Final report: Renault Koleos long-term test
10 August 2018
Author: Sean Keywood
|Renault Koleos Signature Nav dCi 130 |
|P11D price:|| £29,585|
|As tested:|| £30,245|
|Official consumption:|| 57.6mpg|
|Our average consumption:|| 46.6mpg|
Final Report - End of the road
After six months and many thousands of hard motorway miles slogging around the country on BusinessCar reporting duties, the Renault Koleos has now left our fleet. But by happy coincidence, on the final weekend before it departed, a task arose for which it seemed entirely suited - a trip to spend a weekend with friends in a cottage at the Lizard in Cornwall - the southernmost point on the British mainland. So that's a six-hour drive each way, with a good portion of the trip featuring three passengers and a boot full of their luggage - the sort of trip many company car drivers who choose this type of vehicle will be taking with their families as you read this.
So how did it get on? Well, my friends found many things they liked, with praise for the Apple CarPlay connectivity, the amount of storage spaces in the cabin, and the quality of the sound system. They also enjoyed the panoramic roof, which it turns out is just as much fun to fully open when you're heading down the motorway for a group of twentysomethings as it would be for five-year-olds. The boot also swallowed all of our bags without trouble. A word of warning though - make sure that if your passengers operate the automatic tailgate they know to make sure it's shut properly before you set off, or you could find it coming open again as you drive along. Fortunately, this happened when we were still in the service area, not once we'd rejoined the dual carriageway.
That aside, it's a thumbs up for the Koleos as a holiday vehicle, but unfortunately for our time with the car its report card isn't spotless. For me, the overall impression is that there are lots of things fitted to it that should be great, but don't quite work as well as you'd like them to. The parking sensors, for instance, are good when doing the job they're designed for, but annoying when they're triggered by passing traffic out on the road. The speed limit recognition system is a useful, reassuring tool - except when it misses or misreads the signs it's supposed to be recognising, which happens too often to have complete confidence in it. And the sat-nav with TomTom traffic information is great for avoiding jams - except when it completely crashes without warning, which happened twice.
On the plus side, practical features such as the easy-to-fold rear seats and retractable parcel shelf made furniture shopping easy, and on motorways it proved a capable mile-muncher despite relatively firm seats. The 1.6-litre, 130hp engine had all the power I ever needed - assuaging my fears at the start that a more powerful option might have been better. And the reversing camera, combined with the aforementioned sensors, made parking the Koleos on busy residential roads a far easier task then it should have been for a car this size.
Another positive, having completed nearly 10,000 miles in the Koleos, is that there were no mechanical issues whatsoever to report, and apart from the sat-nav blips, no electronic gremlins either. And aside from a slightly creaky armrest, the interior build quality held up well too. Also, against the official combined fuel economy figure of 57.6mpg, our final figure of 46.6mpg isn't too bad.
Overall, then, it's a mixed picture for the Koleos. It certainly isn't a runaway class leader, and if you're in the market for a car like this rivals such as the Skoda Kodiaq and the Nissan X-Trail - the latter built on the same platform as the Renault - will merit consideration, especially since, unlike the Koleos, they are available with seven seats. But despite the niggles, there were no major disasters with our car, and in the Signature Nav trim we tested, the Koleos is certainly very well equipped. If finding an SUV for transporting five people in space and comfort is your top company car priority, it could be worth a look.
9th Report - Aesthetic success?
A strange thought went through my head when I was looking at our Koleos recently. 'Do you know what? I actually think it looks quite good'.
Now,I'd like to say immediately that I haven't taken complete leave of my senses. I am not expecting Koleos posters to suddenly begin adorning the walls of young petrolheads' bedrooms across the land. Nor am I expecting the producers of the next James Bond film to tear up their Aston Martin contract and instead have Q explaining to 007 the benefits of Signature Nav trim. This is a family SUV, not a supercar - function comes well before form, and a starring role in future concours competitions was never going to be in the offing.
However, I think the Koleos works compared with many SUV designs, which tend towards straighter lines and harder edges. These make the cars look tough and modern, and they look great in design studios and on motor show stands. However, out on the road - and this is a highly personal opinion - I think they make these cars look bigger than they are, and a bit ungainly. In contrast, the Koleos's softer, curving lines hold a lot of appeal, while the headlight signature still offers a degree of presence if desired.
OK, maybe I have gone a bit mad, and after several months with the Koleos am letting familiarity cloud my judgement. But if these long-term tests are about finding out what cars are like to live with over an extended period, and with styling playing an ever-important role in the choice process, at least my viewpoint suggests the Koleos's aesthetics don't wear over time.
