Renault Koleos review: ‘What’s happened to the third row of seats?’
Price: from £27,500
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
In the beginning there was the Espace. Built by Renault in 1984, it revolutionised family travel. It proved that by creating enough leg space and elbow room, you could instill harmony on the road. It was futuristic and stylish… But over the years, the wondrous MPVness of the Espace devolved into the ugly SUVness of the dreadful old Koleos (the word means “sheath” in Greek, which seems an odd choice for a family car – could it be a contraceptive rebuke?)
But we now have an all-new Koleos (same horrid name, sadly) to enjoy – and it is remarkably accomplished. It arrives at a time when Renault has thoroughly regained its mojo. The Megane and, particularly, the Scenic are scooping up awards wherever they go. And earlier this year, a world-beating alliance was created between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. This auto triptych was formed to focus on electric cars for the 2020s, but it also allowed the coalition to become the biggest car maker in the world. In the first six months of 2017, it shifted 5,268,079 vehicles, beating VW into second place by a mere 112,488 cars, while Toyota lagged just 26,591 behind that.
As with so many Renaults, the Koleos has style in spades – but it wears it lightly. At first glance it appears to be just another large SUV, but let your gaze linger on it a while and all sorts of attractive details begin to catch your eye, from the chrome-lined face to the elliptical LED outlines on the rear lamps. Inside it’s roomy, and premium materials have been used generously. Renault claims it has the biggest boot in its class, but it’s one of the few that don’t offer a third row of seats – a strange omission when you consider it’s based on Nissan’s seven-seat X-Trail.
Up front, the Koleos has a portrait-format touchscreen, as used by Volvo in its XC90. It is available as a standard 7in or as a poshed-up 8.7in unit and it controls everything from the satnav and the audio to the car’s myriad safety systems.
The UK line-up is exclusively diesel, either 1.6-litre or 2-litre. You can choose between two- or four-wheel drive and manual or a CVT X-Tronic gearbox. I drove the 2-litre dCi 175bhp 4WD with automatic shifting. It was a pleasure: smooth, strong and with buckets of acceleration. Light steering also made it very manoeuvrable even at low speeds. All told, it’s an impressive package, but the absence of a petrol alternative and the lack of a seven-seater means it’ll never match the Espace as a genius family motor.
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