Renault Koleos 2.0 dCi

French giant ventures into the compact SUV class for the first time with a little help from Nissan.

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

IF you’re arriving late to a party, you’d better bring something special. The Koleos simply doesn’t. Neither good looking nor particularly fun to drive, Renault’s first SUV is another competent, practical and well made off-roader that will appeal to those who want a touch of 4x4 ability and a high driving position. It’s by no means a bad car, it’s just not a very inspiring one. The trouble for Renault is that there are plenty of better choices on the market.

If you need to learn something new fast, it’s best to seek the advice of an expert. And that’s exactly what Renault has done with its first SUV, the Koleos.

The firm has pooled the resources of partner Nissan – a car company with more than a little off-road knowledge – and the French firm has brought the Koleos to market sooner than it could ever have done on its own.

But although it shares much with proven machines such as the X-Trail and Qashqai crossover model, it’s actually arriving late to a party that’s full of talented competition. So, is the newcomer up to the task when compared to Ford’s Kuga and the Volkswagen Tiguan? Well, not when it comes to turning heads. Renault models have always been known for their styling flair – but inspiration seems to have dried up for the off-roader.

Yes, there are chunky side panels and roof rails to add some muscle, but the oversized headlights, large grille and small wheels don’t combine well with the chubby body. It looks a bit like a hippo as a result.

However, it is highly practical. There’s a handy split-opening tailgate, which allows great access in tight spaces, while the boot itself has a 450-litre luggage area, which rises to 1,380 litres when you fold the rear seats flat. Inside, there is plenty of room for occupants and no shortage of equipment, with the range-topping Privilège model offering leather, satellite navigation and a great sounding stereo.

There are no quibbles to be had over quality, either. The dashboard is a little drab in its design, but the materials used throughout are impressive.

The majority of Koleos models will be sold with diesel power, which is why Renault has decided to offer two new 2.0-litre units – one with 148bhp, the other with 178bhp. We tested the former, which manages a 0-60mph time of 10.4 seconds, returns 38.2mpg on the combined cycle and has CO2 emissions of 197g/km. This powerplant is smooth and torquey on the road, with decent cruising refinement, yet has plenty of torque for overtaking.

Less impressive is the Koleos’ handling. There’s a lot of body roll and the suspension is soft, while vague steering means it’s not much fun to drive.

However, it is comfortable and cushions occupants from bumps very well indeed. Venture off road, and the Koleos has more than enough traction and ground clearance to cope with the worst that owners will ever throw at it. Prices are competitive, too, with entry-level 2WD diesel models starting at £17,995 in Dynamique spec. Our car, a top-of-the-range four-wheel-drive Privilège model starts at £23,495. Pound for pound, Renault claims its new car is around £3,000 cheaper than an identically equipped Ford Kuga.

However, it would be worth bearing in mind that the Renault’s residual values are unlikely to be as strong as the Ford’s. The problem for the Koleos is that it simply isn’t quite as good to drive, or to sit in, as its Kuga or Tiguan rivals. Renault has learned fast about this sector, but it still has some way to go.

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