When you hear the name Renault, you don’t immediately think of SUVs. However, the French automaker offers many crossover/SUVs, from the Stepway and Duster, to the Captur and Koleos, there’s a model for every budget.  The high-riding Renault family is led by the Koleos. An all-new Renault Koleos was launched earlier this year and we recently drove the newcomer for a few days.

Smartly handsome

Typically, when new cars are introduced into the market onlookers can tell. A novel/new design garners inquisitive stares and the occasional question from a keen observer in a parking lot. The Renault Koleos didn’t illicit any interest based on its appearance, which is not to say it’s an unattractive proposition.

Renault’s signature C-shaped headlamp treatment and a large grille dominate the façade. Crease lines on the bonnet create an impression of power, as do the puffed out fenders. 18-inch alloys, on this Dynamique variant, add to the sense of muscularity. The rear reminds one strongly of the current Megane, with its wide taillamps that nearly meet on the centre of the rear door. Overall, we found the appearance is quite masculine and mature in execution.

Click here to read our thoughts on the new Toyota RAV4.

Sombre, spacious interior

This grown-up demeanour is carried into the interior treatment. Black leather upholstery is used for most of the trim, broken up by slivers of chrome. Thankfully the pillars and roof lining are of a lighter hue to break things up a bit, or else the cabin would have felt quite claustrophobic.

Pride of place on the facia is Renault’s R-Link2 full-colour, touchscreen, 8,7-inch infotainment interface. It offers a full suite of wireless phone connectivity, satellite navigation, as well as two USB ports inside the centre armrest. The screen also relays info from the parking sensors, as well as a view from the rear-facing camera when reverse is selected. The Arkamys audio system is booming good, too, with eight speakers belting out distortion-free tunes and tight bass response even at high volumes.

A really nifty feature is the air-conditioned cup holders between the front seats. Speaking of the front chairs, in the Dynamique 4×4 (as we had on review) they both offer electric adjustment for height and reach, with driver’s side also featuring lumbar support. The rear bench offers ample shoulder room for three adults as well as enough knee room for even taller passengers as demonstrated on a Sunday lunch outing.

Renault’s press info claims a massive 464 litres of boot volume, and we believe it, too. During our review period items were swallowed up by the cavernous area, some never to be seen again… Should you require even more packing space the rear backrests can be folded flat, made easy by remote levers inside the boot.

Click here to read our Hyundai Sante Fe launch review.

Old-tech

Renault usually takes any opportunity to underline the links between its F1 team and road-car turbo technology. So it is a surprise to learn that the Koleos is powered by a naturally aspirated engine. The 2,5-litre petrol powerplant is mated with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that, in the case of our test unit, can send power to all four wheels. The engine response is somewhat blunted by the transmission. I think we have become so used to driving force-fed engines, with the associated low-end torque, that naturally aspirated engines can feel lethargic in comparison.

In the 4×4 Renault Koleos drivers can select between front- or all-wheel drive modes, or with the system set to auto, let the ECU decided which is ideal for prevailing conditions. A handy 210 mm ground clearance makes the Renault Koleos ideal for kerb-hopping and despite the all-wheel-drive system we expect owners won’t be doing any bundu-bashing.

Clunky car

French family cars, by and large, tend to have great ride quality. The Renault Koleos does have good manners, except that road imperfections are transmitted into the cabin as noise. This sensation was in the back of my mind for this review, then my significant other made the comment that it feels like a clunky car. The ride quality is not the worst, or best we’ve ever experienced, but the noises add a level of intrusion that makes you acutely aware that the suspension is working.

Summary

If you are in the market for an SUV, and the sales charts would suggest that nearly everyone is, then you have a plethora of options to choose from. Every manufacturer builds a crossover/SUV with variations in engines, drivetrains and size.

Renault Koleos is a good attempt in this segment, it is comprehensively specced (including a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and 5-year/90 000 km service plan) and has loads of space. However, there are plenty of good options in the market and I suspect that we won’t see as many Koleos on the road as competitor models from Toyota, VW, Honda or the Korean twins, Hyundai and Kia.

Model: Renault Koleos 4×4 Dynamique

Engine: 2,5-litre inline four

Transmission: CVT, AWD

Max power: 126 kW

Max torque:  233 N.m

Top speed: 199 km/h

0-100 km/h: 9,8 sec

Fuel consumption: 8,8 L/100 km