Post-update, the Renault’s SUV Koleos is back in the reckoning with renewed confidence. Gavin D’Souza reports
Before the Duster, there was the Koleos. The premium SUV from Renault was first launched here back when the Duster's popularity had not made the carmaker a household name. But owing to the fact that Renault was not established as a known brand back then and that it was competing with already popular seven-seat SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and Hyundai Santa Fe, reception was lukewarm. Most of all, though, the Renault Koleos’ soft, smooth crossover styling wasn’t a hit in a country that likes its SUVs big and rugged. With the success of the Duster though, Renault’s fortunes in our market have turned significantly. With renewed confidence, the carmaker is looking to push the case of its Koleos and has given the SUV some key updates.
On the inside, the Koleos’ dashboard blends plain surfaces (with soft-touch plastics) and clusters of buttons around the lower half. The switches feel quite premium with only some bits, such as the 4x4 selection switch, feeling low-cost in an offering at this price point. The leather-upholstered front seats are comfortable and supportive and can be electrically adjusted. At the rear, comfort levels are good as well with a reclining seat back and enough space to accommodate three with ease. Renault has also provided flip-open tray tables and cupholders in the arm rest. There’s no third row and you get 450 litres of boot space with the seats up. As before, there’s a great equipment list on offer in the 4X4 versions which includes the fantastic Bose sound system. But the 4X2 versions has a lot of this kit missing.
In terms of performance, Renault has upped the 2.0-litre diesel engine's power output by 23bhp to 171bhp now. The engine loves to spin and revs all the way to the limit, making it feel a little like a petrol. Put your foot down on the accelerator and the engine’s pulling ability becomes evident. It’s great to drive down the highway but when you enter the city, its shortcoming shows. Which is the delay in the engine responding to accelerator inputs. Below 2,000rpm, you have to shift down to a lower gear for some urgency. But where the carmaker has done well is to make the engine refined.
Levels of harshness and noise typical to a diesel motor are down to a minimum. What is really impressive about the Koleos is its ability to deal with broken roads. The Renault’s ride is very absorbent and the car glides over broken tarmac no matter at what speed. The suspension also keeps thuds in check and only very large potholes ruffled the Koleos’ composure. The overall stability at speed is impressive, and the accurate steering wheel gives you confidence while driving.
For an SUV, the body roll is very well-controlled too. One piece of good news is that Renault is now putting together the 2.0-litre M9R engine in India and this should help keep costs down. But the facelifted car is expected to still cost more than the old car at around Rs. 25- Rs. 30 lakh. And that’s quite a bit to pay for this car. But that doesn’t take away from the car’s abilities and if most of your driving is done on the highway, the Renault Koleos may just be the SUV for you.