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Renault Koleos Zen FWD 2016 review

Built in Korea, the second-generation Koleos is powered by a 2.5-litre, naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol engine
EXPERT RATING
7
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the Renault Koleos Zen FWD with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the Renault Koleos Zen FWD with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Don't let the name fool you; the all-new Renault Koleos is about as Parisian as Dawn French. And that's because the French car maker's handsome SUV is actually a product of its alliance with Nissan, and so the Koleos shares some of its most critical components - including its platform - with the Japanese brand's new X-Trail. And then to top it off, this mulit-car-tural SUV is actually built in Korea.

MORE: Read the full Renault koleos 2016 review

But that is no bad thing. The Koleos isn't meant to stalk skinny French laneways, it's designed to carry Renault out of the niche-car marketplace and onto the shopping lists of those who might otherwise be considering a more mainstream brand. And not just in Australia, but around the globe, where SUVs just like this one make up one in every five new-car purchases. And in Australia, where medium SUVs alone make up more than 14 per cent of total new car sales, that number is even higher.

If Renault is to become a top-10 player here, it’ll be off the back of the all-new Koleos. And specifically, it will be off the back of the Koleos we've tested here, the mid-spec Zen model, which Renault expects to be the volume seller of the range.

So let's see if it lives up the hype.

In true French fashion you can personalise it to suit your mood. And not just the menu options, but the colour palette, too.

Renault Koleos 2016: Zen (4x2)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$20,000

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Koleos Zen rides on 18-inch alloys, and all trim levels get C-Shaped LED Daytime Running Lights at the front, both of which combine with its bulky squared-off styling and the mammoth Renault badge on the grille to paint a picture of muscular masculinity.

Inside, the cabin feels spacious and well laid-out; like some serious thought has gone into it. Everything feels sleek and stylish and solid. And more importantly, everything largely feels like it's where it should be, showing a common sense sometimes lost in French cars, and proof that marrying the flair of the French with the practicality of the Japanese can produce effective results.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The all-new Koleos has grown in just about every dimension, so there’s plenty of leg room and oodles of headroom in the back seat, which is also home to two ISOFIX attachment points. There’s a pair of cup-holders in the pull-down divider that separates the rear seats, matching the two for up-front passengers, and there’s ample room for bottles in the door sills.

But the big news here is your cargo carrying ability. Because the Koleos is a dedicated five-seater, there's plenty of space in the boot, even with the rear seats in place. Fold them flat, however, and your cargo space grows to an impressive 1,690 litres.

Towing capacity is also fairly impressive, coming in at 2,000kg braked.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

This front-wheel-drive Zen ($33,990) sits above the price-leading Life ($29,990), and below the top-spec Intens ($43,490). The Zen is also available in all-wheel-drive guise, which will set you back a further $2,500, but we probably wouldn't bother. 

So, what do you get for your hard-earned? The Zen model misses out on the headline-grabbing, iPad-sized multimedia screen from the Intens model, instead getting a seven-inch touchscreen that sits above what we're calling an "active" dash, in that the controls for the air-conditioning and other crucial elements are built into the gloss-black surface.

It sounds wonderful, like every trip will be some sort of Minority Report-style adventure. In reality, though, it takes some getting used to. The touchscreen is so filled with functions, it requires surgical precision to select what you want on the first attempt, and so you naturally steady your hand on the section of the dash below the screen, which inevitably activates some unintended function, like switching the screen off or turning on the climate control. It's like playing a giant, moving game of Operation.

It does lend the entire dash a lovely, sleek design feel, though, and in true French fashion you can personalise it to suit your mood. And not just the menu options, but the colour palette, too.

Opting for the Zen over the entry-level Life also gets you heated seats in the front, as well as push-button start and proximity locking that works off the weirdly cool Renault credit card-sized key. You also get automatic wipers and headlights and LED taillights, along with dual-zone climate control.

Elsewhere, the Zen adopts faux-leather on the seats and dash, but gets the real stuff on the steering wheel, behind which sits Renault's traditional control stalk for the stereo and other cabin functions.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

There’s only the one engine available across the Koleos range, and it’s a 2.5-litre petrol that produces 126kW and 226Nm, paired with a CVT automatic transmission. It’s an appropriate, if not exhilarating powertrain combination, and it’s built more for suburban shuttling than bombing along a back road. Keep it in the city, and there’s ample power to shift its 1.6-tonne bulk away from the lights, but it does feel a little asthmatic when you ask too much of it. 

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The Renault Koleos Zen sips a claimed 8.1 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, which increases to 8.3 litres should you opt for the four-wheel-drive version, which you shouldn't. CO2 emissions are pegged at 188g per kilometre.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

Renault is famed for building excitement machines that thrill at the limit, but the Koleos Zen is the first we've driven that's extraordinary at being, well, ordinary. Seating position and vision are both great, and it's a comfortable cruiser around town, mostly hiding its bulk as you navigate tighter streets or run the shopping centre carpark obstacle course. 

Its power delivery - while not overly generous - is smooth and linear, but it's accompanied by an unfortunate audible drone from the engine and gearbox that infiltrates the otherwise peaceful cabin. You get used to it soon enough, and it only really occurs under heavier acceleration, but the Zen is not the most zen-like cabin experience we've ever had. Otherwise, though, the Koleos does a commendable job of blocking out tyre and most road noise.

And on the subject of heavy acceleration, you'll need plenty of it. The 2.5-litre's 126kW and 226Nm is enough to push the Koleos around town, but it does run out of puff when you challenge it, which is a shame, because Renault's SUV feels surprisingly sorted on twisting roads. The suspension soaks up most issues with little fuss, and there’s a nice weight to the steering, though it does feel a little unnatural as you turn into corners. 

Tiny annoyances aside, the Koleos Zen is a capable, comfortable cruiser that does everything you're ever likely to ask of it, and then some.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

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

Every Koleos arrives with six airbags (two front, two front-sides and two full-length curtain airbags), a rear-view camera, hill-start assist and rear parking sensors, but the Zen model tested does miss out on more modern safety tech you might expect to find. Autonomous braking, lane assist and even blind-spot monitoring only appear as standard fare on the top-spec Intens model, with Zen customers asked to pay extra for them as part of a safety pack. Bargain-basement Life customers miss out altogether.

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

Renault has made giant strides on the ownership front in recent years, extending its warranty from three to five years for most of its passenger cars in 2011, and adding its go-fast RS models to the list in 2014. True to form, the Koleos Zen is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and requires servicing every 12 months or 30,000kms. The first three services are capped at $299 each, but after that, you're on your own.

Verdict

If you think French cars are all flair over function, or that Japanese cars are all practicality and no pizazz, the Renault Koleos Zen might just change your mind. Handsome, practical and well-equipped, it’s a handy weapon for Renault’s assault on the mainstream market in Australia.

Would you consider the Koleos over its popular rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Renault Koleos Zen FWD pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$24,991
Based on 29 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$20,000
Highest Price
$37,945

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Bose SE (4x2) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $16,989 – 18,990 2016 Renault Koleos 2016 Bose SE (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Bose SE Premium (4x4) 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $19,250 – 24,420 2016 Renault Koleos 2016 Bose SE Premium (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Expression (4x2) 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $14,740 – 19,360 2016 Renault Koleos 2016 Expression (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Intens (4x4) 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $27,990 – 37,945 2016 Renault Koleos 2016 Intens (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Driving6
Safety7
Ownership8
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$16,989

Lowest price, based on 29 car listings in the last 6 months

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