Uncomplicated SUV a good ride let down by a not-so-good CVT.
When I grew up, the inside of your everyday car was fairly simple. Apart from the dominee’s Mercedes-Benz and my uncle’s fancy BMW, there were no frills in the average cabin. A driver only had to contend with the analogue dials on the instrument cluster, a few levers operating the air vent system and volume knob on the radio. The red button with the triangle on that activates the hazard lights was usually stood out like a sore tooth on the otherwise humble dash boards.
The specification levels of your average car these days is a whole story altogether. All too often it’s a case of information overload with the myriad of buttons, settings and displays all vying for your attention. In fact, quite often it’s a case of you being so intimidated by everything that you can’t even find that good ol’ hazard button!
It was therefore quite refreshing spending a week in the updated Renault Koleos in Dynamique 4×4 guise recently purely based on its simplified instrument cluster. The irony is that the instrument cluster was left unchanged during the French SUV’s minor facelifted version which has been on offer locally since June which features mainly subtle cosmetic tweaks.
A large analogue-styled digital display changeable between a rev counter housing a digital speedometer reading and a traditional speedometer view is the focal point of the instrument cluster. An unobtrusive gear selector display, power and torque meters, Eco driving indicator, odometer reading and another info display line for either a trip, range or fuel consumption display rounds off the prominent centre piece. It is flanked by an analog oil temperature and fuel gauge on the sides.
For me this arrangement rates as a definite highlight of the Koleos alongside it’s stylish interior finishes, striking exterior features, roominess space, 210 mm ground clearance and very decent ride height which leads to good visibility.
Under the bonnet nothing has changed, with the only engine derivative for the entire Koleos a 2.5-litre petrol powerplant producing 126 kW of power and 233 Nm of torque. Depending on which mode you choose, this is sent either to the front or to all four wheels via CVT. Renault claims a fuel consumption figure of 8.8L/100km. We achieved 11.6L/100 km covering 291 km during its weeklong stay which is still very acceptable taking into account it was mostly city traffic for most of the time.
Renault made a bit of a fuss about what they call the Xtronic transmission it utilises in this CVT, the sole transmission option in the entire line-up. But in all honesty, it still behaves what you’d come to expect from a CVT. It’s just too loud and too often goes gear hunting, which dents an otherwise pleasant driving experience.
The Koleos handles very smoothly and feels solid on the road, but has the tendency to feel underpowered every now and again when you need that little extra oomph. We can’t help to think what this engine might have been capable of if coupled to a manual gearbox.
On the outside, the Koleos’ assertive presence is highlighted by the front C-shaped daytime running lights which extends beyond the headlight units and the wide taillights with bright 3D effects at the back. Side protective mouldings and two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels riding on 225/60 R18 rubberware rounds off the package.
Inside the Koleos offers a healthy dose of chic French finishing which includes satin chrome inserts on the steering wheel, gear lever and air vents, plus foamed materials on the dashboard and door trims. In Dynamique trim, the Koleos features an 8.7-inch R-Link 2 vertical infotainment system which features Smartphone Replication Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and satellite navigation. A voice recognition system activated from the steering wheel allows you to manage the navigation, phone calls, apps, e-mails and radio.
Rear passengers are the main beneficiaries from the 2 710 mm wheelbase, enjoying 289 mm knee room with plenty of head room to boot. The boot offers 464-litres of space which can be increased to 1 795-litres with the rear seats folded flat. The Koleos also features a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance systems, including Blind Spot Warning and 360 Park Assist.
Although the Koleos’ all-wheel drive system permanently monitors grip levels to guarantee optimal traction in all conditions, it still features a control switch to allow the driver to manually switch the transmission mode. The options are 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WS Lock.
In 2WD mode power is sent to the front wheels for optimal fuel consumption, while Renault’s All Mode 4×4-i system uses feedback from sensors to determine the front/rear torque split with up to 50% that can be distributed to the rear in 4WD Auto mode. 4WS Lock mode is suited for surfaces offering less grip. Torque is evenly split between the front and rear, provided the vehicle stays is kept at a speed of less than 40km/h.
Although not an out and out off-roader, the Koleos is equipped to wander off the tarmac. But taking into account that very few people will buy it for that purpose and it is destined to spend most of its life breathing smoggy city air, the R40 000 premium for the R514 900 4×4 Dynamique over the 4×2 Dynamique will probably make the latter the more popular choice.
The Koleos comes standard with a five-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty plus a five-year/90 000 km service plan and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty, with service intervals at 15 000 km.
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