2014 Renault Koleos test drive review

  • Apr 17, 2014


Launched in the Indian market on the 8th September 2011, the Renault Koleos seemed as a promising offering. The company sold 223 units in the first three months but after that, it was soon apparent that this SUV couldn't hold its place in front of rivals like the mighty Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and others. Infact, from September 2011 to February 2014, in 30 months, Renault could manage to sell off only 914 units of the Koleos - that's an average of just over 30 per month. However, the company hasn't given up and has high hopes on the new updated model that we drove recently around the hills of Ooty down South. Will the Koleos' second innings prove fruitful for Renault?

Design - subtle changes!

Put the old Koleos next to the new version and even the most enthusiastic of motoring heads will take their own sweet time in figuring out the changes. And that's not really a bad thing because its unconventional design has always stood out and inspite of being of the shortest SUV in its segment (4.52m as compared to 4.69 for Santa Fe, 4.55m for the CR-V), the new Koleos gets noticed easily. Coming back to the changes, the front, like the new Fluence, gets a revised grille and a more prominent positioning of the company logo. The front bumper has been modified slightly as well and the SUV now gets new alloy wheels - they differ as per the version you choose.

Apart from this, the Koleos gets a new chrome side protector and the rest of the SUV remains unchanged. Renault has added a new color option, Maple Red but we feel the company could have used this opportunity to  further enhance the design of the vehicle. SUV owners in this price segment either want ego massaging dimensions or out of this world design themes - either way, the Koleos ends up lacking just a bit.

Is it same on the inside?

The Koleos, being restricted in dimensions, is a strict 5 seater. While this means you get a sizable boot that measures upto 450 litres, passenger space on the inside is not very generous. It is good for five adults no doubt but when you are paying Rs 30 lac and ignoring options like the CR-V, Santa Fe and others, you do wish and want more space. That said, on the features list, Renault has left no stone un-turned. For starts, you get a powered co-driver seat, something that none of the other rivals (apart from the far more expensive top end Audi Q3)  offers. Next, safety is taken care of by aids like hill start assist, hill descent control and ESP. The Koleos also gets as many as 6 airbags, smart card access with push-button start, light sensing lamps, rain sensing wipers, cruise control and a BOSE audio system.

While the Koleos is equipped nicely, the new version doesn't differ at all from the previous one when it comes to cabin design. Quality of materials used is top notch and the control feels nice to touch - the climate control buttons for example. The seats themselves are nice and comfortable but with tall adults up front, space at the back is best termed as average for this segment. The foldable snack tray does come handy though. Where the Koleos gets brownie points is practicality - lot of cubby holes and storage spaces including the glove-box under the driver arm-rest. There are two concealed and hidden secret storage spaces under the floor as well - these are located under the rear passenger floor mat, on either side of the transmission tunnel. Rear passengers also get air-con vents located in the pillars on either side and the boot, with its twin-gates is a nice touch. One can even sit on the lower gate and this makes for a perfect picnic table too.

How does it drive?

On paper, the 173 PS engine does impress you and so does the healthy dose of torque at 360Nm - mind you these are the figures for the 4x4 versions as the 4x2 model gets a max power of 150PS and maximum torque rating of 320Nm. We got to drive only the top end 4x4 AT version and oh boy, did we miss the good old 6-speed manual gearbox? While an automatic should make life easy in most cases, in the Koleos, it does the opposite. Turbo lag is evident and was an issue while overtaking slow moving traffic, more so as the automatic gearbox, a torque converter, is simply too lazy to act fast. Even from a standstill, it takes almost a second before the engine and gearbox combination starts responding and propels the SUV forward. This is further clear when you see the spec sheet - there is a massive 2 second difference in the 0-100km/h run between the manual and auto versions.

On the other side, once the SUV builds up speeds, it feels much better. Going into manual mode further gives you more control over the engine but because you have to work so hard to keep a fast pace, efficiency does take a hit. For number chrunchers, the ARAI rated economy of the base 4x2 MT, 4x4 MT and 4x4 AT stand at 17.15kmpl, 16.26kmpl and 14.56kmpl respectively. The Koleos thankfully comes with great NVH levels. Both engine noise and suspension noise are well damped and on open roads, the SUV feels premium and polished - it can hold high speeds all day long and because the engine is spinning at over 2000rpm, you always have power and torque on offer instantly.

Is it comfortable?

The Koleos steers well in city. However, our stint started immediately on hilly terrain and we had to drive down the famous hair-pins enroute Bangalore. This clearly showcased the SUV's inability to be an agile vehicle. Steering feedback isn't anything to rave about - we feel the Koleos is more about being a vehicle that is best enjoyed when not being driven in a quick and an enthusiastic manner, specially on winding roads.

The passengers however are pampered and cocooned well. Seats are comfortable and suspension, as stated above, has been tuned well for comfort. The Koleos won't tire you on long drives and when used as a chauffeur driven vehicle in city limits on daily commutes, the owner won't have a reason to complain either.

Price and verdict

Let me start the verdict by stating that when the earlier Koleos was launched in September 2011, it came with a price tag of Rs 22.99 lac. There was only one version on offer - the fully loaded top of the line 4x4 AT. So, while the new Koleos starts at a lower price point of 21.3 lac, keep in mind that this price holds true for the base, less powerful, less loaded 4x2 MT version.

The top end version retails at Rs 24.9 lac, almost 2 lac more than the original version - we feel Renault should have worked on this aspect harder. At this price, the new Koleos rubs shoulders with the Audi Q3 S - a base version no doubt, but it comes with four oval rings. Likewise, the Koleos is priced on par with the 7-seater and bigger Fortuner as well. We are not doubting the fact that the Koleos is better equipped, is more comfortable and has better quality, but in India, owning a premium SUV is more about ego massing looks and space.

That said, there are people who want a technologically advanced SUV that can both be chauffeur driven on weekdays and self driven easily on weekends. This is where the Koleos fit the role well.

Here are a few pictures comparing the old and the new Koleos (the red TN plate is the new one)



Renault Koleos Videos

Watch latest video reviews of Renault Koleos to know about its interiors, exteriors, performance, mileage and more.

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