What is it?
This is the new Renault Kangoo, the latest version of the popular MPV. The new Renault Kangoo is based on the running gear of the recently superseded Scenic, and so it not only grows in length by 180mm, but also becomes more of a car-like experience.
The Renault Kangoo is also now available with the more powerful version of the 1.5 dCi diesel motor that's already available across much of Renault's range. Developing 103bhp at 4000rpm, with 177lb ft of torque at 2000rpm, the common-rail diesel engine has been combined with a six-speed manual gearbox to give the car better performance and refinement.
Refinement is a word Renault is keen to stress with the new Kangoo. Like the Citroen Berlingo and slightly smaller Fiat Qubo, the Kangoo is intended to combine van-like functionality with the comfort everyone now expects from a modern MPV.
What's it like?
Despite no longer being derived directly from a commercial vehicle, the Kangoo remains inescapably van-like. The new front end is a desperate blight on an already unfortunate profile, like the brutally stubbed big toe of a badly swollen foot. Citroen’s new Berlingo, launched last year, is a much more sympathetic design.
Fortunately, Renault's hard work on the interior has paid dividends. The new dash is a vast improvement and, while the finish is still somewhat patchy, the use of better-feeling plastics does emphasise a step up in quality.
This has not been at the expense of the Renault Kangoo's endearing idiosyncrasies. The cabin still feels cavernous and, while you sit bolt upright, this is not necessarily an uncomfortable driving position.
The impression of space continues in the rear. The Kangoo's deceptive length allows for plenty of leg room, and with the rear seats down, the large boot becomes a cargo hold – offering 2600 cubic metres of van-shaped load capacity. Everything feels admirably rugged; the daily punishment of transporting a family around should be absorbed with aplomb.
While the Kangoo lacks the dynamic edge of a conventional MPV, it still delivers a reasonable experience out on the road. The steering is light, if a little vague, but combined with the satisfying six-speed gearbox and excellent all-round visibility, it makes the car an easy prospect to navigate around town.
Renault has provided the Kangoo with sufficiently absorbent suspension to make progress surprisingly comfortable, although it is prone to heaving over undulations at higher speeds.
As expected, the stronger 1.5 dCi certainly gives the Kangoo a bit more urge than before. Once the low-down lethargy has been overcome, the new diesel engine makes the car feel quite spritely. Perhaps even a little too spritely; turn in with too much enthusiasm and the Kangoo's front wheels will quickly break traction, accompanied by an inevitable dose of high-sided body roll.
Should I buy one?
The new Kangoo really benefits from its Renault Scenic origins. It feels better engineered and more comfortable, but not at the expense of the unpretentious charm of the previous model. It remains a remarkably spacious, highly flexible, and eminently practical people carrier.