By Samuel Ee
THE first thing that strikes you about the Renault Koleos is that it looks much better than in photos - in the three-dimensional world, the French car maker's first SUV is less ungainly.
But this crossover is still no beauty, although it has a surprisingly wide range of features to make up for its lack of looks.
The Koleos may wear a Renault badge but it is actually an automotive collaboration with Nissan - the former has a stake in the latter. The French designed it, the Japanese engineered it and Renault's joint-venture with Samsung in Korea makes it.
As the Koleos is based on the Nissan X-Trail SUV, it has the latter's clever All Mode 4x4-i. Also seen on the Nissan Murano, this all-wheel-drive system sends power to the rear wheels when more grip is needed but otherwise drives the front wheels for more economical operation.
A 4x2 front-wheel-drive version of the model is also available.
Despite being labelled a crossover with the combined versatility of a sedan, MPV and SUV, the Koleos can actually go off-road competently. A button allows for variable settings of the AWD system - Auto, 2WD and 4WD Lock.
The last one is selected when travelling on a slippery surface and wheel spin is expected. But it only functions up to a speed of 40 kmh, above which it is automatically deactivated and returns to the Auto mode.
|Renault Koleos 4x2 / Koleos 4x4V
Transmission: 6-step CVT
Power: 170 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 226 Nm @ 4,400 rpm
0-100 kmh: 9.9 secs / 10.3 secs
Top speed:187 kmh / 188 kmh
Price: From $92,900 (with COE)
Distributor:Distributor Wearnes Automotive
Another interesting feature is the electronic parking brake, which also acts as a Hill Start Assist function. It automatically unlocks the wheels when the accelerator is depressed.
Good interior space for both passengers and luggage is another attribute. The split tailgate is not only convenient for easy boot access but the lower part can take a load of up to 200 kg - perfect for loading heavier items or an impromptu picnic.
Meanwhile, two levers next to the two-piece rear hatch offer the "easy estate" system that folds the split rear seats neatly into the floor for extra cargo space. This clever one-touch release is also found in Nissan models. Along with various under-floor compartments - a typical Renault feature - the Koleos scores high in the storage department.
Other thoughtful features include the removable bin in the centre armrest and the small convex mirror for monitoring back seat activity. A high-end Bose sound system is the unexpected luxury appointment in an otherwise utilitarian-looking cabin.
As the underpinnings are courtesy of Nissan, the Koleos comes with the familiar 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated to an equally familiar six-step continuously variable transmission (CVT).
They work seamlessly to provide a pleasant drive with a ride that throws up a reasonable amount of pitch and body roll but is otherwise comfortable.
And like all Renaults, the Koleos boasts the standard safety credentials - a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. You could say it has the best of both worlds.
This article was first published in The Business Times on Nov 8, 2008.