- Well equipped
- Spacious interior
- Excellent warranty
- Uninspired drivetrain
- Basic AEB/no radar cruise
- Expensive servicing
Australian buyers want SUVs and manufacturers are taking note. The 2020 Renault Koleos is a prime example. The first-generation Koleos was the French carmaker’s first proper SUV (ignoring the jacked up Scenic RX4) – with 4×4 knowhow borrowed from alliance partner Nissan and assembling taking place in Busan, South Korea – the mid-sized SUV quickly became one of Renault Australia’s best-selling models. In 2016, the second-generation Koleos picked up where the previous model left off – usurping the baby Clio as Renault’s best-selling model in Australia.
Fast forward to 2020 and Renault has made its intentions clear. In terms of conventional passenger car offerings, all bar the Renault Sport Megane have been culled in favour of an all-SUV lineup. The Koleos now leads Renault’s charge into SUV territory. So, how does it fare compared to more established rivals? Let’s find out.
Price & Specs: 8.0/10
Buyers can take their pick from the Life, Zen and Intens in the 2020 Renault Koleos range, with a limited Black Edition also being on offer at the time of writing. The Life starts from $32,990 drive away, but our test model was the full loaded Intens with all-wheel drive, which can be yours for $45,790 drive away. Enticing value for a top-of-the-range European SUV (albeit one that’s built in Korea) with a seven-year warranty.
It also scores a good amount of kit. All Koleos models get LED daytime running lights, front and rear fog lights, 17-inch alloys wheels, a reversing camera with rear parking sensors, low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-departure warning. Inside you get a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display, dual-zone climate control, an electronic handbrake, automatic light and wipers.
The Intens adds 19-inch alloy wheels, full-LED headlights, 360º parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, extra lashings of chrome and a panoramic sunroof to distinguish it from lesser Koleoses. Inside, you’re treated with leather upholstery with electric, heated and cooled seats up front, woodgrain trimmings with ambient lighting, LED interior lighting, Renault’s proximity keycard with push button start and remote start, a bigger portrait 8.7-inch infotainment touchscreen, an 11-speaker Bose sound system, two extra USB ports at the rear and a powered tail gate.
Curious anomalies include the fact that Renault is yet to introduce a more advanced AEB setup with radar cruise or a 360º camera in the Koleos, considering both are available in its Japanese cousin. Also, the Koleos can only be had with five seats whereas the X-Trail can be had with seven.
It compares well with rivals such as the Kia Sportage, which can be had in GT-Line petrol for $47,536 drive away with premium paint to match our Koleos. Buyers looking at other European offerings can opt for a Volkswagen Tiguan for similar money, but matching the Koleos Intens AWD would mean climbing to the 132TSI and adding both the ‘Sound & Vision’ and ‘Luxury’ packs, which bloats the price to $55,390. Then again, both come standard with high-speed AEB and offer rear cross-traffic alert.
Performance & Economy: 6.5/10
Buyers looking for a typically European drivetrain will be surprised to find that the Koleos is anything but. Instead, it solely offers a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which sends power to the front wheels or all four wheels, depending on what model you go for. Sound familiar? It should, as the exact same engine and gearbox is shared with the popular Nissan X-Trail courtesy of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. It produces a modest 126kW of power and 226Nm of torque. The 2020 Renault Koleos Intens can also be had with a switchable AWD system that allows the driver to choose between two-wheel drive, auto or lockable all-wheel drive.
Our Koleos was the Intens AWD, meaning that it’s 0-100 time is claimed to be 9.8 seconds rather than the two-wheel drive’s 9.5 second claim. While those are respectable if rather pedestrian numbers for the segment, the CVT does its best to dull performance. Rather than the instantaneous satisfaction you get from a dual clutch or conventional torque converter automatic, sharp prods of the accelerator result in the CVT flaring revs with very little in the way of hurried progress. It’s a bizarre sensation because light to medium throttle inputs are met with a reasonable amount of go. Overall, the transmission will leave those wanting a sportier drive unsatisfied with its noisy and lethargic performance.
The CVT also failed to aid economy, with the fuel consumption surging to 11.6L/100km with the drivetrain set in 2WD and eco mode in mostly urban conditions. The absence of engine stop/start and a lack of highway kilometres are likely to been the culprits of the high consumption figure, but also shows that the claimed combined figure of 8.1L/100km is not realistic for those who don’t plan on leaving the city. It’s a shame that Renault killed the diesel option when the Koleos was facelift late last year, as it would benefit greatly from the extra torque and better economy.
