It would be fair to say that, after a while in this job, you approach different new cars with different expectations.

And it would also be fair to say that I approached the Renault Koleos, newly arrived on these shores, with my expectations flying somewhere below ankle height.

I mean, just look at the thing: with its teetering stance, grafted-on corporate front end and full complement of soft-roader design cliches. It even boasts an inclinometer – the sort of pointless detail that I remember from the 1980s Fiat Panda 4x4.

Renault is the last major manufacturer to bring a mid-sized SUV to market, so we probably shouldn’t have expected anything particularly original. But even so, on first impressions, it looks like a me-too product that was carefully engineered to slot into the exact centre of its over-full market segment. 

Yes, there’s a but. Because, looks aside, the Koleos is actually a pretty decent machine. I’d be lying if I said that it won me over to the point where I actually want one – but after three hours of rush-hour motorway and a dozen miles of rapid ‘A’ road I can confirm that it drives far better than it looks.

The interior plastics have a strange, cheap smell to them which takes some getting used to them. But the cabin is spacious and comfortable, the familiar Renault dCi diesel engine combines solid urge with quiet manners and – at motorway cruising speeds – the whole thing feels planted and impressively refined.

Granted, the handling isn’t going to give the Ford Kuga any sleepness nights and the low geared steering has only a distant relationship with what the front end is up to.

But, if I was asked to sum the Koleos up in two words they’d be “not bad”. Faint praise, but praise nevertheless…