In addition, I'd fancy more people would share my opinion if we turn to the interior. OK, I'm not a fan of the wood-look plastic trim that adorns the dash and the doors, and haven't been since day one. But leave this aside, and there are a good amount of soft-touch materials that make things look and feel pretty plush - with the nicely trimmed grab handles next to the centre console a particular highlight. OK, the overall picture probably isn't going to worry Volkswagen, but compared with your typical mainstream model, the inside of the Koleos stands up pretty well.
8th Report - Taking a back seat
We'll begin with what might seem like an odd question - how much time do you spend in the back of your own car? Unless you regularly have to load and unload small children, the answer is probably not a lot. In fact, it occurred to me recently that despite having run the Koleos for several months now, I'd only taken a cursory look when it first arrived and hadn't returned since. So I went back there, and found much to be impressed by.
The first thing you notice is the legroom, which is huge - so much so that it's hard to imagine even passengers well over 6ft complaining, although they may find their hair brushing the roof thanks to the panoramic sunroof eating up space. There are storage nets behind the front seats, cupholders in the central fold-down armrest, and dedicated air vents. Perhaps best of all in 2018, there are two USB charging points, which combined with the two in the front means there are plenty of options for keeping smartphones and tablets up and running. There's also a 12V socket.
Now, obviously you would expect the Koleos to be practical - it's a large SUV. But I'd previously wondered what the advantage of having such a large car was when it doesn't have the option of seven seats, like rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq. Well now I might have the answer - it's the perfect car if you regularly transport adults, or perhaps more likely teenagers, in the back. The space means there should be no complaints about soreness even after long distance drives, while the USB points mean they'll be able to maintain battery charge in their devices to keep themselves occupied.
Whether rear-seat passengers' comfort is a significant consideration in the car choice process might be questionable for some, but if it is for you, then Renault might just have the answer.
7th Report - Limiting factor?
Drivers whose work entails regular motorway trips will be very familiar with smart motorways by now. There are more than 500 miles of these in the UK, featuring variable speed limits, sometimes presenting drivers with mile after mile in which the limit can change every few hundred yards - with cameras on hand to catch any mistakes.
It's therefore more important than ever to keep an eye on the limit, and that's where traffic-sign recognition systems like the one on the Koleos come in. The system reads speed limit signs through a camera mounted behind the rear view mirror, and then displays the current limit in the middle of the speedometer.
It sounds great, and for the most part it is, displaying the correct speed limit for the section of road the car is on and showing any changes immediately. This means there's no need to worry about being caught out if you miss a sign, and if you approach a speed camera and aren't sure what the limit is a quick glance at the display will tell you.
Well, that's the theory anyway. Unfortunately, while the system works well most of the time, it isn't infallible. It can be confused by signs referring to side roads at junctions and it often seems to struggle with the national speed limit sign on smart motorway gantries, continuing to insist the limit is lower for miles afterwards. Worse, it sometimes misses signs altogether, meaning that rather than relaxing you, it requires you to be on your guard to make sure it isn't wrong. Also, it sometimes seems to pull speeds from thin air. Recently, I was on a dual carriageway, which I knew had a 70mph limit, but, for some reason, it was telling me to slow down to 20mph.
It's a flawed system, then. So why, after five months in the Koleos, am I yet to turn it off? I think it's because, while I wouldn't want to rely on it, on the odd occasion when I do miss a sign or am unsure of the limit, I'd rather be able to check a display that is probably right than have no help at all.
Think of it less as something to depend on and more as a backup in case of a momentary lapse by the driver. In the technology's current form, that makes more sense. Whether that's good enough might be debatable, but given that it's fitted to every Koleos as standard, it's not like you'd be wasting money if you decided it wasn't for you.
6th Report - Sticking it to the map
When I wrote about the Koleos's sat-nav in my last update, one factor I left out was the mapping. After the car arrived, it didn't take very long to work out that the maps with the TomTom-connected sat-nav were pretty out of date.
On several occasions while driving, I came across junctions or roads that had clearly been reprofiled or built from scratch since the map was compiled, causing the display to show me driving across other roads or open countryside. On other occasions, the instructions, bearing no relation to what I could see through the windscreen, sent me in the wrong direction. Disappointingly, a bit of research showed that one of these roads was built well over a year before the car - it seems bizarre that a new car would go on sale without the most up-to-date sat-nav mapping installed.
Happily, there is a way to fix this, as map updates are available to download from Renault online and I've now finally got around to doing this. Unfortunately, the process isn't the quickest. The car can't pick up updates directly, so they have to be downloaded to a computer then transferred across with a USB stick or SD card.
Having downloaded the Renault R-Link application to my laptop and formatted the stick as required, it then took around three hours to transfer the update to the stick. After being inserted into the car's USB port, the update took a further 45 minutes to install. The latter figure isn't terrible for a full map update, but the downside is it requires the engine to be on for the duration, meaning an annoying and not exactly environmentally-friendly wait in the car while it uploads.
