Renault Koleos VS Nissan Pathfinder
- Huge interior
- Good safety package
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Life's foot-operated park brake
- Top model's a bit pricey
- Stronger design
- Updated safety gear
- Better in-car technology
- AEB not standard on base model
- Still not as sharp as class leaders
- Fuel use in the V6 cracks double digits
Renault's Koleos doesn't quite know what it is. This second-generation SUV from the French giant is also the second one built largely around the Nissan X-Trail, taking much of its mechanicals. The French flair, a key purchasing decision for many Renault owners, must come from the design, ride and handling, right?
In a market swamped with cars of this type, using a donor car is an economically sensible way to get things done. The risk is turning out a car with the badge of one manufacturer on the front but the character of another behind it.
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Nissan's seven seat Pathfinder has an image problem. Not so much that people think of it poorly. It's worse than that. People don't think of it at all.
In fact, Nissan reckons its family-hauling Pathfinder has been "flying under the radar" in Australia, and they're probably right. Shifting from a body-on-frame to a car-like monocoque set-up in 2013 has helped make the current Pathfinder the most popular released to date, but it hasn't exactly set the sales charts on fire. The big Nissan managed 5560 sales in 2016, only a handful more than Mazda's CX-9 sold, despite the latter only being on sale for the final six months of the year.
"Pathfinder frustrates us a little bit," admits Nissan Australia CEO, Richard Emery. "It doesn't get the credit if deserves. We think it's becoming something of a forgotten car."
So, in an effort to generate some noise and make it a little more memorable, Nissan's 2017 update delivers stiffer suspension at every wheel, more modern in-cabin tech and better safety equipment (including autonomous braking on all but the entry-level model). It looks better, too, with a new and rather handsome face that injects some much-needed style to the big and hulking Pathfinder.
So, do the changes mean the Pathfinder deserves a second (or first…) look?
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The Koleos is a sort of left-field choice, really, and that's probably not very fair. It's a proper mainstream car from a manufacturer that has been around longer than most, built on a proven platform.
It is, however, different enough for you to take notice. It looks good, has a bit of presence when viewed from either end and you can say you've got a Renault. It's only problem is it seems to be having and identity crisis.
Are you tempted by a proven SUV package with a Gallic point of difference? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Better looks, better technology and better safety equipment make the Pathfinder well worth a second look if you're in the market for a good value seven seat hauler. The V6 is our pick for driver fun, but if the thought of fuel bills sends you spare, the hybrid might be right up your alley.
Does this upgrade put Nissan Pathfinder back in the seven seat SUV hunt? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Like Batman, the Koleos is a product of its origin story. That's not to say it's a weird orphan billionaire with a rubber fetish (although it has tyres, I guess) but that it was always going to turn out this way.
At first glance, it looks like a Renault, especially from the front, with the big C-shaped daytime running lights. Once in profile, though, it could be pretty much anything but it becomes more Renault at the rear again. So it stands out front and back but not so much from the side, which is unusual for a Renault. But then, it's a Nissan-based car built in South Korea, so it was always going to be a compromise.
Interior images show a mainstream design with a decent-sized screen but little in the way of French detailing. I'm a fan of Renault interiors generally even if they're not ergonomic masterpieces. This interior is certainly not as brave as its compatriot, the recently-arrived Peugeot 5008.
Simple: it looks better that it did before. The 2017 redesign sees the front end reshaped to look more sleek and modern, helped by the LED DRLs, 'V-Motion' grille, and what Nissan calls "razor" turn signals integrated into the wing mirrors.
Inside, the cabin is spacious and airy, while the dash is still busy, but now far more modern.
Seven colours on offer - Caspian Blue, Brilliant Silver, Cayenne Red, Gun Metallic (dark grey), Ivory Pearl (white), Diamond Black, and Midnight Jade (green).
For a Renault, the Koleos has a fairly conventional interior partly because it's based on another car. That means it has proper cupholders (the French are really bad at those), two up front and two in the back. Each door has a bottleholder, for a total of four.
Front seat passengers do very nicely indeed, with some models adding things like armrests for extra lounge chair comfort. The rear seat is spacious, with good leg and headroom, with room for three kids.
Boot space is generous - the Koleos is a big car. The luggage capacity starts at 458 litres, rising to 1690 litres with the rear seats down. The load area is a good size and shape, the packaging maximising the impressive interior dimensions. The glove box is large enough to hold the huge owners manual.
