Renault Koleos VS Toyota C-HR
- Huge interior
- Good safety package
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Life's foot-operated park brake
- Top model's a bit pricey
- Adventurous styling
- Premium interior
- Class-leading standard safety
- Underwhelming engine
- CVT can grate
- No true entry-level model
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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Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Toyota C-HR with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Victoria.
There's fashionably late to the party, and then there's Toyota's C-HR small SUV. While its competitors were making hay while the city-sized SUV sun was shining, the Japanese powerhouse remained eerily quiet. Sure, there was the occasional sketch and a concept car at the Paris Motor Show in 2014, but then... crickets.
But the brand's first ever city-sized SUV has finally arrived in Australia, and Toyota is promising it's been worth the wait. And it arrives to a market absolutely booming: the 440,000 SUVs sold in Australia last year was more than the double the number sold in 2009. And more than 110,000 of those sales were in the C-HR's hotly contested segment.
To say the C-HR is like no mainstream Toyota product that has gone before (at least in recent years) is a staggering understatement. Gone is the dull design philosophy. Same with the tired-but-safe interiors. Instead you'll find a hugely adventurous exterior, a premium-feel interior and a brand new turbocharged engine.
Perhaps most surprisingly, though, is the brand's focus on an engaging drive experience that even Toyota admits has been missing from its recent back catalogue.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
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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.
Sharply styled, engaging to drive and stacked with safety kit, the C-HR will be a tempting proposition for small SUV buyers in Australia. Personally, though, we'd be holding on for a more powerful engine, but if your life is lived in the city, that's unlikely to bother you much.
Is the C-HR exciting enough to pull you away from a CX-3? 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.
Exciting. Unique. Interesting. Not three words you might normally apply to mainstream Toyota product (it's like crushed Valerian has been mixed in with the exterior paint of the current-generation Camry, for example). But then, this is no ordinary Toyota.
The C-HR part actually stands for Coupe High Rider, and the newest Toyota does give off the same kind of vibes as the pioneers in this weird SUV/Coupe pseudo-style. Viewed front on, the C-HR looks simple enough, with the blocky and tall grille, an extreme example of Toyota's new 'under priority, keen look' design language, framed on either size by two massive and swept back headlights (they're 950mm in length, and Toyota had to have its supplier design new machinery to craft them).
But viewed side on, the coupe-ness emerges, the near-vertical windscreen meets a slightly sloping roofline that eventually meets a rear window which angles away from the roof. The wheel arches are bulging, the belt line is sky-high and even the body crease takes a crazy journey from the top of the wheel arch to the base of door before climbing again to the rear door.
So far so good, then. And from those two angles, the C-HR looks sharp on the road. But its the rear view that looks somehow cluttered and confused. From the mass of black cladding, to the boomerang-shaped brake lights, to the endless array of sharp angles and bulging panels, it looks more than a touch too busy for our tastes. Oh, it's supposed to look like a diamond. But you'd need to have sampled Lucy's sky diamonds to spot it.
There are eight body colours (four are new: red, bronze, teal and silver), while $450 will net you a white- or black-painted roof.
Toyota's made no secret it's targeting a more upmarket clientele or, in the words of Toyota: "our customers will have competitors from premium brands on their shopping lists", and the interior does feel a cut above.
There are still a few hard plastics lurking in places, but the other materials feel well crafted and the driver-angled dash has a kind of layering which works well, with different materials and colours stacked on top of each other.
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.
At 4360mm in length and 1795mm in width, the C-HR is actually slightly bigger than a Corolla, and while the interior can feel claustrophobic at times, space for front and rear passengers is actually pretty good. You can genuinely transport four adults in comfort, though squeezing three across the back seat will wipe smiles off faces pretty quickly.
The weirdest part, though, is a large curved panel in the rear door, which eats away the window space in the back. It means backseat passengers will have to lean forward to look out the window, or be left staring at a door panel.
Elsewhere, expect two cupholders in the front and another one in each of the rear doors, but there are no pockets for bottles in the back. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
Luggage space is pegged at 377 litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats in place, but that climbs to 1112 litres with them folded flat.
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.