The good news is that, having gone through all that, the update does seem to have worked and I'm now happy the sat-nav's map won't be sending me astray due to old age again any time soon. It just might have been nice to have a more convenient way of getting it up to speed.
5th Report - Helpful sat-nav hits a blip
Of all the convenience features fitted to company cars, sat-nav is arguably the most important - if the car can't get you where you need to be at the required time, then it's failing in its most important duty.
Helping our Koleos sat-nav with this is the addition of TomTom Live Services, including traffic information. It works well as you're driving along - if the system finds a faster route around an upcoming jam, it asks for a quick confirmation, then puts it in. This is useful enough on my regular commute, when it can switch between several routes to and from the BusinessCar office, reassuring me I'm not going to be sitting in traffic I could have avoided. But on a couple of recent occasions, it excelled itself. On a drive from Cheltenham to Devon, as I approached Bristol it told me to take the M4 towards Wales, routing me around a triangle with the M49 to rejoin the M4 just at the point a rush-hour jam ended. On another journey, it took me off the M25 through some Essex villages, before rejoining the motorway, where I saw, from the slip road, a broken-down vehicle and a resultant queue behind it, which I'd
Unfortunately, though, the Koleos's sat-nav doesn't have an unblotted copybook. On a drive from Kent to Berkshire, following a recalculation, it told me to make a U-turn. Spotting a cul-de-sac allowing me to do this, I pulled in, at which point the sat-nav
Although the car's multimedia system was still working, the sat-nav section was blank, even when I turned the system off and on, and even turned the engine off and got out of the car in an effort to completely reset it. Fortunately, I was able to plug my phone in using Apple CarPlay and reach my destination that way, but if that hadn't been possible, I'd have been completely stuck. It eventually came back online for the return journey, though it still thought it was in Kent for a few minutes.
Overall, then, the sat-nav's been working well, but using it does now carry an element of doubt, rather than the assurance of reliability that business
4th Report - Motorway master
Working for BusinessCar involves plenty of long-distance drives to car launches and events across the country. With many of these journeys from our base in Kent involving the M25, the trips often end up taking even longer than planned, with traffic jams turning two-hour routes into three or four-hour slogs. Yet it occurred to me recently that when driving our long-term Koleos, I always arrive at my destination feeling fresh and relaxed. Clearly, it makes a good long-distance cruiser, but why?
The answer isn't immediately obvious on first inspection of the car's seats. Bearing in mind our Signature Nav Koleos is a former range-topper (now superseded by Initiale Paris spec), most people's reaction when they first sit down is to say 'oh', as instead of the soft, cushioned luxury feel you might expect, the seats are rather hard. However, I never arrive at a destination feeling sore, which must mean they're well designed for long journeys. This is helped by the extensive level of adjustment on offer, including lumbar support. With the steering wheel also adjustable for height and reach, you should be able to find a comfortable driving position whatever shape and size you are.
Get up to speed on a motorway, and another major positive emerges - refinement. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is impressively quiet - barely audible in sixth gear even when you put your foot down. The cabin is also well insulated, meaning noise from wind and tyres is kept to a minimum.
Put these together with cruise control, TomTom sat-nav that routes you around hold-ups, and audio and heating controls that come easily to hand, and an impressive overall picture emerges for long-distance travelling. For company car drivers thinking of switching from a traditional saloon to an SUV, the Koleos shows that the ability to effortlessly handle hours of motorway driving is not something that has to be sacrificed.
3rd Report - Sensory overload
Sometimes, a car will come with a piece of technology that it soon becomes impossible to imagine living without. Other times, you'll see clearly superfluous options that could be deleted without hesitation. It's rarer to find something that's indispensible one minute and deeply annoying the next; however, that's the case with our Koleos's parking sensors.
First, the good points - the Koleos is a large car, making parking potentially tricky. There's a good reversing camera installed, but when parallel parking, it's useful to know exactly how far the front and sides of the car are from other vehicles and street furniture. Here, the sensors are great, showing exactly how much space I have in any direction, and giving me confidence to use parking spots I probably wouldn't even attempt otherwise.
The system can also be useful on the move. Recently, I drove down a road that became incredibly narrow, thanks to some ill-advised parking by others - probably only about 20cm wider than the Koleos in places. Dicey stuff, but with the sensors guiding me through, I was able to navigate the road safely, with wing mirrors remaining un-dinged.
So that's the good news. The bad is that the system stays on even when you aren't manoeuvring tightly, but just driving normally. It disengages when going more than 6mph, but that doesn't stop it going off in traffic or when weaving around parked cars on residential roads. Sometimes it will go off, with the associated loud warning noise, when another car passes nearby, even though it's clearly not on a collision course, and sometimes it will trigger for seemingly no reason at all, causing me to whirl round in a panic looking for a cyclist or other obstacle that simply isn't there.
