Koleos: Combines flair and agility

I’ve been wracking my brain to find an analogy that will fit the new Renault Koleos 4×4. I haven’t fared well, but I suspect it might be because this new Renault is an intriguing vehicle. Throwing it into one of those convenient little boxes we like to use in the colonies: “just isn’t cricket.”

First off, the “crossover” tag that Renault packaged with it belies the fact that it’s a proper sized SUV. Undoubtedly that’s some shrewd marketing to keep people from dashing off the showroom floors at the sight of another SUV. But although it may not be an á la Qashqai “crossover” in size, the Koleos is a “crossover” in philosophy.

With very little fuss Renault has incorporated all the conveniences and chic attitude we love in its little town cars like the Clio and just stretched it out to fill the Koleos. The Parisian nonchalance is definitely not lost in this bigger car.

The interior sports best-in-class visibility out of the cabin. But Renault also supply some of the most user-friendly switch gears in the business. Everything falls to hand just as you’d expect and you come away from a Renault feeling just that bit more carefree.

The second point of intrigue is that the Koleos is actually very Japanese underneath. An off-roader by any other name really would be called the Nissan X-Trail. The Koleos uses the All Mode 4×4 system from Nissan and it’s the first all-wheel drive system Renault has ever put into a production car.

The system is manually operated from the centre console and switches between front- and four- wheel drive, with active sensors controlling torque split up to 50:50 front and rear. The 2.0-litre diesel engine offered in the Koleos range is also from Nissan. Except in the Renault it puts out 127kW at 3 750rpm and 360Nm at 2 000rpm, returning a claimed combined consumption of 7.9l/100km.

The CVT automatic gearbox offered in the petrol versions is also from Nissan, as is the very good six-speed manual gearbox. The only other powerplant offered in the Koleos is the 2.5-litre petrol, which makes 126kW but only 226Nm. Just as in the X-Trail and the Qashqai, the diesel engine is the one to have, the torque power delivery completes the whole driving experience.

The four-cylinder petrol unit sounds unrefined and zingy when it’s forced to rev to the redline, it offers far less torque and returns close to 9.5l/100km. The 2.5-litre engine is offered in 4×2, starting at R270 000 and 4×4 guise, with both a CVT and manual transmission. The diesel is only offered in 4×4 and manual.

On the face of it that isn’t a bad fusion. Renault comforts over Japanese 4×4 technologies. The exterior styling is unique and surprisingly functional. I would say it’s a pretty car, perhaps erring toward the girly, but it will look good parked on the curb at your local pub.

Despite the enormous Renault emblem bulging out the front, the Koleos offers best-in-class (with the exception of the more expensive Land Rover) 27 and 31 degree approach and departure angles. Skid plates front and rear are fitted standard for the South African market and that’s good, because you’ll need them when you know how the Koleos can contort its way, three wheeled, over ridiculous obstacles.

Perhaps to dissuade us from our “school-run reservations”, we were let loose at the De Wildt 4×4 “fun park” with our Koleos’ and with the Renault staff on hand to watch their new cars get dinged, walloped and beached on boulders. They waited with an encouraging word on the other side, proclaiming: “Ahem, nicely done there”.

So, thanks to this Nissan and Renault Alliance, we have an intriguing conundrum in the Renault Koleos. It’s undoubtedly a Renault in attitude and feel and it gleans all its technology from Nissan.

Thanks to some thoughtful body design it can actually out-trail a Nissan X-Trail. But maybe not a Nissan Qashqai that has all the same technology in 4×4 dci spec and a R50 000 price advantage. You can’t deny the Renault has the Nissan beat for flair.

Fast facts
Model: Renault Koleos 4×4 manual dci
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo diesel
Price: R345 000
Tech: 127kW at 3 750rpm and 360Nm at 2 000rpm
Top Speed: 191kph, 0-100kph in 9,0s
Consumption: 7.9l/100km
Service Intervals: 15 000km

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