Renault Koleos comes to the fore

Renault Koleos comes to the fore

URVIVAL of the fittest is the mantra in the mid-sized crossover segment and Renault’s Koleos was trailing the herd.

But the second-generation Koleos, riding on a new chassis, is a bigger, more capable beast, still with a 2.5litre naturally aspirated engine.

Space has improved for front and rear seat occupants and the cabin ambience is an obvious step up in layout and finish.

The plastics are cushioned in the areas likely to come into contact with hands and the infotainment setup is easy to navigate, which is handy because there are a multitude of screens if you want to delve deep into the software store.

The names of the variants have also changed to align with global corporate policy, so we now have the front-wheel drive Life starting at $29,990 (across the range, the sole gearbox is a constantly variable transmission), followed by the Zen in front and all-wheel-drive guises at $33,990 and $36,990 respectively.

The range-topping Intens is AWD only and adds an 8.7-inch touchscreen, LED headlamps, power tailgate, leather trim, 12-speaker Bose audio and the full suite of active driving aids for $43,490.

Driveaway pricing starts at $33,990 for the Life and climbs to $47,990 for the Intens.

Diesel versions arrive next year. Essentially a more refined version of the Nissan X-Trail, the Koleos has a striking front end look and a decent set of features to justify the relatively high entry price.

Active driving aids add $1490 in the Life and Zen variants but that’s reasonable given the bundle includes autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot warning and forward collision alert.

The Koleos has yet to be crash-tested but comes with six airbags covering all outboard occupants and, given the shared X-Trail platform, it should be a five-star car.

The packaging is improved but the experience behind the wheel will be familiar to existing Koleos owners, courtesy of the carryover engine and transmission.

The new chassis and suspension endow better handling but the acceleration is unchanged.

Steep inclines will induce a CVT-inspired drone as the transmission tries to keep the engine spinning above 4000rpm.

It may be efficient but it isn’t acoustically pleasing.

The lane-departure warning software is novel as it sounds like someone breaking wind.

There’s no disputing it gets your attention and doubles as in-car entertainment for the kids on winding roads.

When you’re not trying a maximum-thrust ascent, the 2.5-litre engine does a commendable job and is on a par with most of the mills in this class.

The steering is pretty well isolated from the suspension travel so there’s little kickback on gravel roads.

The suspension is reasonably solid, leading to minor jostles on rutted tracks, though the car remains impressively composed.

In common with most SUVs, the rear end will lighten up and try to swing wide if the driver backs off mid-corner.

Stability control will intervene before it gets messy.

The all-wheel drive Intens feels more planted on its 18-inch rims than the front-drive Zen riding on 17s.

Verdict: The Koleos is a lot of real estate for the money and has the style – inside and out – to earn mainstream consideration.