I could try to ignore the system while driving, but then I'd fear a 'boy who cried wolf' scenario where I'd dismiss a warning and promptly hit something. Or, alternatively, the sounds or the whole system can be turned off, but then I'd have to remember I'd done that the next time I parked, which I wouldn't necessarily trust myself to do.
Overall, it's a system worth having, but I do wish it was a bit more discerning.
2nd Report - Carry on carrying
The Renault Koleos is the sort of large SUV driven by people who, a few years ago, might have run an estate car instead. That means it has to be good at carrying large loads, and a recent trip to buy a new chest of drawers provided an early test for this.
Living with a car allows us to test the real-world usefulness of features that might otherwise seem like gimmicks. As an example, consider the Koleos's hands-free tailgate, operated by waving a foot under the rear of the car. I'd not given this feature much thought until this trip, but standing in drizzle with both hands full of a surprisingly heavy flat-pack, it suddenly seemed like a real bonus. I may not have the knack for it yet, as it took a couple of attempts before the system clocked me, but once it did, my relief at being able to slide my purchase straight into the boot without having to put it down and pick it up again was genuine. And slide straight in it did - the boot floor is totally flat and there's no lip on entry, making loading easy.
I didn't need to fold the seats down on this occasion, but if I had, Renault's One Touch system means this would just require a quick pull on the levers on each side of the boot to drop them, without having to walk round and open the rear passenger doors.
Also, the retractable parcel shelf can be unlatched with one hand, before rolling itself out of the way behind the rear seats; it is then just as easy to pull back out and relatch when
Even when not transporting big loads, I'm still enjoying how, on regular workday mornings, the keyless entry means I don't have to fumble in my pockets for the fob before opening the boot. Also, being able to then press the close button and get in the driver's seat while the tailgate shuts itself may save literally two seconds, but when it comes to cutting down on commuting stress, it all adds up.
1st Report - Biggest is best?
The Koleos was the final piece of Renault's current three-pronged assault on the booming SUV market. The compact Captur was one of the first models in its segment to go on sale, receiving a facelift last year. Then we got the Qashqai-sized Kadjar, before the new Koleos arrived as the biggest of the bunch. Although the Koleos name itself isn't new, it hadn't been seen in the UK since 2010. The new car is aiming to beat the likes of the Nissan X-Trail - which could be tricky, as it's based on the same underpinnings. But to see what it's like to live with day to day, we're welcoming one onto our fleet for the next six months.
Our car is in Signature Nav trim, which was the top-of-the-range model from launch, although Renault recently announced a new Initiale Paris trim to sit above it. As you'd expect from a range-topper, our car comes with plenty of kit to keep us entertained and safe. Most of this we're already familiar with at BusinessCar, having seen it on our previous long-termer, the Megane.
On the move, safety features include a lane-departure warning system, advanced emergency braking system, and a blind-spot warning system. There's also hill-start assist, cruise control, a rear parking camera, and a system that recognises traffic signs to keep you updated on the current speed limit. I'm hoping to find the latter especially useful, as my regular commute to the BusinessCar office features plenty of rural roads that turn into 30mph residential streets and then back again. There's also a stretch of smart motorway with variable-speed-limit cameras, meaning plenty of potential for heart-stopping, "Wait, that sign did say 60mph, didn't it?" moments.
Despite its size, the Koleos only comes with five seats, rather than the seven available in some rivals, meaning its advantages over smaller SUVs when it comes to practicality will be based around transporting the same number of passengers more easily, rather than fitting more of them in.
Stepping aboard for the first time, you get the high driving position that is often such a selling point for cars of this type, though I suspect I may suffer from driving vertigo, as I immediately wanted to adjust the seat to its lowest setting. Also, having stepped into it from a supermini, the back window seemed a long way away in the rear-view mirror. However, since the Koleos comes with a rear parking camera, and front and rear sensors, as standard, there shouldn't be any issues with manoeuvring.
Under the bonnet, our car comes with a 1.6-litre diesel engine, the smallest of the two engine options Renault offers. Although Koleos drivers won't be expecting lightning performance, it does seem like a lot of car for a 1.6-litre engine to haul around. We're looking forward to finding out how it performs on the road, and whether we'll wish we were instead running the
2.0-litre diesel. For our car, Renault claims a 0-62mph time of 11.4 seconds, and a top speed of 115mph. Of course, the big advantage of a smaller engine should come via the wallet, and in terms of running costs, the car claims to achieve a combined 57.7mpg, and CO2 emissions of 128g/km, compared with the quoted 50.4mpg and 148g/km for the 2.0-litre. Our car's figures result in a 27% BIK band for the current tax year.
On first impressions, the Koleos seems solidly put together, striking to look at, and certainly spacious inside, with a good amount of standard equipment. We're keen to find out if it will continue to impress once we start to rack up the miles from behind the wheel.