The Pathfinder is a big unit, and given that imposing size it's every bit as practical as you might expect.
Luggage load capacity specs might be a small 453 litres with the all seats in place, but that boot space number grows to 1354 litres with the third row of seating folded flat, and cargo capacity swells again to a massive 2260 litres with the second and third row folded down.
Towing capacity for an unbraked trailer is 750kg across the range, with braked trailer capacity jumping to a useable 2700kg for non-hybrid models, and 1650kg for the hybrids.
Elsewhere in the interior, front seat passengers share two straight-lined cupholders, with two USB charging points and an auxiliary in-line jack hidden in a centre-dash cubby hole. Second row passengers can control their own air-con temperature, and there's a cup holder in each rear door (and another two in the pull-down divider that operates the rear seats), plus room for bottles in the door pockets.
But the Pathfinder's true party trick is its 'EZ Flex' seating system, which maximises space inside and ensures climbing into the third row of seats is easy. For a start, the second row of seating is fitted on a slide rail, meaning you can prioritise space in the second or third row, depending on how many passengers you've got. Then the third-row seats also recline, making like back there a touch more comfortable.
To get into the third row, the side-seat levers don't just fold the seatback forward, but also fold the seat cushion up as it slides forward, making climbing into row three very easy indeed, with Nissan claiming the widest entry point in the segment.
Turning radius is a not insubstantial 11.8m, so take care in the parking station.
A space saver spare tyre and repair kit are standard on all models.
Price and features
As always with our comparison articles, every price you see is straight from the manufacturer's price list and are RRP. Of course, how much you actually pay is between you and your dealer.
There are three models in the Koleos range - Life, Zen and Intens.
Pricing kicks off at $30,990 for the Life. For that you score 17-inch alloys, an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, remote central locking, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, cornering lamps, cloth trim, power windows, heated and powered rear vision mirrors and a space-saver spare.
The multimedia system features the usual AM/FM radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Life doesn't have a navigation system, so your phone's GPS sat nav will have to do, which is fine if you've got data.
Next up is the Zen starting at $35,490 for the front-wheel drive (FWD) and $37,990 for the all-wheel drive (AWD). To the Life's spec list you can add 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and start (via Renault's smart key card), front parking sensors, heated and cooled front cupholders, electric driver's seat, sat nav, heated front seats, fake leather seats, sunroof, electric parking brake and roof rails.
The Intens is available in petrol ($44,990) and diesel ($47,490). On top the Zen spec you can expect a 12-speaker stereo, side parking sensors, heated and ventilated electric front seats, auto LED headlights, partial leather seats, power tailgate and auto parking.
Accessories include floor mats, at an eyebrow-raising $118.72, coloured key shells, boot liners, a towbar for over a grand, cargo barrier, bicycle carriers and the evergreen mudflap.
Not available are a bull bar or nudge bar or a body kit - unless you count the side steps.
There are eight colours - 'Mineral Beige', 'Metallic Black', 'Meissen Blue', 'Metallic Grey', 'Marron Red', 'Ultra Silver' and 'Universal White' all cost $880 extra. Only 'Solid White' is a freebie. McLaren Renault fans will be disappointed there's no 'Papaya Orange' option.
The 2017 Pathfinder range arrives in three cost and trim levels, the price list opens up with the entry-level ST, which is cheapest in front-wheel drive (2WD) (though, now $500 more expensive than it was) at $41,990. Opting for four-wheel drive (FWD) lifts that price to $45,490 while the two-wheel drive hybrid version will set you back $44,490. There is no rear-wheel drive only option.
The range them climbs to the mid-spec ST-L, which is $53,690 in 2WD configuration, $57,690 for the 4x4, and $60,690 as hybrid-powered 4WD.
The 2017 Pathfinder range reaches its peak with the top-tier Ti, available in 2WD ($62,190), 4WD ($66,190), and as a hybrid-equipped 4WD ($69,190). Every Pathfinder arrives with seven seats as standard.
There are extra standard features across the range, too. The entry-level ST is now equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen as standard, which pairs with a Bluetooth-equipped sound system with six speakers, radio and CD player. Cruise control is also standard fit, as is tri-zone climate control. Outside, expect manually levelled halogen headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass covering the second and third row, along with roof rails and LED daytime running lights. Inside, you'll find cloth seats but a leather-accented steering wheel and gear shift.
