As the Renault-Nissan alliance completes thirteen fruitful years, the Koleos 2012 proves to be a worthy offspring and a bundle of joy to those looking for an SUV with comfortable interiors, confident handling and one that can actually take the great outdoors in its stride even if not the outback.
Despite its compact appearance, the Koleos speaks the “vantage language” of an SUV on the road, right from the view it affords you. With the choice of switching to a full-time 4 x 4 (tried and tested in the Nissan Extrail) and features like hill assist traction, those 18” wheels can happily lead you to a reasonable share of adventure off the blacktop as well.
On a regular drive, the Koleos grips the road well and displays respectable cornering skills. But the steering lacks feel and there is a bit of under-steer during faster attempts. A heavy feeling, that adds a sense of security in straight lines, withholds the car’s willingness to be thrown about. Sure, the handling is good – as long as you have your right foot in control.
I haven’t been a great fan of most CVT drive trains – it’s just that I don’t quite favour the feeling of “where is this whole thing leading to?” In the Koleos, the CVT transmission seemed an endless drone during throaty pickups. Which made the 0-100 in under 10 sec feel much longer, an otherwise decent figure for its 170 hp output. On calmer drives, however, the throw is much shorter and more enjoyable.
The front and rear ventilated discs make for effective braking but on a different note, I found the car hasty in losing speed as soon as I took my foot off the pedal; almost pulled back by its own weight.
Despite the minor gripes, the Koleos keeps you feeling confident on the road. The vehicle offers plenty of guidance through the blind spot segment on the driver-side mirror, cornering lights that are usually a premium feature, and a Park Assist that leads by the ear.
Designed to subtly showcase Renault’s love for beveled hexagons, the new Renault Koleos looks impressive with the family’s refreshed grille. The lights, though unassuming and practical, give the façade a purposeful look. The inward bent tail end evokes the Range Rover as a passing reference – but that could be why the Koleos looks better from the rear.
Cabin and controls
Just like most of the new-age Renaults, the interior looks elegant – without having to resort to any jazz. The leather seats come with heating and electric adjustments and they are comfortable enough though not plush or expensive-looking.
Typical of French design, the cruise control and speed-limiter are built into an elusive stalk behind the wheel. But the speedometer in the Koleos was quite un-French in that its calibration did not use odd numbers like 90 and 110! The dual automatic AC with dual vents at the back cools the Koleos pretty well but leaves you wishing for fewer console buttons.
The cabin is not one of those silent types, but you will be pleased to override the sounds of the road and the wind by switching on some good music. The hedge-like design of the inner dash where the speakers are, along with the “footwell effect” makes the 8-speaker Bose stereo one of the best auditory experiences in the whole of Renault range. The centre speaker at the top deck is visually interesting as well, placed like a music pod.
Koleos is one of the few vehicles that still would nag you with an over-speed warning till the cows come home – or you get home! But then, that is a small price to pay for an SUV with a Euro N-cap 5-star safety assurance.
The Koleos is built for your school run. With its child-view mirror, it lets you check if your toddler has squiggled free of his seat or seatbelt, without turning around. But chances are, they will be busy looking out for a bird, a plane or superman in the wide sky. The retractable roof in Koleos is extended with a glass roof for a panoramic effect with only the safety bar in between.
For Friday escapes, the Koloes comes equipped with a top railing while the trays behind the front seats make for lunch-on-the-drive. The boot space is adequate by compact crossover standards, with holding nets and a foldable top restraint in place. The Koleos provides added storage in the door arm and deep armrest compartment. You’ll find the split tailgate a useful innovation.
Reminders are such a useful thing. Your spouse, or definitely the bank, would help you remember your loan payment. But it takes a caring car to tell you to pick up the smart key card on your way out as well as to engage its press-button parking brake.
The essential Koleos
Starting at AED 75,500, Renault Koleos compares favourably with most compact SUVs, especially due to its satisfying off-road abilities. Except the base Koleos, all three trim levels come with the 4×4 option along with the standard 2.5 L engine. The full option costs around AED 12000 more – but it’s worth the 18” alloys, lateral and curtain airbags, ESP, under-steer control, uphill start assist, an 8-speaker Bose sound system, Xenon headlights and more. But what I would pay that extra for is the cool look of the white Koleos with that dark spread of panoramic sunroof above.
UPSIDE: Decent off-road abilities / Premium features like Cornering lamps and panoramic roof / Helpful driving guidance / Good family features
FLIPSIDE: Moderate cornering skills at higher speeds / Panoramic roof partially retractable / Dull and noisy during acceleration bursts
Drive Courtesy: Arabian Automobiles
Pictures: Supplied/Sudeep Koshy