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Renault Koleos: Not exactly new, but still a good SUV

DM168

VROOM WITH A VIEW

Renault Koleos: Not exactly new, but still a good SUV

The Renault Koleos.

The Renault Koleos is a good bet, offering value for money and a luxurious yet powerful experience on the road.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Some time ago my mum was in the market for a new car to replace her aged Audi A4. She looked at the price of a replacement model and after the smelling salts had revived her, she called me up and asked for a recommendation.

On my advice, she test-drove and then bought a Peugeot 508. Back in those days, you could still buy a decent-sized French sedan. Mum ran the 508 for eight years, during which time she had all the relevant servicing done, and the bumps and scrapes of life sorted out without too much hassle, apart from one occasion when a replacement panel took several millennia to get to Durban from Proxima Centauri b or Paris, I forget which.

I recount this unremarkable tale because I think it’s important to understand that sometimes I’m willing to put my mum’s money where my mouth is, and obviously that’s not something a son does without thinking first. I was confident she’d have a great experience with the 508, and I was right. For mum, it was sensible and yet interesting, good-looking and easy to use.

The reputation of French cars in this country is absolutely infuriating. It’s as though people think they’re still building exotic and mad waft-o-matic land yachts that are, for that brief moment they actually work, the best things in the world, but otherwise completely ridiculous things really only designed for some bizarre caricature of French people.

This is not how the motor industry works.

The French motor industry, like everywhere else, survives in a competitive market through platform sharing, global-scale technology partnerships and rationalisation. It expresses itself within these constraints, which means swivel-headlighted, hydraulic-suspensioned, simply mag-frikken-nificent expressions of 1960s futurism are, sadly, no more. It means that Euro hatchbacks like the old Renault Cinq are little more than sepia-drenched memories of a time before the rise of global supply chains, crumple zones and gigantic Asian car manufacturers.

These days, inevitably, it’s got to be a midsize SUV, doesn’t it?

The Renault Koleos has a genuinely quiet and pleasant interior.

I recently spent a week in a Renault Koleos, a nameplate that was absent for a while in these parts but returned last year tagged rather cheekily as “new”, which is a bit of a stretch for a car released in 2016 elsewhere in the world, even if it’s new here. They’re still calling it “new” on the local website. Car companies do this and it is somewhat irritating. Nobody in May 2021 goes around describing Donald Trump as “the new president of the United States”, which was true when this version of Koleos was launched.

Anyway, that aside, what of it?

Well, under the skin the Koleos is as thoroughly a modern car as you can imagine. It sits on a platform jointly developed with Nissan and Mitsubishi, and the car I drove had the powerful 2.5-litre Nissan-sourced engine up front. The platform is a clever modular affair, meaning it can underpin cars as diverse in size and quality as the Renault Kwid, the lovely looking Renault Espace MPV and the super-smart Infiniti QX50. The Koleos shares a good deal of its underpinnings with the Nissan X-Trail, which is a good thing.

It’s a big car, the Koleos. As an offspring-blessed man, I would have loved to have a seven-seat option, which you can do in the X-Trail, but the upside is a hugely spacious and airy SUV and a very large boot. The kids really loved it.

The Renault Koleos is a hugely spacious and airy SUV with  a very large boot.

The car comes with a continuously variable transmission gearbox they’ve fiddled with to give it “steps” that mimic the actions of an old-school torque converter automatic. It works in all but the most extreme acceleration situations, where it resorts to type and whines away.

Added to the powerful 126kW 2.5-litre engine, it’s positively sprightly, giving this big car a useful sense of pace off the line for the light-to-light drag. I drove the front-wheel-drive car (there’s a 4×4 version too), which exhibits a touch of torque steer and steering feedback chatter when your foot’s down, but otherwise behaves pretty well. The ride is premium in feel, giving a sense of firm poise as opposed to wallowiness.

For most buyers, the finesse with which the Koleos accelerates out of a corner will matter considerably less than the car’s overall sense of quiet, solidity and calm. It is a genuinely quiet and pleasant interior. Wind and tyre noise are nicely suppressed and it occurred to me that, at just over R500,000, the Koleos is extremely pleasant to live with for the money. On a fast road, the car feels much more expensive than it is, and you can relax in the knowledge that it comes with all the safety kit, including adaptive air bags and blind-spot monitoring.

Of course, people will generally go for the X-Trail instead, which you can get with a diesel engine and seven seats. For many, this slightly more utilitarian offering might make more sense. But remember that stuff about French design and the je ne sais quoi style of their cars? Well, shared modular platforms or not, the Koleos is a great-looking car, and the interior is streets ahead of the Nissan. It’s the better cabin and the nicer place to be, and the petrol engine may be considerably more thirsty, but it delivers a far more luxurious experience of quiet, power and calm.

I liked the Koleos, new or not, and found it offers some real value for those in need of a large luxury-ish family SUV without the large hole in their bank account. Give one a spin before you decide. DM168

Alexander Parker is a journalist and consultant.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.

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