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Renault Koleos 150dCi Privilege

Click to view picture galleryRenaults new Koleos SUV has hit
  the ‘mean
streets. For loyal Renault
  customers wanting a
Sports Ute,
  its arrival means they can now buy
  one without deserting the brand.
  For other SUV buyers, it
s the chance
  to sample something different...


THE KOLEOS IS RENAULT'S FIRST SUV or crossover model. It arrives in the UK five years after the start of its alliance with Nissan and four years after the founding of Renault Samsung Motors in Korea. Renault designed the concept and provides diesel engines; Nissan supplied 4x4 technology and provides petrol engines and Renault Samsung Motors in Korea build the Koleos for world markets.

The new Koleos SUV joins the market in a month when UK sales of Sports Utility Vehicles (and all 4x4s) have fallen by 42%. The credit crunch, high fuel prices and the social move away by some buyers has hit sales of all-terrain vehicles pretty hard. However, if it hadn't been for the introduction of several new medium-sized models to the SUV sector — such as the Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Tiguan and, as reviewed here, the Renault Koleos — the figures would be even worse.

Priced from 17,995, the Koleos also has to compete against the likes of the well established Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, not to mention its Renault-Nissan family members the Qashqai and X-Trail. Like the Qashqai, there are also two-wheel drive models in the Koleos range for people who want SUV styling and practicality of space but really do not need four-wheel drive.

The five-door Koleos was designed to look like a 4x4 but without the aggressive appearance — pleasing without being ostentatious. And it comes with a Euro NCAP five-star safety rating.

Ease of driving, practical interior space and compact dimensions are the Koleos' main features. For those who feel 4x4s have no place in today's congested motoring world, the Koleos (at just 4,520mm in length) is no more cumbersome than a Ford Focus Estate, which makes it just as easy to park and, with an overall height of 1,710mm, it can cope happily with access to and from domestic garages and multi-story car parks. It still has 188mm of ground clearance so, if required, can cope with travelling off road.

With all the five seats in position, the Koleos has 450 litres of cargo space. But fold down the rear seats and this goes up to 1,380 litres. Manual transmission models can tow 2,000kgs, so overall it's a useful vehicle.

Although the Koleos range for other markets includes petrol engine options, at this time two-thirds of sales in this SUV sector in the UK are for diesel powered models. Which is why the Koleos comes with a choice of 2.0-litre diesel units — 150 or 175bhp. Two-wheel drive models are available with the 150bhp engine; four-wheel drive versions are available with both. Six-speed manual transmissions are standard but an optional six-speed automatic gearbox is available with the 150bhp engine.

All four-wheel drive models automatically switch from two-wheel to four-wheel drive whenever low grip conditions are detected, and also provide hill start and descent control. A switch allows the driver to swap from two- to four-wheel drive or, if it's easier, to leave it in its auto setting.

There are three trim and equipment levels on offer: Dynamique, Dynamique S and Privilege. All models have air conditioning, speed limiter with cruise control, electric front and rear windows, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof bars and front fog lights. Whilst the range-topping Privilege models are lavishly equipped (the specification includes leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof), the sensible buy is the mid-range Dynamic S costing 20,495 — and is likely to be the most popular and return the least loss in trade-in value in the future. Unfortunately Renault has not included electronic stability control as standard on the entry-level Dynamique variant, although it is included on the other two models.

In truth the Koleos brings nothing new to the SUV market but it does have some pleasing aspects. For those customers wanting a tough off-roader with a premium image, look no further than the Freelander or the BMW X3 and, soon, the Audi Q5. What the Koleos offers is good stylish looks, practical passenger and load space, refined diesel engines and a 4x4 system with enough all-terrain traction for light off-road work or — more likely — better road grip in the rain, ice and snow.

Because of the Koleos' falling rear roof line, headroom in the rear is quite low for adults and the rear legroom is certainly not the best in this sector. That said, it is comfortable and it does have a compliant suspension — not as rock-hard and unforgiving as heavy duty 4x4s. For everyday travel it is a nice car to use. It looks good and drives and handles well enough for most people. The road holding is average with some body roll and the steering a bit slow and imprecise, but as a SUV package it will work well enough for the majority of owners.

The 150bhp dCi, four-cylinder turbodiesel common-rail engine is well known, being used in the Renault Megane, Laguna and Espace as well as Nissan models. It is very quiet, pretty refined, fuel efficient and responsive. Maximum torque is 236lb ft from 2,000 but, as the gearing is quite high — to achieve the best fuel consumption and lowest CO2 levels — full use does need to be made of the six-speed gearbox on twisting country roads. The official average fuel consumption is 38.7mpg and my 150bhp test model returned 34.4mpg. Emissions are 191g/km which puts it in Band F, meaning 210 in road tax charges now; but this is proposed to increase to 260 from April 2009.

Overall the Koleos is a welcome addition to the Renault range and it gives their UK dealers an opportunity to retain loyal customers wanting to move to an SUV. On the plus side it offers a smooth and responsive engine, good ride comfort and flexible load/passenger carrying combinations. In addition, it's well equipped, has a useful split rear tailgate function and looks smart.

While it lacks the ability and the image of already established mainstream SUV competitors, about the only real grumble likely to be voiced by prospective Koleos buyers will be concerning the tight rear head- and leg-room and, far more relevant in our credit-crunched economy, unknown residual values in a falling market. Certainly, on the declining open market it faces a tough task from the established Freelander, CR-V, X-Trail, RAV4 and lots of others. Given that customers can buy a new one or a pre-registered demonstrator at a discounted price — more easily in today's distressed market — it could be a good buy. But only if the price is right. — David Miles

Renault Koleos 150dCi Privilege
| 23,495
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Overall test MPG: 34.4mpg | Power: 150bhp | Torque: 236lb ft
CO2 191g/km | VED Band F 210 | Insurance group 10