Now for the bad news: there's no price-led entry-level model here. Instead you'll be asked to part with $26,990 for the cheapest C-HR, which is about $6k more than an entry-level Corolla. Toyota explains away the price hike by saying most (about 80 per cent) of small SUV shoppers jump into the market at a medium trim level or higher, saying the C-HR's customers are "looking for the niceties of life."
Niceties or no, that money will earn you a front-wheel drive, manual-equipped vehicle with satellite navigation, active cruise control and cloth seats. You'll also get dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, an electric parking brake and LED fog lights and DRLs. Most commendably, you also get an impressive suite of standard safety kit, but we'll come back to that in a moment. As in the rest of the range, your touchscreen will be a fairly underwhelming 6.1-inches in size, and is missing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Toyota has simplified the costs from there, asking customers to shell out another $2k for a CVT (auto) and another $2k for AWD, lifting the combined price to $30,990.
If you're still wanting more, another $4,300 (for a total $35,290) will earn you the top-spec Koba treatment, adding heated leather seats, push-button start, LED headlights and taillights, 18-inch alloys, privacy glass and Toyota's new 'Nanoe E' air-con technology that not only blocks all kinds of nasties, but adds moisture to the air to stop you hair and skin drying out.
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.
The C-HR is powered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre, four cylinder petrol engine, on debut in this model, that produces 85kW from 5200–5600rpm and 185Nm between 1500–4000rpm. Those numbers don't make for the most exhilarating acceleration: while no official sprint times have been quoted, we were producing 12.5-ish second runs, albeit recorded on a phone on undulating road surfaces.
That power can be sent to the front wheels or to all four tyres, depending on your budget, via a six-speed manual transmission with a tricky rev-matching system that blips the throttle on up and down shifts for smoother gear changes, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. The CVT has a manual mode - though there's no wheel-mounted shifters - which builds in seven artificial steps in the gearing to simulate a traditional auto.
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.
While the front-wheel drive versions paired with the manual transmission will sip a claimed/combined 6.3 litres per hundred kilometres, some clever tech ensures the auto and all-wheel drive models aren't far off.
Opt for a FWD drive paired with a CVT, and your official fuel use climbs to 6.4L/100km, thanks in part to the fact that the CVT is tuned to sit in its highest possible ratio when coasting.
The AWD models claim 6.5L/100km, helped by the fact the engine actually defaults to FWD when it can, only incorporating the rear tyres if pushed, which will see up to 50 per cent of the power sent to the back.
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.
A Toyota SUV honed at the Nurburgring? Clearly, then, this a new direction for the brand.
This is supposed to be Toyota's driver's car, and in a lot of ways it is. The steering is terrific, smooth and predictable in the city, and perfectly linear when you start tackling tighter, faster bends. The ride is great, too, while the suspension, which strikes a commendable balance between supple and sporty, helps ensure the C-HR sits nice and flat when cornering, only pushing to understeer when you really ask a lot from it.
However, there are some drawbacks. The first is the engine, which feels adequate in the CBD when you're jumping from traffic light to traffic light, but whimpers pretty quickly when you try to unlock some performance.
But the biggest issue for us is the CVT . It's far from the worst we've driven - quieter and smoother than most - but it's a terrible way to draw any meaningful performance from the engine. The foot-flat climb from 30 to 70km/h feels particularly slow, thought that's improved by selecting manual mode, which builds in seven artificial gear steps.
That said, it's not supposed to be an out-and-out performance car, it's simply supposed to be a better driving car than Toyotas that have gone before it, and we think it definitely is. Road noise, too, is kept to a minimum, and vision out of every window (except the rear windscreen - thank goodness for standard reversing cameras) is terrific.
In short, it's a great set-up let down by a lacklustre engine, but heavy rumours abound about Toyota fixing that problem in the not too distant future. Either way, it is a strong outing for Toyota's new TNGA (Toyota New Generation Architecture) platform that will underpin a whole heap of its new products in coming years.
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.
A hugely commendable safety package arrives as standard, with every trim level equipped with AEB, active cruise control, a lane departure system that will take over the steering if it senses you're drifting. That's a lot of handy safety technology, especially on an, albeit expensive, entry-level model. You also get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and hill start assist.
The high-tech stuff joins seven airbags, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
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.
The Toyota C-HR is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty and requires a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 15,000kms.
An impressive capped-price service scheme sees maintenance costs pegged at just $195 per year for the first five years.