Review and road test of the Renault Koleos (2008 - 2010)
By Andy Enright
Quite why it took Renault so long to dip its toe into the 4x4 market is open to conjecture but when it did, the Koleos model it brought to market wasn't a bad first stab. It was distinctively styled, rode well, wasn't priced unreasonably and ran on tried and tested Nissan-sourced mechanicals. By most accepted measures, the formula was right. But it flopped. Disastrously. What made an underwhelming new prospect can often make a corking used buy and the Koleos is no exception. Here's what to look for when hunting for a bargain used example.
5dr 4x4 (2.0 diesel [Dynamique, Privilege])
Whatever your view of compact 4x4s - be they stylish facilitators of the active lifestyles that modern urban families are supposed to pursue or triumphs of image over ability - there's no denying that they sell. In the current climate, a major manufacturer without some kind of soft-roader to offer the public is like a supermarket with no baked beans, it's missing out on a major revenue stream. All of which explains why Renault, a brand conspicuously lacking a glittering back catalogue of 4x4 vehicles, launched the Koleos - its first proper 4x4.
Even the baying hordes of families clamouring for school run cars that look like they could nip up the north face of the Eiger couldn't persuade Renault to jump into the off-roader market unprepared. The French marque's controlling stake in Nissan presented the perfect opportunity to utilise the considerable 4x4 know-how of the Japanese firm and the Koleos arrived running on the same platform as Nissan's latest X-Trail. This was something of a coup for Renault with the X-Trail having consistently been one of the compact 4x4 market's leading lights. Unfortunately, the public seemed intent on keeping Nissan sales buoyant and gave the Koleos the cold shoulder. The range was rationalised in June 2009, pared back to just the Dynamique dCi 150 4x4 model and this was quietly deleted from the price lists in early 2010.
What You Get
Renault's claim that the Koleos has the interior of an MPV is not entirely without substance. Families looking at a people carrier but wanting something with a little more presence could well be persuaded. There are generously proportioned storage spaces around the cab with highlights including a spacious glovebox and a removable storage bin in the centre console. The boot opens in two sections to aid access where space is tight. The lower one drops down to form a ledge capable of supporting 200kg so you can slide bulky items inside on it or sit on it and take your boots off.
It's true that looks are a big part of the appeal of compact 4x4s but the Koleos is notably less aggressive with its off-roader design cues than some of its rivals. Inside, the designers have fashioned a classy and extremely high quality space that's a match for anything in the sector. The last of the cars was very well equipped with climate control, Renault's hands free key card, electrically heated and folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, roof rails and automatic lights and wipers. The run out vehicles (post June 2009) also saw a BOSE sound system that includes a digital amplifier, seven loudspeakers and a woofer, a six-CD/MP3-compatible multi-changer, 3D Satellite Navigation with a seven-inch screen and DVD atlas, hands-free Bluetooth telephone link and metallic paint. It makes these final cars the best Koleos models to track down.
What To Look For (used_look)
What to Look For
The Renault Koleos has thus far proven a very reliable vehicle with none of the turbo and exhaust gas recirculation problems that affected the first run of X-Trails. Check the underside for off-roading damage as ground clearance isn't great and insist on a fully stamped service record. There have been a couple of reports of front tracking being easily knocked out of alignment, so have a good look at the front tyres for signs of uneven wear. The other thing you'll need to be certain of when buying your 4x4 is that it is a 4x4. The Dynamique and Dynamique S models were also offered in front wheel drive form, but these got an even sniffier public reception than the all-wheel drive car, making them unlikely collectors' items.
(approx based on a 2009 Koleos dCi 150 Dynamique) Renault parts are rarely conspicuous bargains and Koleos spares are no exception with a clutch assembly around £275, brake pads are around £45 front and £50 rear, a full exhaust system about £580, a starter motor about £250, an alternator around £200 and a radiator costs around £255.
On the Road
The Koleos feels like so many other small 4x4s with a modicum of off-road capability in that its body control is a little wayward in the corners but its ride comfort is a revelation - even on poor surfaces. Just one engine is now on offer, a 2.0-litre dCi diesel unit with 150bhp. It's whisper quiet at cruising speeds in the well-insulated cabin and pulls strongly once into its stride. As a result, long distance trips are expertly handled by the Koleos, even if the steering and gearbox aren't tactile enough to inject a significant fun factor. There's 320Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, so pulling power is reasonable once you get going but a slight lag in the power delivery combined with the sharp clutch mean you do need revs on board to make sharp getaways. 0-60mph acceleration is measured at 11.6s.
Far from being all mouth and no trousers when it comes to off-roading, the Koleos has a decent collection of kit. There isn't the low range gearbox or locking centre differential that any serious off-roader would need, but Nissan's All Mode 4x4-i system (the 'i' apparently stands for intelligent) is adequate for most purposes. Further inclusions run to a hill decent control system, hill start assist and among the best ramp and departure angles in the class. The suspension is extremely good at absorbing the hits that vehicles being driven away from the public highway inevitably take - the sort that result in horrendous crashing and groaning noises in vehicles less capably sprung than the Koleos. First gear on the standard six-speed gearbox is a little too tall for accurately controlling your speed off-road and the six-speed auto that's available might be worth considering for this reason.
The Renault Koleos was an unremitting failure as a new car and one that never deserved the public antipathy it received. Only 3,000 examples were ever shifted here in the UK which limits used car choice somewhat, but the post June 2009 Dynamique models really are exceptional bargains. You get all the engineering that has made the Nissan X-Trail one of the best compact 4x4s around coupled with a whole stack of standard equipment and a price that reflects its position as an automotive reject. If you can live with the quizzical looks, you'll net yourself a serious bargain by shopping for a used Koleos.
Renault Koleos (2008 - 2010) review by Andy Enright