Renault Koleos GT Line dCi 190 X-Tronic 4x4
Modern cars continue to swell and bloat, but in many cases they somehow feel smaller than they look. That is not the case with the new Renault Koleos.
On narrow roads it feels like a barge, and manoeuvring around a tight estate became tiresome even after a few days. Its saving grace is the electric steering rack, which replicates the feel of a city car. However, all that bulk is not helped out by the incessant beeping from the front and rear parking sensors, which go off even when sat stationary at a car park ticket barrier. They are so sensitive in fact that I eventually disabled them. The rear parking camera is otherwise clear and does prove useful when backing into a tight spot.
Unfortunately, the criticism continues. The dash-mounted 8.7" touchscreen reminded me why buttons are far superior. Controlling media and navigation was fine while stationary—the screen is responsive and well laid out—but it is a nightmare on the go. Hovering your finger over a small icon and tapping in the hope that you hit the right spot is frustrating, and potentially dangerous. The volume buttons are also far too small, and in the dark are not bright enough. There is a stalk behind the steering wheel to get around that, but it seems a basic oversight. There are also too many menus to reach the radio or Bluetooth. Bring back buttons.
One positive worth highlighting is the 'Eco-coaching' driving score that is presented at the end of a drive, which ranks efficiency and how smooth braking and acceleration is. Much like the strange thrill of eking out extra range in an EV, I found myself looking to better my score with each drive.
That aside, the cabin feels spacious and comfortable. Heated front seats can set your buttocks to medium-rare in a few minutes, and the ambient strip lighting throughout is a nice touch. In fact, it is what we have come to expect of cars in this class. The seats are exceptionally comfortable—shout out to Renault's preferred supplier—and rear leg room is ample. Five full grocery bags leave plenty of room in the boot. I did however find a reasonable blind spot created by the A-pillars, based on my seating configuration.
Outside, the Koleos follows the design traits of other models in the range. The sweeping LEDs at the front look like upside down eyebrows, but it works. The 19" alloy wheels look great and offer a decent amount of sidewall to help cushion any bumps. The fake exhaust trims at the rear seem a little pointless, but overall it is not a bad looking SUV. Our test car came in 'Vintage Red' which in the right light is exactly the same colour as a slice of lamb's liver.
The ride is plush and absorbs most bumps. Aside from the clatter of the 1,995cc diesel unit, there is very little noise whilst cruising. This brings us to an issue that tends to split opinion: the continuously variable transmission (CVT). For me, it is absolutely woeful. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Renault markets the gearbox as a '7-speed', as there are in fact no real gears. CVTs are commonly found in vehicles such as forklift trucks, tractors and even snowmobiles. They are also typically the gearbox of choice for mopeds, and in the Koleos gives the same kind of 'twist and go' driving experience.
Even in 'manual' mode, it’s hopeless—gear shifts simply do not feel authentic and it is ultimately a sluggish, unresponsive drive. Mated to a four-cylinder diesel, passengers are also treated to perhaps the least appealing engine note—the car gets quicker but the engine note remains the same, and simply drones on in the background. Imagine a Transit in slow motion.
This is not a performance car, but I would expect more from a near-premium SUV—of which the Koleos is at nearly £34,000 in this trim. NVH is such a critical consideration for any vehicle in this price range, and while the Koleos scores highly in ride comfort, it is dragged down by that intrusive engine noise.
I also feel the automatic locking is worth a mention. I had to load the car up for a weekend trip, which naturally took a few journeys between the car the house. Usually, I would leave the car unlocked as I fritter back and forth to avoid scrambling around in my pocket for the keys whilst carrying bags. Unfortunately, the car locks as soon as it sense the car key leave its proximity.
It also created a couple of embarrassing moments at the pumps; I won't forget the look of shame as my partner sat quietly with the alarm going off as I paid for fuel. The same issue occurred at the services; I popped in to grab some coffees and came back to the car alarm going off, again due to the autolock. I'm sure there is a way around it, but it seems a little unintuitive.
I was ultimately a little disappointed with the Koleos. It promises so much on paper, and looks worth every penny in the flesh. Unfortunately, a week with Renault's latest SUV raised some basic issues that need addressing before it warrants that price tag.
Price as tested: £33,855
MPG (WLTP): 40.4
CC rating: 2.5/5