Space is the only real frontier in this profoundly un-French SUV.
RENAULT has such high hopes for the all-new Renault Koleos that Australia was the first market in the world to receive the redesign last August, underscoring the medium SUV’s importance.
Significantly larger than its 2007-era predecessor, the more wagonoid Mk2 version with its longer rear overhang looks beefy in a sort of scaled-down Audi Q7 way, which is no bad thing.
Obviously, the growth spurt ushers in meaningful increases in interior room, including a huge back-seat and vast cargo space. It’s the same deal up front. Along with oodles of storage, excellent forward vision, and an agreeable driving position, it highlights the family-orientated practicality engineered inside. A five-year warranty is another bonus.
Yet there’s plenty of right-brain allure in there as well. Hot right now is a very Tesla-style vertical central touchscreen interface, allowing unfettered access to the latest multimedia systems, backed up by stylish instrumentation, multi-configurable mood lighting, a reverse camera, climate control, auto headlights and wipers, and even tyre pressure monitors on all variants.
With such a persuasive value argument, the Koleos possesses knockout showroom appeal. Who would have thought a European SUV could beat the Asian brands at their own game?
But scratch the surface and, aside from the left-hand side indicator stalk and diamond-shaped logo, there is nothing especially Renault or even French going on here. It won’t take long to spot the clumsy foot-operated park brake, charmless hard plastic trim, and dearth of cabin detailing flair found in the chic Renault Clio supermini, for instance.
As before, this Koleos is sourced from Samsung in South Korea, and shares much of its architecture with the existing, 2012-vintage Nissan X-Trail – including the latter’s long-lived 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT.
The good news here is that this proven and reliable Japanese powertrain ought to provide years of faithful and durable operation. It’s also easy to drive, cheap to service, and relatively efficient – the official fuel figures state that consumption has fallen by over one litre per 100km in this larger and heavier vehicle.
However, brand-expectation management needs to be applied here since Renault is renowned for offering some cracking engines. Not here, though.
Except when pottering around or cruising along the highway, the Koleos’s performance is way off the pace. Even under moderate acceleration it seems noisy and unsophisticated, and if you need instant go, reaction times can be frustratingly slow, before it will finally lunge forward. Stab the pedal. Wait. Then unrelenting droning as the CVT finally spools things up. The ageing X-Trail engine entrails cannot cut it in 2017.
Additionally, the steering is dispiritingly low-geared; the (strut front/multi-link rear) suspension struggles to cope with bumps without annoying the occupants inside; at speed the ride feels floaty; there is too much tyre noise; and our swerve test revealed ham-fisted ESC that was slow to react. Unfortunately for Renault, the more expensive but way more accomplished Volkswagen Tiguan was also present at COTY, and provided a chalk-and-cheese contrast.
Ultimately, Renault has rightly positioned the latest Koleos where it belongs – at the bottom of its segment. If you’re a loyalist searching for a true brand experience, there is no hope here...
Type: 5-door wagon, 5 seats
Boot capacity: 458 litres
Weight: 1552 – 1608kg
Layout: front engine (east-west), FWD/AWD
Engine: 2488cc 4cyl (126kW/226Nm)
Transmission: CVT automatic
Tyres: 225/65R17 – 225/60R18
ADR81 fuel consumption: 8.1 – 8.3L/100km
CO2 emissions: 188 – 192g/km
Collision mitigation: OPT
Crash rating: not tested
Prices: $29,990 – $43,490