The Renault Koleos is one of the most interesting SUVs in the market and yet is simultaneously one of the least. The product pitch ought to get most middle-aged conservative buyers pretty excited:
“Here’s a swanky looking SUV that looks like something at least RM100,000 more expensive than it is. And most of the engineering work was done with Nissan, so it shouldn’t be a nightmare to run.”
Yet I hardly see any middle-aged conservative buyers running to the Koleos with open arms. I even showed my dad the car, thinking it was right up his alley but he barely responded to it. And then it hit me. Would I buy the Koleos?
Well, I liked the car a lot. I even reviewed this same exact vehicle once before and enjoyed just about every aspect. But would I actually go out and put my name on a Renault Koleos grant if I had the kind of money for it?
I think I would have a couple of years ago, but the market has transformed quite a bit since then. The Proton X70 has single-handedly destroyed the C-segment SUV market for all its non-national competitors, but that’s just half the story. You’ve also got a LOT of very competent products on the market today that are just as good looking, just as comfortable, and just as left field as the Koleos.
There are alternatives
Take the Kia Sportage. We’re in the middle of writing a review on that car now, but the gist of it is that it’s an extremely well-built and well-engineered vehicle that’s specced to the brim. Both the Sportage and the Koleos can trace its roots to South Korea, both have siblings that share essentially the same underpinnings (Tucson and X-Trail) and it’s likely that the used car market will abuse the hell out of both in a similar fashion.
Now I’m not saying I would spend an equivalent sum of money on the Sportage or the Tucson, but I feel there’s something a little more endearing about the way those brands do their products. The Renault Koleos is certainly PRESENTED more like a premium car, especially with the exterior design and the use of digital screens inside.
But Renault is trying to go ‘premium’ without really delivering on material choices and subjective feel. And it’s starting to show in 2019. These cars look great on brochures and on the showroom floor. But that feeling is lost the moment you step inside.
Most of the interior plastics in the Koleos don’t feel elevated over what you find in the X-Trail. In fact, the facelifted X-Trail’s new soft touch points are largely absent on the Koleos, which kind of puts the Renault in an awkward position. They’re still selling the car at a premium without adding much value at this point.
The unit we retested was the 2.5L 4WD version, but we really were looking to get into the 2.5L 2WD Signature version. This was all we could get our hands on, so we just disabled the all-wheel drive system and imagined the extra amenities. Perhaps its Chestnut Brown leather interior, Android Auto/Apple Carplay compatibility, and panoramic sunroof would have changed the way we felt. I say that with no sarcasm at all, those are features one tends to find on more expensive cars. But at its core, the Koleos is starting to feel a little bit dated.
Driving the Koleos I was reminded of how great of an engine builder Nissan can be. This thing absolutely disappears underneath you and makes you feel at ease. Big, lazy engines with distant, unengaging gearboxes are my guilty pleasure, to be honest.
I thoroughly enjoy driving cars like these, because there’s no pressure for you to push the car any harder than you should.
And that means you don’t need to come up with fancy metaphors for the drive experience when writing the review.
Big, lazy engines with distant, unengaging gearboxes are also a difficult sell in 2019. I want to argue that those looking to keep the Koleos long term will enjoy this robust set-up, but CVTs just aren’t as reliable as most conventional automatic gearboxes.
And no one who buys the Koleos is going to convince himself that this is a car that will retain its value. I don’t think it’s a particularly fragile setup, but I also don’t think any car today is simple enough to keep for more than a decade.
But but but.
Some of the Koleos’ party tricks are still pretty unique. I’m still drawn to the customisability of the instrument cluster. And while that instrument cluster is partially digital, they’ve still managed to make it simple and informative enough which I do appreciate.
I also appreciate the vertically aligned infotainment unit. This too in another trend that only Tesla, McLaren and Volvo seem to have fully embraced so far.
And yes, it’s still too practical, comfortable and beautiful to consider a bad car by any stretch of the imagination.
In conclusion, the Renault Koleos has many redeeming qualities but it is really starting to lose its shine. Renault is still doing a lot to make its brand stand out.
If you can grab a good deal with that great service package that TC Euro Cars offers, by all means, go for it. Just realise that there was a time where the Koleos made a lot more sense. And that time was 2017. Or maybe during last year’s tax-free season.
Renault Koleos Specifications
Engine: Inline 4, naturally aspirated
Gearbox: X-Tronic CVT
Max power: 169hp @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 226Nm @ 4400rpm
Top Speed: 200 km/h
0-100 km/h: 9.5 seconds
Price: RM173,840.40 – RM187,613.98