Test drive: Renault Koleos 2.5 4WD

Even in a heavily saturated market space, the Koleos is quite the attraction 

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It’s easy to see buyers are spoilt for choice in Malaysia’s mid-sized SUV market today. The many Japanese and Korean makes and a few European ones, like the Renault Koleos featured here, offer the sort variety that gives pause for thought.

We had this range-topping 2.5 4WD variant over a weekend and it was enough to arrive at this conclusion: those opting to walk down a slightly different path in this heavily contested market segment have much to look forward to if they take to this French offering.

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It has plenty of character, thanks to its bold looks brought about by the use of design elements like the crescent-shaped LED DRLs up front and shiny chrome brightworks. That ‘Marron Red’ paintjob does catch the eye too.

Climb aboard, and things inside both look and feel as good as they do on the outside. Plush leather seat covers are a welcome start, followed by the decent space all around. What’s especially appealing is how everything is presented, including that iPad-like touchscreen infotainment display which is the centrepiece on the dash.

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Getting this SUV up and running is relatively straightforward despite the fancy keyfob suggesting otherwise. Just thumb the start button and the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine resting up front comes to life, delivering its 169bhp and 226Nm to designated wheels through a CVT automatic box.

As the best of its line, this crossover SUV benefits from having four-wheel drive (4WD). Compared to its lesser 2WD siblings, it certainly feels more surefooted on the move, the system doing a good job of balancing front-rear traction when in 'Auto' mode.

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Even though would-be owners are quite unlikely to test the Koleos' 4x4 mode in the rough, its presence does boost on-road confidence, especially in the rain. The only gripe here, for most, would be the CVT box’s typically sluggish feel, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

What’s pleasantly surprising is this crossover’s rather supple ride and handling. While we can’t quite say it’s the best we’ve experienced, the ultra-light and precise electric steering, ample suspension travel and damping, as well as the overall visibility make driving this rather large crossover much less of a chore than it could have been.

For added convenience, a cruise control feature guarantees both comfort and less stress on long rides. On that score, however, it does take time to get used to the seemingly counter-intuitive placement of control buttons placed left of the steering and just aft of the gearshift.

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While we’re on the subject of counter-intuitiveness, one would also need to get used to the infotainment and automatic climate control interfaces which are merged into the aforementioned touchscreen. Still, given how it contributes to that clean, uncluttered look, it’s easy to forgive.

Unlike its not so distant cousin, the Nissan X-Trail, which has a three-row, seven-seater (five plus two actually) configuration, the Koleos is a five-seater, all with the aim of providing greater comfort to occupants. Surprisingly too, cargo space has shrunk slightly to 542 litres as a result of that, but perhaps some may well think the presence of a powered tailgate is a good and convenient tradeoff.

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It’s worth mentioning the Koleos’s other conveniences too, like keyless entry, powered front seats, as well as sufficient USB and 12-volt charging ports.

Its safety features should easily meet the expectations of most buyers: six airbags lining the cabin, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control suites, ISOFIX childseat mounts, as well as a Blind Spot Warning system that’s integrated with the side mirrors.

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On paper at least, the Koleos in this range-topping form is quite the match against segment favourites like the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and perhaps the VW Tiguan. But whether its qualities are enough to convince one to fork out the princely RM209,000 starting price it commands is something of a question mark. Perhaps, the five-year unlimited mileage warranty, for some peace of mind, and the choice between a three and five-year premium aftersales packages might tip the answer in its favour.

SPECS
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VERDICT: 7/10
Great looks matched with premium features, but very pricey compared to popular rivals

Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq

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