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Renault Koleos Privilege dCi

Click to view picture galleryRenault’s New Koleos challenges
  established crossover models.
  And while Renault may be amongst
  the last major manufacturers to
  enter the burgeoning SUV crossover
  sector, the wait has definitely been

THE ARRIVAL OF THE RENAULT KOLEOS this summer marks a new era for the French marque. It is their first modern-day four-wheel-drive model and pitches itself right into the heart of the booming crossover sector where the forthcoming Ford Kuga will also be competing, amongst others, against the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan.

The Koleos is also the first model range to be built in Korea as part of the Renault-Samsung production agreement. Borrowing heavily from the mechanical elements under the Renault-Nissan agreement, the new model's potential off-road ability looks to be better-than-average — the Koleos has hill descent and hill hold features to simplify cross-country driving as well as ease of use on-road.

The much-needed by Renault Koleos range will be available in eight versions, with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive, and will be powered by 150 or 175bhp turbodiesel engines with six-speed manual or automatic 'boxes.

The range goes on sale in Britain on 4 July with prices from just under 18,000 upto 24,695. These cover three trim levels and there's a comprehensive three-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

It is not Renault's first 4x4 model — that appeared with the Espace Quadra in 1988 — but it is their first 4x4 to be available from launch of a new model range. It is a product of the Renault-Nissan alliance which has seen their Japanese partner's X-Trail and Qashqai vehicles doing particularly well in the crossover sector.

Renault's Koleos is a modern, family-sized SUV that effectively combines a versatile MPV body with the looks (and sometimes running gear) of a soft-roader. As such it is intended to give additional safety and ability on wintry roads, as well as manage modest off-road work and make available useful towing capabilities. For some buyers they will also be seen as fashionable 'lifestyle' vehicles.

The five-seat Koleos has a split tailgate which opens to reveal a normal 450-litre load bay. This can be increased to 1,380 litres in two-seater mode thanks to Renault's Super-Fold, quick release seating system which, no doubt, will also prove popular on the new Laguna Sport Tourer.

For the activity users there's a ski-hatch; and the front passenger seat folds to permit up to 2.6m-long objects to be carried. Options include front and rear skid plates for additional protection off road.

Renault has a strong equipment list for Koleos. Standard items in the Dynamique trim versions include air conditioning, cruise control, fog lights, heated mirrors, tinted glass, multiple airbags, an MP3-compatible sound system and even a cooling box plus lots of oddments storage.

Among other features, Dynamique S models get climate control, a hands-free facility, Super-Fold seats, automatic lights and wipers, ESP with descent and hill start assistance and rear parking sensors.

In addition, the top of the range Privilege (only available with four-wheel drive) comes with full leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof and blinds, bi-Xenon lights, on- and off-road SatNav, auto-dipping rear view mirror and a superior sound system tailored specifically for the Koleos.

The familiar 150 and 175bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines will not be joined by a petrol unit for the UK market because Renault believes there is unlikely to be enough demand. Four-wheel drive is available with both engines, but the optional automatic six-speed transmission is only available with the 150bhp 4x4 versions.

The 150bhp models have a 0-62mph time of between 10 and 12 seconds, depending on whether two- or four-wheel drive is chosen, but the 175bhp 4x4 versions take under
10 seconds. Maximum speed rises from 107mph for the automatic 150bhp 4x4 to 117mph for the 175bhp 4x4 with a manual 'box. Emissions range between 191gkm to 221gkm depending on the powertrain, and the overall fuel economy shifts between 34mpg for the 150bhp 4x4 auto to 39mpg for the non-4x4 150bhp model.

While Renault may be amongst the last major manufacturers to enter the burgeoning SUV crossover sector, the wait has been worthwhile. As a result of Renault looking at rival models, talking with customers and embracing the latest technology, the new Koleos is undoubtedly one of the best of the new breed of SUVs. Its pricing, packaging, performance and long warranty, as well as its all-round sophistication, certainly gives it an edge over
its competitors.

I tested the 175bhp version over a wide mixture of roads in Morocco, ranging from billiard-smooth tarmac to what were little more than goat tracks — and it shrugged off all challenges to its handling. The Koleos at speed was composed. And crossing dry river beds or rutted tracks, its refinement shone through.

The hill descent system and automatic four-wheel drive did a superb job at finding and maintaining grip, while the fairly long travel suspension soaked up the bumps without letting the Koleos roll about on sweeping curves.

The acceleration, if not rapid, is respectable but probably its most outstanding feature, even when pressing on, is its quietness.

Access is very good, particularly with the drop-down tail and lift-up rear door and quick-folding seats. And there's plenty of room front and back. Visibility is good all round, and
the parking sensors are useful in very tight spaces.

My only slight disappointment was the turning circle. This could have been tighter, particularly in some off-road situations or when turning or parking in town. Neither does
the steering give the greatest feedback, although you adjust to it fairly quickly.

The six-speed manual gearbox had a light clutch and a neat, precise action through the gate while the brakes always felt reassuring and well balanced. The electronic parking brake — a straightforward 'pull and go' action — was very effective.

The diesel only availability will not satisfy everyone and its turning circle is not as tight as it might be but off-setting that is the good packaging, pricing and performance and, of course, the excellent warranty. It's also easy to drive and live with. In addition, it possesses abilities most users will not have to test to the maximum. All in all, the Koleos is likely to set a benchmark in its sector over the next 12 months for its value, ability and sophistication. — Robin Roberts

Renault Koleos Privilege dCi 175
| 24,695
Maximum speed: 117mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 35.7mpg | Power: 175bhp | Torque: 266lb ft
CO2 209g/km | VED Band F 210 | Insurance group TBA