Step up to the ST-L trim and you'll add a panoramic sunroof, fog lights, heated wing mirrors, GPS sat-nav and welcome lighting, while your now leather seats are heated in the front and your stereo is upgraded to a Bose 13-speaker system.
Spring for the Ti and your alloy wheels grow to 20 inches, your auto-levelling headlights are now LED-quipped and your wing mirrors will auto-tilt when you're in reverse. Your heated and cooled front seats also get a memory function for the driver. Perhaps most importantly, though, you'll now find a screen embedded in the back of the driver and passenger seat headrests to keep your second-row passengers entertained.
But forget pairing your iPhone for Apple CarPlay or Android device for Android Auto, neither function is available on the Pathfinder.
Engine & trans
There are two engines available in the Koleos range. The Life, Intens, Zen and S Edition (a limited run version of approximately 360 units, based on the Intens) are all available with Renault-Nissan's 2.5-litre petrol automatic.
The Life is 4x2 only while the Zen and Intens are 4x4 only. The diesel is only available in the Intens.
The 2.5-litre produces 126kW/226Nm, propelling the non-AWD cars from 0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds, which is reasonable acceleration performance for a car of this size and weight (1552kg). The 56kg heavier AWD petrols will reach the ton in 9.8 seconds.
The turbo-diesel is a 2.0-litre motor and despite the smaller engine size than the petrol, puts out more power at 130kW and a substantially more torque at 380Nm. Zero to 100km/h is dispatched in 9.5 seconds.
Whether front or AWD, petrol or diesel, the Koleos comes not with an automatic transmission but Nissan's favoured continuously variable transmission (CVT). There is no manual gearbox or LPG option.
According to Renault's specifications, the braked towing capacity is rated at 2000kg for the petrol and, curiously, 1650kg for the diesel. That does seem strange given the extra horsepower and torque, but there you are.
As to whether the engines feature a timing belt or chain, both are lower maintenance chain-driven engines. As yet, there is not a battery powered or hybrid version.
Two engine size options in the Pathfinder range, a V6 petrol and an electric motor-equipped hybrid. There is no possible petrol vs diesel debate here, mostly because this car is taken from Nissan's American fleet - a place where oil-burners are about as popular as gun control.
In terms of engine specs, the 3.5-litre V6 is a perky unit, generating 202kW/340Nm and offering a smooth and broad power delivery missing from smaller capacity engines.
It's paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic (no manual transmission option), but Nissan has built artificial steps into the gear mapping to simulate the changing of gears as per a conventional torque converter transmission.
The hybrid option is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine partnered with a 15kW electric motor. It will produce a combined 188kW/330Nm, and is paired with the same CVT.
Rather than a timing belt, Nissan uses a chain on both engines for optimum durability.
Speaking of which, earlier, Spanish-built cars (pre-2009) did suffer problems, with complaints focusing on build quality and diesel engine oil leak issues. Other common faults related to clutch and brake wear, but later Thailand-built vehicles (including this one), have a deservedly higher quality reputation.
As usual, the official fuel consumption figures are off by around 30 percent, which is about right. On the upside, the Koleos drinks only standard 91 RON for the petrol.
The two-wheel drive petrols will return 8.1L/100km while the AWD petrols a little more at 8.3L/100km. Diesel mileage is about 25 percent better at 6.1L/100km.
Given those figures, fuel economy is hardly going to decide whether you go for the 4x4 versions. A quick review of previous Koleos stories yields figures of 10.9L/100km for the heaviest petrol, the Intens. I recently drove the 4x2 Life and got just over 11.0L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is the same petrol vs diesel at 60 litres.
When it comes to fuel consumption, this new Pathfinder is more fuel efficient than the outgoing model, but it's still not a particularly pretty picture in terms of the amount of gas consumed.
Of the V6 Nissan Pathfinder models, the 2WD versions deliver the best fuel economy, drinking a claimed/combined 9.9L/100km, though that climbs to 10.1L/100km if you opt for a 4WD.
Emissions are pegged at 230 grams per kilometre (2WD), and 234g/km (4WD).
The hybrid models lower those numbers to 8.6L/100km, and 8.7L/100km in the 4WD versions. Emissions are lower, too, now 200 and 202g/km respectively.
