Renault Koleos dCi PriVilege

French firm’s new 4x4 is a refined drive and packed with standard kit

Getting it right first time is tough, but that’s what Renault bosses are hoping to do with the Koleos. Incredibly, this is the firm’s first proper 4x4 – it’s a very late arrival to the compact SUV party.

The designers had a clean sheet, yet the Koleos looks anonymous next to the sleek Kuga. Even the chunky underbody protection and matching silver roof rails can’t disguise its uninspiring design.

Inside, the classy trim materials and neat switchgear provide a high-quality feel, but the dashboard lacks flair. There are few complaints with the kit, though. In flagship Privilège trim, the more expensive Renault outshines its rival with a full-length glass sunroof, full leather upholstery, a Bose stereo, xenon headlamps and sat-nav. At the back, there’s a neat two-piece tailgate. The upper section rises to provide access in confined spaces, while the lower portion folds forwards, doubling as a picnic benchand making loading large objects easy. However, retrieving smaller items from the back of the bay can be a stretch.

The 450-litre boot is competitive – and if you fold the rear seats you get 1,380 litres to play with. The Ford musters 360 and 1,355 litres respectively, so the Renault wins the space race. But on the road, the Koleos plays second fiddle. Its suspension is tuned to maximise comfort at the expense of handling.

Jump behind the wheel after driving the Kuga, and the Renault’s shortcomings are thrown into focus. The soft set-up results in so much body roll that you end up hanging on to the wheel to stay in your seat, while the steering lacks accuracy. In a straight line, the Koleos’ 148bhp 2.0-litre dCi engine has a 14bhp power advantage, and the Renault sprints from 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds –two-tenths faster than the Ford. But in real world conditions, there’s little difference.

Motorways are where the Renault performs best – its gutsy engine, smooth ride and quiet cabin make for relaxed cruising.

On initial impressions, the Koleos’ brakes are stronger. Yet while the Renault took only 44.6 metres to come to a halt from 70mph at the first attempt, subsequent stops merely matched the Kuga’s distance of 52.9 metres.

So, will Renault’s focus on comfort and equipment pay off – or will the dynamic Ford claim yet another victory?

Details

Price: £23,495Model tested: Renault Koleos 2.0 dCiChart position: 1WHY: Renault’s first compact SUV is joining what is currently a hugely competitive sector.

Economy

It’s a double whammy for the Renault, which costs more to buy and run than its rival. As it sits in Band F, annual road tax is £210 at the moment, but expect that to rise to £260 when new rules come into force next year. Servicing will be pricier than for the Ford, too. Company car drivers will also find the Koleos harder on their pockets, as it attracts a 30 per cent rating – significantly higher than the Kuga’s 24 per cent. The Renault partially redeems itself with its raft of standard kit, but only if you want the extras it provides. Lower-spec models look more attractive, although two-wheel-drive cars offer only small gains in economy and CO2 emissions.

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