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Renault Koleos 2020 review: Intens FWD

The 2020 Renault Koleos is definitely steady-as-she-goes.
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Renault is making bold claims about its "reimagined" Koleos. It doesn't look much different, has the same engine and is pretty much the same in every way. That might not be a bad thing, however.

Let's ponder for a moment Renault's assertions about the 2020 Koleos. Launched late in 2019, Renault told us it is officially "reimagined." I'm not a particularly sceptical fellow so without seeing a picture I thought: "Either there has been a big and unexpected facelift, or there's a whole new Koleos for me to look forward to." What a sap I am.

Then I saw the photos. Checked the date on them. Nope. It looks exactly the same as the old one, save for a few detail changes. Ah, perhaps the interior has had a facelift. Nope. New engines? No again.

Perplexed? Yes, very much so. So an opportunity to spend a week with a top-of-the-line Koleos Intens was a great opportunity to see whether Renault may have been better off keeping its powder dry on such a big call.

Renault Koleos 2020: INTENS X-TRONIC (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$45,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

For $42,990 the Intens is available in front-wheel drive and for a few bucks more... okay, two and a half thousand more, at $45,490... you can have all-wheel drive, which is the car we were testing.

For $42,990 the Intens is available in front-wheel drive and for $45,490 you can have all-wheel drive. For $42,990 the Intens is available in front-wheel drive and for $45,490 you can have all-wheel drive.

The price includes an 11-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, parking sensors on all sides, cruise control, electric front seats with heating and ventilation, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, partial leather trim, powered tailgate, auto parking with steering, powered and heated folding mirrors, sunroof and a space-saver spare.

The price includes 19-inch alloy wheels. The price includes 19-inch alloy wheels.

The 8.7-inch R-Link touchscreen is still "wrong" in that it is in portrait rather than landscape mode. That was a problem until an Apple CarPlay update meant that it now fills the whole panel rather than being marooned in the middle in DIY landscape. Hopefully the people at super car maker McLaren have noticed (they made a similar error), because, of course, that's an everyday consideration for all of us. Weirdly, the Zen variant has a 7.0-inch screen in landscape mode.

The climate controls are split between two dials and a few selector buttons, as well as some functions in the touchscreen. Perhaps I am alone in this, but my wife cannot help herself - whenever she gets in the car she turns down the fan speed. That is much more difficult than it should be and it takes a few, determined upward swipes to gain access to the fan-speed controls.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

This is where the "reimagined" bit might be a stretch. It's the same car with LED fog lights and new wheels and bumpers. The C-shaped LED driving lights are still there (good), the Intens is distinguishable with some chrome bits but fundamentally, it's the same. As I've said before, it's just not Renault enough for me, but I'll happily concede that mine is a niche concern. If I take off my enthusiast goggles, it's a handsome enough car, particularly from the front.

It's the same car with LED fog lights and new wheels and bumpers. It's the same car with LED fog lights and new wheels and bumpers.

Once again, the interior is basically the same and, on the Intens, there are some new wood panels. Look, I'm not a fan, but they're not giant slabs of the stuff, nor are they a trim I'd choose. The cabin is ageing well and feels a little more French than the exterior. I kind of preferred the cloth seats on the lower spec Life variant I drove last year, though.

It's a handsome enough car. It's a handsome enough car.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Koleos is a big machine and so you get a lot of space inside. Front and rear passengers will be very comfortable, with ample room for those measuring north of 180cm. Nobody ever wants to sit in the middle back seat in any car, but the Koleos' would be bearable for a short trip as long as you weren't too wide.

The Koleos is a big machine and so you get a lot of space inside. The Koleos is a big machine and so you get a lot of space inside.

Front-seat passengers score a pair of cupholders that are useful rather than the usual mess you get from French carmakers (although this is improving). You can also use the cupholders to store small valuables when you leave the car, as they have a roll-top cover.

Even the middle back seat in the Koleos' would be bearable for a short trip as long as you weren't too wide. Even the middle back seat in the Koleos' would be bearable for a short trip as long as you weren't too wide.

You start with 458 litres of boots space and the wheel arches don't intrude too much, which is handy. Drop the seats and you get a very decent 1690 litres.

  • You start with 458 litres of boots space and the wheel arches don't intrude too much. You start with 458 litres of boots space and the wheel arches don't intrude too much.
  • Drop the seats and you get a very decent 1690 litres. Drop the seats and you get a very decent 1690 litres.

Each door holds a medium-sized bottle and the centre console bin/armrest is usefully sized.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Based as it is on a Nissan X-Trail, the Koleos has to make do with a Nissan-sourced 2.5-litre four-cylinder. Driving the front wheels through a CVT, the driveline is the least Renault part of the car. Bear in mind that the CVT is not a favoured transmission of mine, so take from that what you will.

