The Renault Koleos is the newest entrant in the fiercely fought mid-to-large SUV segment that includes the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq.
Completing Renault’s crossover range, which also includes the Captur and Kadjar, the Koleos is in effect the French giant’s flagship car. As such, it’s offered in just two top spec trim levels – Dynamique S and Signature.
It may share a name with a previous unloved Renault SUV that was put out of its misery in 2010, but thankfully the new Koleos has a lot more going for it.
Big and handsome (it’s about the same size as the new Skoda Kodiaq), it shares plenty of design features with its Renault siblings, including signature C-shaped LED daytime running lights at the front and horizontally-integrated tail DRLS.
There’s no doubt that the Koleos has road presence thanks to its size, sculpted lines, muscular haunches and twin exhausts. It’s also well proportioned for an SUV, with relatively short overhangs.
Step inside and it’s clear that Renault is continuing its push upmarket because it’s well built with plenty of soft-touch and durable plastics, satin-finish chrome inserts, leather and comfortable seats.
Meanwhile, the dashboard and centre console have a similar look to Renault’s other recent cars with a decent-sized portrait touchscreen (7 or 8.7 inches depending on spec) and 7-inch TFT digital speedo.
Staying with technology, driver assistance systems include automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, Over-speed Prevention with Traffic Sign Recognition and Hill Start Assist. A rear parking camera with front and rear parking sensors is also included across the range.
Safety features include ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), ESC (Electronic Stability Control) with traction and understeer control, cruise control, speed limiter, six airbags, side impact protection bars and ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the two outer rear seats.
Rear passengers also benefit from the option of heated seats, while up front there’s a seat cooling control too, so no more sweaty backs on hot days!
Sit in the back and the Koleos has the feel of a large saloon, with loads of legroom, enough head space for all but the tallest adults and plenty of light thanks to a panoramic sunroof.
Naturally, the boot is a generous, but not class-leading 458 litres (1,690 litres with the rear seats folded) and there are plenty of storage spaces.
And a third row of seats like the Kodiaq and Sorento? Well no, because Renault says the Koleos was designed from the outset as a five-seater. That’s not to say that Renault doesn’t cater for customers wanting seven seats – look no further than the new Grand Scenic.
Seating is not the only area that sets the Koleos apart from the opposition. It is only available with diesel engines – a 1.6-litre dCi 130 or 2.0-litre dCi 175.
The larger-engined version of the Koleos also comes with ALL MODE 4×4-i four-wheel drive, giving you the ability to select your driving mode – Auto, Lock or 2WD.
I tested the 2.0-litre turbo diesel mated with Renault’s new X-Tronic automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Capable of up to 47.9mpg, a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds and a top speed of 125mph, CO2 emissions are a reasonable 156g/km (the manual version is slightly more economical with lower emissions), so expect real-world fuel economy to be nearer 40mpg.
Now I’m no fan of CVT transmissions, which tend to be a be wayward in my experience, but Renault deserves respect for the X-Tronic which cleverly simulates gear shifts, making the driving experience much more pleasurable.
Indeed, the Koleos is a relaxed cruiser which feels faster than the figures suggest. With a commanding driving position, it’s clearly designed more for comfort than dynamism.
However, it’s not perfect – road noise is apparent, especially on rougher surfaces, while the suspension doesn’t soak up bumps quite so well at lower speeds.
Keener drivers may also find the handling a little disappointing because the downside of that soft ride is a bit of body roll on more challenging roads.
On the plus side – unlike the Kodiaq – it doesn’t feel quite so big on the road.
I tried a bit of soft-roading too, and while it’s not marketed as a hardcore 4×4, it does have some all-terrain ability. Despite the lack of Hill Descent Control, it managed well and there was a noticeable difference in grip between 2WD and 4WD.
So even though the Koleos is unlikely to be used seriously off-road, it is suitably rugged and should give peace of mind in more extreme weather conditions.
Priced from £27,500-£34,200, the Koleos is blessed with a four-year warranty (like all Renaults), though its lack of seven seats and petrol engine option might put a few buyers off.
Verdict: Stylish, safe, comfortable and well equipped, the new Renault Koleos is a class act and should be on your shortlist if you’re looking for a good-sized SUV.