If there is to be a poster child of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the Renault Koleos would be it. First introduced in 2006, the Koleos was the Renault brand’s first crossover SUV, and it sensibly drew on expertise from sister brand Nissan, which provided the X-Trail platform to underpin it.
Produced in Korea at the Renault Samsung plant, the first-generation Koleos was met with mixed response – doing well in some markets, but less so in others – despite the prevalent boom of SUV-type vehicles over the past decade. Far from being dissuaded, Renault went back to the drawing board and refined its approach for a renewed crack at the pie with the second-generation Koleos unveiled earlier this year.
The same basic formula of utilizing the X-Trail’s hardware to underpin the vehicle is continued, but with substantially improved execution. A renewed focus is placed on crafting a vehicle with more upmarket aspirations and thus exert a greater pull factor to the affluent customers who typically shop in this price bracket.
Price: RM172,800 (CBU, OTR without Insurance)
Engine: 2.5-litre, Inline-4 Transverse, Petrol
Power: 171PS @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 226Nm @ 4,400rpm
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, ISOFIX
Origin: Fully imported from Korea.
Only one version of the Koleos is available to Malaysians at the moment, and it is a highly-specced 2.5-litre model offered in a front-wheel drive configuration. Inevitably, comparisons have to be drawn with the Nissan X-Trail, which the Koleos not only shares much of its running gear with, but also runs very close on price.
The locally-assembled Nissan would seem to be the better value option at first glance, offering seats for seven and the superior traction of all-wheel drive when ordered in 2.5-litre form. Both versions of the X-Trail are also priced lower than the fully-imported Koleos. Despite its common hardware with the X-Trail, Renault offers the Koleos solely as a five-seater across the world.
Standard equipment of the Koleos is nevertheless impressive. Granted, it loses the useful 360-degree around view monitor that is standard for the X-Trail, but the deficit is more than adequately compensated by the provision of six airbags and the highly slick R-Link 2 infotainment system. In any case, reverse camera and all-round parking sensors are provided as well.
Compared to its predecessor, the Koleos has grown both in size and stature. Front to back, the new car stretches 152mm longer whilst spanning 12mm wider than before; wheelbase too, is lengthened, albeit by only 15mm.
Complimenting the expanded dimensions are bolder and more expressive styling cues that give the new car far greater road presence. The intricate headlamp designs provide the vehicle a more distinctive face and LED lighting elements front and rear add to the vehicle’s overall perceived value. The new Koleos may be priced lower than its predecessor, but it sure as hell looks like a more expensive vehicle.
Commensurate with its expressive exterior design, the Koleos’ interior is accordingly packaged to give a convincingly upmarket impression. Taking centre stage in the cabin is the slick new R-Link 2 infotainment system that consists of a smooth-operating 8.7-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen complemented by a TFT screen semi-virtual instrument cluster. Both display screens can be customized in appearance as well as information to display.
The fancy infotainment system instantly help raise the cabin’s showroom appeal which other elements accordingly maintain. Overall build quality is excellent and we reason to complain neither on fit and finish nor quality of materials. Tactile feel of switchgear is generally excellent too.
We are not big fans of Renault’s eccentric ergonomics however – if there is a logic to place the cruise control on/off switch on the centre console rather than on the steering wheel, it’s certainly beyond us. Neither do we understand the need for a separate control stalk to place the audio controls.
Moving astern, without the need to fit a third row of seats, Renault’s designers have far less constraints in packaging the Koleos’ rear end than Nissan’s had with the X-Trail. Second row accommodations are therefore spacious on both head and legroom, and so is the rear cargo hold, under which there is room for a full sized spare tyre. Conveniently placed latches allow easy tumbling of the 60:40 split-folding rear seats although the result is a seamless but not perfectly flat expanded cargo floor.
Nissan X-Trail owners who fail to recognize the Koleos’ common origins with their vehicles in appearance will instantly be reminded by familiar sensations when they get behind the wheel and hit the road.
Straight line performance will not trouble the sporty end of the spectrum by any stretch of the imagination. The 2.5-litre port injection mill delivers adequate push when summoned, and the CVT seems to overwhelmingly prefer occupying the higher ratios when possible in the interest of fuel economy.
The result of these behavioural characteristics is that the Koleos seem to exhibit an entirely appropriate preference for gentle and refined cruising. Any attempts at spirited driving, particularly on hilly terrain, will require extensive usage of the manual selection mode, in which six virtual ratios are provided.
That being said, if you’re in the mood to gun it, the chassis happily obliges; on dry tarmac, the Koleos hardly feels handicapped by the lack of all-wheel traction around corners. Body movements feel well-controlled too, sufficiently conducive for a driver so minded to string a few brisk corners with reasonable confidence. Steering is satisfactory in its sharpness and weight, but is less communicative in its feedback than we would have liked.
Comfort & Refinement
The positive side about the Koleos’ close ties with the X-Trail is that the Nissan’s inherent refinement is also evident in the Renault. Though it can be lazy when asked to work, the X-Tronic is as smooth and as refined as CVTs come under part-throttle cruising. Engine too, is quiet, meaning that this is a vehicle that scores highly for long-distance outings with the family.
Ride errs on the firm side, but pliant enough to serviceable for day-to-day urban use. The suspension does a fair job isolating the cabin from long-wave undulations, but occasionally gets caught out by sharper intrusions such as bumps and potholes.
Economy & Maintenance
Over a 300km test route covering a mix of urban, highway, and hilly roads, we recorded a fuel consumption reading of 9.9 litres/100km – extremely commendable in the context of a 2.5-litre engine powering a heavy SUV. It is comparable to what we managed under similar conditions with the lighter 2.0-litre Mitsubishi ASX, which admittedly also had the added burden of all-wheel drive. Interestingly, we managed the same figure with the X-Trail 2.5 AWD.
Renault has yet to publish servicing costs for the Koleos, but if the mechanically-related X-Trail 2.5 AWD is any indication, you’re looking at a total of RM6,700 in maintenance over a period of 5 years or 100,000km. Both the Koleos and X-Trail have prescribed service intervals of 6 months / 10,000km.
Bland; anonymous – these were adjectives that would have summed up the previous Koleos. A competent car, but without any defining characteristic to shout about. The new one addresses these concerns positively.
Renault evidently realized that they were on the right track with the previous model, but did not go quite far enough in its execution; they seem to have gotten the approach right this time. In a segment filled with competitive rivals, the Koleos stands out proudly with its bold styling and upmarket cabin.
By any metric you can consider, the new Koleos is far superior to the vehicle it replaces and definitely far worthier of your consideration. It is slightly more expensive than the mainstream choices, but convincingly embodies the look and feel of a premium product.