Renault Koleos Zen and Intens SUV road test and review
SAME parents, yet this pair is distinctly different.
Introduced a few months back with two-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive underpinnings and with improved European good looks, the Renault Koleos has entered the mid-size SUV battle where it's up against tough competition including the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tuscon, Kia Sportage, and its company cousin - the Nissan X-Trail.
Yet our experience found there was a standout choice when it comes to the Koleos, and that's the two-wheel drive derivatives.
Blending zesty performance, some typical French quirks and refined exterior lines, the SUV has evolved into a more attractive package from $29,990 plus on-roads.
What makes the two-wheel drive so good?
Drive the two back-to-back, and it's hard to fathom the pair share powertrains.
It's the same 2.0-litre petrol engine partnered to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but the self shifter in the all-wheel drive derivative struggled to meet driver requests.
Generally, CVTs have a poor reputation. Previously they have been whiny and lack urgency under acceleration, but positively they are smooth under most driving conditions and help with fuel efficiency.
During recent years many manufacturers have made ground, led by Subaru who do one of the best CVTs around, and we thought Renault had achieved a similar feat with our initial experience.
The two-wheeler has spunk, getting along nicely when summonsed.
The same cannot be said for the all-wheel version. It falls victim to the traditional criticisms, and a rural drive exposed its flaws.
While most times the shift between front to all wheel drive is only small percentages, it's seemingly enough to stall acceleration expectations where it feels underpowered.
Patience is required when exercising your right ankle (not a virtue I possess).
Once up and running it's responsive - just getting there is the battle.
How was it around town?
Metropolitan driving was comfortable and easy, with the Koleos offering a nice drive.
Parking takes some getting used to and we needed to take two stabs at some parks after underestimating the steering.
The Koleos has a larger turning circle than many of its competitors: while it's close to the CX-5, it's nearly 1m bigger than the Sportage or Tuscon.
I'm looking for something outside the norm.
Well, it's French, so the quirks come as standard. There's the credit card looking key, along with the cruise control switch located on the centre console and stereo controls positioned behind the steering wheel.
Initially those idiosyncrasies can be frustrating, but spend some time in the cabin (it's actually based on the new Megane) and operationally it becomes cohesive.
The touch-screen favourites can be configured to the owner's liking, and that's brilliant, because otherwise it's a time consuming process finding your way through the various functions.
Practicalities have traditionally been an oxymoron in French cars.
With a useful space in front of the shifter, it's a great spot for phones, keys and the like. The primary issue is the USB and auxiliary ports are on the console.
There are two strange grab handles on either side of the storage space...probably more for aesthetics rather than functionality.
Positively you do get dual cup holders, bottle holders in the doors and the rear seats drop in a 60-40 configuration for decent practicality.
Being European, what are the running costs?
Both variants returned fuel consumption figures of just less than eight litres for every 100km, and they can run on regular unleaded or ethanol E10 rather than premium fuel.
It actually has a solid warranty and Renault has worked hard to ensure most common part availability as well as prices.
And quite often those parts are less expensive in comparison to mainstream Japanese marques.
How does it stack up against its competition?
Rivals include the Ford Kuga ($29,250), Hyundai Tuscon ($28,590), Honda CR-V ($27,490), Kia Sportage ($28,990), Mazda CX-5 ($27,890) and the Nissan X-Trail ($27,990), with all prices before on-roads.
Standard inclusions for the 2WD Zen are 17-inch alloys, rear view camera, R-Link 2 multimedia system with voice control, 7.0-inch landscape colour touch-screen, dual-zone climate, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and leather steering wheel.
The Intens models get 4WD wheels with 4X4 i-technology, LED headlights, 8.7-inch screen, remote engine start, hands-free power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, leather trim and safety including blind spot, forward collision and lane departure warning, park assist and side parking sensors.
What's the lowdown?
Renault remains a niche brand Australia, but offers enough European appeal to differentiate itself from the mainstream offerings.
"Interesting" lines of the previous Koleos saw it overlooked in the hotly contested mid-size SUV segment, yet this new offering has the required je ne sais quoi a Renault should.
For those who don't mind a leisurely pace with seldom rural travels, the all-wheel drive is fine, but our tip is save yourself $10k and go for the two-wheel derivative.
What matters most
What we liked: Improved looks, interior space and flexibility.
What we'd like to see: Normal key...hey, we'd be happy to abandon the button if the credit card thingy was banished; conventional automatic transmission.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing available for three years with a maximum price of $299. Intervals are annual or 30,000km.
Model: Renault Koleos.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive medium SUV.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 126kW @ 6000 and peak torque of 226Nm @ 4400rpm.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 8.1 litres/100km (combined average for 2WD and 8.3l/100km for AWD).
Bottom line plus on roads: Zen - $33,990 (2WD), Intens - $43,490 (4WD).
Driving experience 12/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 15/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 17/20