The engine develops 126kW and 226Nm, which is enough to propel the big SUV to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds. The engine develops 126kW and 226Nm, which is enough to propel the big SUV to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds.

The engine develops 126kW and 226Nm, which is enough to propel the big SUV to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds.

The all-wheel-drive system can send up to half the torque to the rear wheels for a maximum 50:50 torque split and lock mode enforces that on low-grip surfaces under 40km/h.

If you're keen, you can tow up to 2000kg.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Renault lists the official combined cycle fuel figure at 8.3L/100km. We had a good long run with the Koleos over a smoky, messy Christmas that included dragging various loads to and from a house in the process of being renovated. The indicated average was a commendable 10.2L/100km with little highway running.

One upside to its Nissan origins is that the engine doesn't insist on premium unleaded.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Intens has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake force distribution, forward AEB, reversing camera, forward collision warning, blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning

There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints.

ANCAP tested the Koleos in October 2018 and awarded it a five-star safety rating. ANCAP tested the Koleos in October 2018 and awarded it a five-star safety rating.

ANCAP tested the Koleos in October 2018 and awarded it a five-star safety rating.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Renault's after-sales package is what the company calls 5:5:5. That's a five-year warranty (with unlimited kilometres), five-year roadside assist and a five-year capped-price service regime. The catch with the roadside assist is that it's service-activated, meaning you need to take the car to Renault for the full benefit. It's not a huge catch, but you just need to know about it.

The capped-price servicing looks expensive - cos it kind of is - with four of the five hitting you for $429, with a $999 service at roughly four years. Well, to be fair, it will be four years for the vast majority of owners because the service intervals are 12 months (normal) and a colossal 30,000km. The pricing does, however, cover air and pollen filters, a belt replacement, coolant, spark plugs and brake fluid, which is more inclusive than most.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Koleos has always been a car I have cut a lot of slack. When viewed through the lens of Renault fan, it most certainly does not drive like a Renault. It feels like what it is - a gracefully ageing mid-size SUV with a bit of weight on board.

It does drive very nicely, with smooth if leisurely progress. The ride is reasonably plush, the body roll noticeable but well-contained. Even with big wheels and tyres, it's quiet on the road.

The steering isn't too slow. The steering isn't too slow.

The steering isn't too slow, either. Sometimes engineers insist on a slow steering rack on a car like this, which is a pet hate of mine, largely because it's unnecessary. The Mitsubishi Outlander, a similarly sized car, has very slow steering, which is terrible in the city. The Koleos is more what I expect from a car that will spend the vast majority of its time in the city.

The car is really let down by the driveline. While the engine is okay, the torque figure is really not quite what a big unit like this needs to keep moving when loaded up, and the CVT seems to work against the torque figure rather than with it. Unlike the Kadjar, which flings the Qashqai's CVT and 2.0-litre engine in favour of something more sensible (and, let's be honest, modern), the Koleos is stuck with the old-school vibe.

As I say, though, it's pretty easygoing - nice ride, tidy handling and quiet once you're moving. And no surprises.

One problem is that I thought it was the front-wheel drive version until checked the specs. It seems like the car's brain needs a fair amount of provocation before sending power to the rear wheels. They're mostly free-wheeling, to keep fuel use reasonable, and more than once the front wheels chirped when I was launching into the main road near my home. The AWD system worked well on a slick surface, however, so it does work.

Verdict

Perhaps the only surprise about the Koleos is how little Renault has had to do to keep it fresh. It's nice to look at and drive (if you don't mind going slowly) and has a solid after-sales package.

I don't think you need the all-wheel-drive version unless you're off to the snow or doing some mild off-roading, so you can save some money there.

Is it reimagined? If you've got this far and are still wondering, the answer is not at all. It's still the same old Koleos, which is fine, because it wasn't a bad car to begin with.

Pricing guides

$38,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$32,490
Highest Price
$45,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
FORMULA EDITION 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $35,990 2020 Renault Koleos 2020 FORMULA EDITION Pricing and Specs
INTENS X-TRONIC (4x2) 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $42,990 2020 Renault Koleos 2020 INTENS X-TRONIC (4x2) Pricing and Specs
INTENS X-TRONIC (4x4) 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $45,490 2020 Renault Koleos 2020 INTENS X-TRONIC (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LIFE X-TRONIC (4x2) 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,490 2020 Renault Koleos 2020 LIFE X-TRONIC (4x2) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership8
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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