up between Renault and Nissan – who bring to the partnership decades-long experience of making off-roaders big and small – Renault gives us the Koleos.
It’s pitched as a direct rival to the Honda CR-V and Land Rover’s Freelander, so it needs to be pretty good to keep up with two such accomplished cars. Renault tells us that it’s a ‘crossover’, which is a word that marketing folk seem to love but which baffles most buyers. To explain, the idea is that the Koleos bridges the gap between big, tough off-road machines and ordinary cars.
But it is a full-on off-roader, using the same body underpinnings and all-wheel-drive system as Nissan’s X-trail, which is recognised as among the most capable of its breed across rough ground.
The Koleos looks different from any rival but its appearance divides opinions. From some angles it looks like a big, beefed up Clio, and that’s good. But, particularly when viewed from the rear three-quarters, it looks awkward – and it takes more than an instant to clock whether it’s coming towards you or going away.
Renault’s worked to make the Koleos as handy as it can be and this shows in its split tailgate that’s useful to perch on while hauling muddy boots on and off and rear seats that drop flat at the full of twin levers sited next to the tailgate. The front passenger’s seat can be folded flat, too.
Inside, it’s smart, high quality and very car-like. Mind you, our top-of-the-tree Privilege model isn’t cheap. It is well equipped, however, boasting satellite navigation, leather heated seats and a thumping stereo as standard items. It’s also practical – the glove box is big and cooled, while the centre console has a removable inner box. There are also twin storage bins let into the floor.
You sit lower than you would in some rivals, but the view ahead is still clear and commanding thanks to its big windscreen and sloping bonnet, although rear vision is restricted by its oddly shaped rump.
Entry is simple thanks to Renault’s hands free card. Providing you have the credit-card sized card in your pocket, the doors unlock at a touch and the engine fires when you thumb the stop-start button. When leaving, you touch a small button on the handle to lock up. It’s very useful and one of the few such systems that we’ve tried that’s genuinely handier than the key-and-plipper that we’re all used to.
The Koleos rides softly and smoothly, heeling over a fair bit should you enter a bend too fast. But it dsn’t feel excessive and is otherwise one of the more soothing 4x4s in which to cover long distances. The steering gives too little sense of what the front tyres are up to, but is otherwise precise enough and, like the other controls, is sensibly weighted.
The 2.0-litre diesel is good at delivering plenty of heavy-hauling power at low engine speeds but it also settles to a muted cruise at the motorway maximum. It’s also reasonably economical and low on exhaust emissions.
There’s much to like about the Koleos. It’s easy to pilot, smooth on the go and very practical. It’s not quite up there with the Freelander or the CR-V. But if you like Renaults and want an off-roader, it’ll be a prime choice. The only caution we’d advise is this: Renaults aren’t the best for retaining much of their second-hand value as the years pass and the Koleos, we fear, mayn’t be an exception.
- Engines2.0 dCi
- 0-60 mph12.3secs
- Insurance groups11E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: