Renault Koleos LE 4WD Phase 3 Review

Family runabout that can climb any mountain? We put it to the test

By Fraser Martin

Renault Koleos AWD

I attended the launch of the Phase 1 Renault Koleos 4×4 quite a number of years ago now, in Morroco. It was a bit of an adventure which, to cut a long story short, probably should not have happened. The weather was really bad and the off-road route across the Atlas Mountains had to be closed due to the slippery conditions: the problem was that it was closed after our team left the base, so we were completely on our own, no advance party blazing a trail and no back up covering us.

Renault Koleos AWD

Of course we made it through – once the baked mud had been chipped away from the rear to allow the back wheels to actually go round, and we made cunning use of the ‘Wall of Death’ principle, we were fine. But, in a classic case of Sod’s Law, the rain started again when we reached tarmac so that on arrival at the hotel, two hours late, the car was spotlessly clean!

Renault Koleos AWD

It did prove though, that Renault’s Koleos was a stronger car than even Renault had accounted for, and now that we are in Phase 3 of the process, the Koleos has become more refined if not substantially different. Tricky job to improve something which is pretty good as it is!

Renault Koleos AWD

So before we get carried away, the new car is more or less the same as the outgoing car – it has newer wheels and a better looking face, but fundamentally the Koleos has not really changed other than in some details. The selectable 4×4 system is still electronic and still drives through a CVT gearbox, of which more later. The engine is the same 170hp, 2.5-litre, four cylinder naturally aspirated unit that shares a life with Nissan, and where the Koleos is made, in Korea, the Samsung SM5. It is a touch noisy to be sophisticated, but gets the job done with decent economy and reasonable pace.

Renault Koleos AWD

Constantly-Variable Transmissions (CVTs) are essentially worked through a pair of belts that continuously adjust drive according to accelerative load placed upon them, and adjust automatically to overcome the weight of the vehicle in the conditions it is being used. Starting from rest can sound a little bit like clutch-slip in a manual, but once on the move, the gearchanges themselves are imperceptible. The acceleration time is acceptable for a car of its size, passing the 100kph mark at around 10 seconds.

Renault Koleos AWD

The CVT is fine for normal cruising and is excellent in sand, in my view, since all you have to do is modulate the throttle within a given rev band to maintain momentum. However, steep climbs, such as I decided would beat the Koleos on my drive, can have the CVT struggling as it tries to find a low enough ratio with which to keep the car moving.

This is especially noticeable when you have to stop and restart again on an incline. But then my choice of drive was designed to see where conditions, within reasonable expectations, would stop the Koleos and as you can see from the mountain pictures, nothing did! Even where I had to get out the car, move some stones and check clearances, the Renault managed to set off again with a bit of pendulum encouragement, rocking it back and forward until the movement overcame the obstacles. It really is a surprisingly capable unit!

Renault Koleos AWD

On the more mundane side, it has all the stuff you need for a family outing – space aplenty, loads of cubby boxes in all sorts of secret places, good levels of comfort, a light and airy cabin and pleasant materials both to look at and feel, given the price point. Clever things include adjustable rake on the rear seats, split folding as well as a through-hatch and a flat floor in the load area when the seats are folded. The car I had had no navigation, but in this region it is a ‘want’ rather than a need: factory nav systems are out of date in GCC as soon as you take delivery of the car. The road systems change so rapidly that you are better off with a Dhs.500 Garmin and just buying a new one when the system needs updating. It is a lot cheaper than factory updates for sure.

Renault Koleos AWD

Externally, the Koleos’ new face is softer, with more of the ‘corporate’ grille style and bigger lamps. The bodywork itself is essentially unchanged though the test car was in one of the new colours and, thank goodness, the really useful split tail-gate is still present. It is beyond me why more manufacturers do not adopt this clever old coachbuilding trick in this class of vehicle – it is so much lighter and easier to use than a hatchback and gives you the usefulness of a built-in table.

Renault Koleos AWD

Driving on road, once you are used to the unusual resonances of the CVT, is really quite good. Despite a slightly higher centre of gravity, the Renault pretty-well refuses to roll about and turn-in is plenty sharper than many of its competitors. Visibility is excellent thanks to the high driving position and the controls are light and easy to use.

Renault Koleos AWD

There is very little on which to fault the Renault Koleos. It is a practical and pleasant looking five-seat SUV, simple to use and well equipped. Its only drawback seems to be that is not considered in the same category as its peer group: the Koleos 4WD is properly a competitor for Honda’s CRV, Toyota’s RAV 4, Nissan’s Pathfinder, Jeep’s Compass, a few of the other Korean builds, as well as, at the top of the tree, the Land Rover LR2.

Renault Koleos AWD

The Renault Koleos is a car that should be taken much more seriously; it is not an also-ran. At Dhs.104,000 as tested, including the leather seats, full length glass roof, blind-spot indicators and all the rest of the kit, but no navigation, Renault’s new SUV has a lot to recommend it!

2013 Renault Koleos LE 4WD

Specs
Price: AED104,000 – as tested (US$28k)
Engine: 2.5-litre 16v four cylinder; 170bhp @ 6000rpm, 167lb ft@ 4400rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 10.3s, 185kph, 9.5l/100km
Transmission: 6-speed CVT, Four wheel drive
Weight: 1655kg

Renault Koleos AWD

Would you have this over a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4? Tell us below

2 responses to “Renault Koleos LE 4WD Phase 3 Review”

  1. Ronster says:

    If it had a navigation system, it would have to have a Korean lady trying hard to force a french accent…

  2. McBroody says:

    That last picture. wow!

    You guys have some gorgeous locations.

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