There are three mildly interesting things about this replacement for a model which rose without trace in its first iteration. Firstly, it will not be available with seven seats, unlike some SUVs of the same size. Secondly, despite diesel’s dodgy current status, there will be no petrol option in the UK. And, thirdly, its CVT transmission is actually bearable to live with. Renault justifies its decision not to consider seven seats on the basis that styling was more important, and that the addition of an extra tier would simply cramp second-row space. Onboard, the company’s welcome interior design renaissance merely treads water. It won’t bowl you over.
At launch, the Koleos will be available with a choice of three power-trains featuring two diesel engines: a 128bhp 1.6 married to a six-speed manual and front-wheel drive, and a 172bhp 2.0-litre unit with all-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed manual or Renault’s seven-speed X-Tronic CVT automatic transmissions. For once the CVT doesn’t sound like a bad day at the abattoir every time you properly put your foot down; the artificial introduction of seven ‘steps’ in the transmission works well. There’s a marked difference in handling between the 1.6- and 2.0-litre models. The all-wheel-drive 2.0-litre car’s steering leaves the driver feeling in control, but never truly in charge.
This, allied to only modest grip levels, a certain amount of body roll and a ground clearance of 210mm, means the Koleos becomes increasingly grumpy about corners if they follow too soon one after another. The front-drive 1.6 is better dynamically. Not only does the steering feel better weighted, less artificial and more engaging, but it’s far happier to change direction. There are two trim levels, Dynamique S Nav or Signature Nav. The former, with a respectably lavish standard equipment specification is set to be the favoured option in the UK, mated to the 2.0, all-wheel-drive, CVT powertrain. With the word ‘reasonable’ prefixing practicality, performance, comfort, ride quality and off-road ability, it remains to be seen if buyers will feel the same about a price of £31,900 for that combination.