Funky fun for the school runBy Simon Donohue
September 26, 2008
The Koleos might sound like the bad punchline from a joke about cauliflower and chaos, but it’s actually Renault’s recent entry into the burgeoning market for school-run off-roaders.
It goes head-to-head with cars such as the Ford Kuga, VW Tiguan and Peugeot 4007 – all designed for families who like the chunky superiority of Range Rover-esque road-goers but lack the financial wherewithal to either buy them or fill them up.
In viewing the Koleos, it’s worth remembering that Renault’s designers have always been a little, let’s say, funky.
So funky, in fact, that the marketing men have at times had to resort to some rather imaginative means in an attempt to shift ’em.
They somehow made a virtue out of the ridiculously big-bottomed Megane’s propensity to start “shakin’ its ass”.
But not even they could think of anything daft enough to save the Vel Satis and Avantime from premature extinction.
This time, at least, we’re talking about an entire segment of the market which probably shouldn’t really exist, and not just a new Renault.
That said, a not insignificant 7.3 per cent of the new car market in the UK last year was made up of 4x4s and SUVs.
The huge kerfuffle over punitive taxes and soaring fuel prices mean that figure is likely to be substantially lower this year, with the majority of the remaining vehicles mainly fitting into the more effete compact category.
For the record, third and fourth place last year went to the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport – and that’s very unlikely to be the case this year. So there should be plenty of potential buyers, but will they love the Koleos more than its competitors?
We’ve already touched on looks but it’s worth returning to the subject, given that profile – yours and the car’s – are all important in this sector of the market.
Truth is, I’m not really sure what I think of it, which might lead to problems when the Koleos meets its competitors.
It has the latest Renault family look, which is good, but it also looks a bit like a boat. What I can say is that it has avoided the temptation to look anything like a miniature off-roader, which is perhaps a brave step. So that’s Koleos nil, competitors one.
The car I drove came with quite a bit of electronic kit and rather too many buttons for my liking. Switches weren’t quite where my brain thought they should be, leaving me a bit baffled about some.
You’d probably get used to them over time, but it’s a shortcoming which sets Renault’s offering back from the more intuitive soft-roaders from the likes of BMW and Mercedes.
But it was comfortable and car-like, which, somewhat paradoxically, is what school run mums and dads really want in their unnecessarily large vehicles.
It’s easy to drive and less tetchy than many SUVs, which really do make you feel as though you’re wrestling a mud-plugger, even on the Tarmac.
That’s partly because the 4X4 system applies power to the wheels only when needed. Also good is the one engine offered – a 2.0-litre diesel with 150 or 175bhp.
The 150bhp version is available as either a two-wheel or four-wheel drive, with the former offering lower emissions and higher fuel economy. I drove the 175bhp and really liked it. It was far too quick for a car that size.
On the road then, the Koleos is easily an equal for its rivals.
There’s a handy split rear tail-gate, plenty of seat-space for five adults and a decent level of trim.
Renault have followed the crowd with their medium-sized off-roader, but still managed to produce something a little bit different.
If you want a chunky medium-sized car with saloon manners – and you don’t mind that it looks a little bit funky – then the Koleos might be the one for you.
Model: Renault Koleos 2 litre diesel Privilege dCi 175 4x4
0 to 60mph: 9.9 secs
Top speed: 117mph
Emissions: 209 g/km
Insurance Group: TBC