Fuel tank capacity is 73 litres for the V6 and Hybrid.
The Koleos, as I've already established, is built on the X Trail's guts and really feels very similar. That means if you're buying the Koleos hoping it feels like a Renault, you're out of luck. And that's not because it can't be done, it just didn't make much sense to do so. It's different to the X-Trail, but not massively so. It doesn't feel French.
Part of that is the CVT. While not the worst of its type fitted to a car in recent times, it makes the Koleos feel slow and a bit dim-witted. In normal driving it's perfectly fine and the noise suppression keeps the lawn mower effect to reasonable levels, but ask a little more of the transmission and it's not really ready for it.
And that's a great pity. While it's no ball of fire, it handles tidily, isn't actually as slow as it feels and is otherwise a pleasant car to be in.
Another complaint are the Life's tyres - they're not very good and could do with a bit more grip in damp conditions. Felt very odd to be losing traction accelerating gently out of corners.
The Koleos' off road ability isn't on trial here, but it's more than competent in the rough and slippy stuff when fitted with the AWD system. It certainly has the suspension travel, 21cm ground clearance and cosseting ride in all specs that you might expect from an off-roader.
Not an off-road review this time around. Our test route didn't threaten this beast's healthy ground clearance or wading depth, and was largely limited to a fast and smooth succession of sweeping corners - roads the Pathfinder was destined to shine on - but there were a handful of tight and twisting bends on which to heap pressure on the big Nissan's suspension and grip.
All up, the early signs are positive. The new and firmer suspension has rebuilt the outgoing model's troubled relationship with the blacktop below it, and while it can send the occasional bump or rattle into the cabin, we reckon that's a price well worth paying for a far more confidence-inspiring drive experience.
Only when you decide to really push it, tackling tight turns with more gusto than the Pathfinder is ever likely to face, are you really reminded of the car's limitations, with a noticeable lean accompanied by a high-pitched whining from the tyres. The stiffer suspension has added speed to the steering, too, with Nissan claiming a seven per cent increase on the out-going model.
Still, the Nissan is a circa two tonne beast. In straight line performance it's not going to threaten 0-100km/h acceleration records, and its dynamics are still a touch off the pace in comparison to the segment leaders, but it's now a comfortable and confident way to guide yourself cross-country.
The 2017 Pathfinder is spacious, comfortable and now loaded with current technology. And if fuel use isn't a concern, the V6 engine offers up a smooth power delivery and an easy cruising speed that's available right across the rev range - a naturally aspirated joy that's something of a rarity these days.
The Koleos leaves South Korea with six airbags, ABS, stability (ESP) and traction controls, brake force distribution, forward AEB, reverse camera, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints.
The Zen and Intens also feature blind spot warning and side parking sensors.
Since its 2016 introduction, ANCAP has not got around to crash testing the Renault for a safety rating. EuroNCAP has and awarded a five star rating in September 2017 with a safety spec identical to the Intens.
Every Pathfinder arrives with a host of safety features including a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, reverse camera ('Around View' on Ti, but no park assist) and cruise control, which join six airbags (twin front, side and curtain), but springing for the ST-L or Ti trim now adds active cruise control, forward collision warning with AEB and rear cross-traffic alert.
There are three restraint anchorage points for child seats across the middle row seats , and one on the right-hand side of the thrid row. The two outer centre row seats positions are ISOFIX equipped.
The entire Pathfinder range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested following its 2013 launch.
To cover off any problems or issues, Renault offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and up to four years' roadside assist. Service costs are capped for the first three years and on both petrol and diesel, service intervals are an impressive 12 months/30,000km.
Pricing for the first three services is capped at $349 for the petrol and $369 for the diesel. That's a genuine bargain, with extra costs like filters laid out on the website.
As with its X Trail sister car, reliability appears to be excellent with few common faults. A run around the usual internet forums didn't uncover any common engine problems.
Resale value is slightly below that of its Japanese donor car, but depreciation doesn't seem as steep as some other Renaults.
Every Pathfinder is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist offered throughout. Nissan Australia doesn't offer an extended warranty option.
Petrol Pathfinders require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 10,000kms, while hybrid service intervals are shorter: six months or 7,000km.
Both models fall under Nissan's 'myNissan' menu-based service cost program, effectively a capped price servicing arrangement, with owners able to see what is required at each service ahead of their visit to the service centre.