In an ultra-competitive class, the Renault Koleos is attractive and capable even if it doesn't reinvent the genre

What is it?

Having axed its first-generation Koleos from the UK in 2010, Renault has decided now is the time to bring this new version back to our shores, driven by booming sales in the large SUV segment, albeit not quite so booming as its smaller siblings.

It also means Renault has a complete family of SUVs, so existing owners of Renault Captur or Renault Kadjar have the option to step up to the Koleos.

It’s a simple line-up for the Nissan X-Trail rival (with which it also shares a platform): there are two diesel engines only, a 1.6-litre dCI 130 in six-speed manual and two-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre dCI 175, which is four-wheel drive and available in both manual and 7-speed Auto X-Tronic. We drove the latter auto, which is expected to be the biggest seller in the UK. There is no petrol option, but Renault says it’s available elsewhere so if there was demand, it could easily be introduced.


What's it like?

The Koleos is a very likeable car. We tested the top of two trim options, the Signature Nav, which has an impressive amount of equipment, including sat-nav, 19in alloys, an 8.7in touchscreen and full leather seats. 

That said, the lower trim, the Dynamique S Nav, will be more than enough for most with rear parking camera, panoramic sunroof, 7in screen and plenty of safety systems. It even has heated and ventilated cup holders, not something many cars can boast.

The Koleos is Renault’s flagship car in terms of interior quality and technology and rightly so; it’s impressive. The infotainment system on the 8.7in touchscreen is well-designed and intuitive, the layout is well-considered, and there are plenty of practicalities – four USBs and lots of cubby holes, for starters. The leathers and plastics are also good quality.

Space is decent. A wheelbase of 2705mm – identical to the Nissan X-Trail – means good rear leg room, although the roof line isn't great for tall bodies. The boot is 579 litres, beating the X-Trail by 29 litres but losing out to the Skoda Kodiaq's 630 litres.

Interestingly, Renault is not offering a seven-seat version of the Koleos, unlike competitor the Kodiaq, for example. Renault’s UK boss Vincent Tourette points to the Grand Scenic as an answer to those families needing a seven-seater, and considers it a key differentiator that maintains the MPV’s relevance in a marketplace so heavily skewed to SUVs.

To drive, the Koleos is a friendly beast. The power is more than enough at motorway speeds, and the 172bhp diesel is a decent engine that will easily haul a fully laden Koleos on long motorway slogs. There is also adequate low-end torque.

Hearing the initialism CVT injects fear into any respectable motoring journalist because, quite frankly, most of these gearboxes are appalling. Renault insists this is an advanced CVT that uses a step system to mimic a sequential gearbox. To some extent, that’s true; it’s infinitely better than most CVTs. It struggled most when gaining ground quickly in first and second gears, inducing a unpleasant growl from the engine.

The suspension is built for comfort rather than dynamism, while handling is stable and predictable. If you’re looking for more direct steering or agility, the Skoda Kodiaq is a better bet, though the compromise there is ride quality, which isn’t as soft as the Koleos.

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We also had the chance to cover some off-road ground in the Koleos in 4WD Lock mode, which permanently engages four-wheel drive at speeds of less than 25mph and distributes torque 50/50 to the front and rear. There is also 210mm ground clearance. Admittedly, we weren’t tackling gargantuan swamps but, on a torrid day of rain, the car held its ground well, not least on a hairy hill start that, at least from the driver’s seat, seemed about 45 degrees.


Should I buy one?

Renault admits the Koleos isn’t a big volume car, but insists it’s “very important from an image point of view” for Renault, sitting atop the range. Indeed, the Koleos doesn’t reinvent the large SUV market, but it does offer a spacious, well-equipped and attractive alternative to the established contenders such as the X-Trail and Kodiaq. It's a similar top-spec price to both those cars, but opt for the lower Dynamique S Nav trim level for the best value.

Renault Koleos 2.0 dCi 175 X-Tronic AWD Signature Nav

Location Cotswolds On sale September Price £34,200 (Signature Nav) Engine 4 cyls, 1955cc, diesel Power 172bhp at 3750rpm Torque 280lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox CVT Kerb weight 1747kg Top speed 125mph 0-62mph 9.5sec Economy 47.9mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 156g/km, 30% Rivals Volkswagen Tiguan, Nissan X-Trail


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