A Kia Sportage offers a better engine and transmission regardless of whether you opt for the front-wheel drive petrol or the all-wheel drive diesel, while a Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI offers a more European driveline with better performance and economy versus the Koleos.
Ride & Handling: 7.5/10
As a family hauler, the 2020 Renault Koleos favours comfort over sporty handling. The ride quality is excellent even with the large 19” alloys on the Intens model. It irons out the worst Sydney’s roads have to offer, and feels especially at home on the highway, making for a good long-legged cruiser. There, the steering is also notably light without being overly vague.
Push a bit harder and the Koleos protests – as the body leans and the Nexen tyres begin to squeal. She doesn’t like being shuffled quickly. And that’s just fine, as the powertrain along with the cushy suspension are better suited to a leisurely pace. As a whole, it’s a more satisfying driving experience if you’re not in a hurry.
The Kia Sportage handles with more poise at the cost of a firmer, if not uncomfortable, ride.
Interior & Practicality: 8.0/10
When you look at the exterior design you expect the interior to be equally swish and it is in most places. The materials are of a good quality, with soft-touch plastics on the dash, front and rear doors, sturdy grab handles framing the centre console and attractive (if unsupportive) leather seats. The large windows and panoramic sunroof also create an airy cabin feel, with visibility aided by usefully large wing mirrors.
The 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen dominates the dash, negating the need for endless physical buttons and helping create an uncluttered centrepiece of the cabin. The driver is also treated with a 7.0-inch driver’s display which is bright, clear, configurable and packs a lot of useful information.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the R-Link 2 system is hit and miss. It looks great in portrait format and has a lot of functionality built in, including full-screen Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The problem is that it can be slow to respond, which isn’t ideal in a system that has menus buried within menus.
One of our testers also had an issue where Apple CarPlay briefly crashed and the whole system needed to be restarted for it to recognise their phone again. At least when it works it’s connected to a cracking 11-speaker Bose sound system.
Other niggles include the Nissan-sourced switchgear for the mirrors and windows, meaning that only the driver’s window is auto up/down whereas the Megane and Kadjar we had recently had all four windows with auto up/down. Also, why does the remote start need to be programmed by the driver before its operational when brands like Kia let you use remote start out of the box?
Moving to the rear seats and you’ll quickly forgive it for those very minor foibles as it is positively generous. My 193cm frame can easily sit behind my driving position and even had some room to stretch out. Even better, the rear bench can be reclined so you can relax and enjoy the view out of the panoramic sunroof. Air vents, a centre arrest and two USB ports are also there for good measure. The front passengers also get heated and cooled cupholders, powered by the air-conditioning.
Kick to open the electric tailgate (you’ll need to try a few times to perfect it) and the boot is a good shape and size without being class leading. Its 458 litres falls short of the Kia Sportage’s 466 litres and even further behind the Tiguan’s 610 litres with its rear seats in their most forward position. Collapsing the rear seats from the useful tabs from the boot and it’ll create a useful 1690 litres of space with a flat floor, which is actually bigger than the Tiguan’s 1655 litres with its seats folded flat.
Running Costs & Warranty: 7.5/10
Renault knows how important the Koleos is for its local success and they’re not afraid to show it by offering a seven-year warranty with unlimited kilometres, up from the rest of the range’s five years or unlimited kilometres. This offer was meant to end earlier this year but has since been extended until the end of 2020, meaning the Koleos’ warranty is up there with industry leaders such as Kia and MG.
This is bolstered by Renault’s 5-5-5 ownership plan (or should that now be 7-5-5?) with five years of capped-priced servicing and roadside assistance.
The lengthy service intervals are welcome, with owners only have to bring their Koleos in every 30,000km or yearly, but the pricing is eyebrow raising. The first five years or 150,000km are capped at $2,715 ($543 per year) – which seems like a lot for what is a rather old fashioned drivetrain. This disparity is more confusing when you consider its own stablemate, the Renault Kadjar with its more modern 1.3 turbo and dual-clutch, is cheaper to service under Renault’s 5-5-5 plan ($2,385).
Even harder to swallow is the fact that the Nissan X-Trail with the exact same powertrain as the Koleos costs just $1,514 over five years, even though it can only travel 10,000km per year. At least it’s notably cheaper than the Tiguan 132TSI, which will set you back $3,184 over five years.
2020 Renault Koleos Intens DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.5/10
The 2020 Renault Koleos makes sense in a market that is heavily driven by price. Sure, it doesn’t have the most thrilling drivetrain or the most comprehensive suite of active safety technology, but offers a lot of equipment and interior space in a handsome package with an excellent warranty.