The nature of my job at Auto Express means that I’m rarely in the same car for long. When I’m shooting road tests and first drives for the magazine, I often need to bring those models out to our photo locations.
I say this because even though this Renault Koleos is the latest car I’m running on the fleet, I’ve not had too much time behind the wheel yet.
I’ve been in other models recently, so some of my colleagues have been using the Koleos – mostly for trips to the airport. It was only fitting, then, that when it was returned to me I took the SUV straight back to one of Heathrow’s long-stay car parks.
Unsurprisingly, this is the sort of trip the Koleos excels on. I found the ride very comfortable, and the spacious interior means it doesn’t feel cramped from behind the wheel.
Similarly, the front seats are really supportive, and they’re heated as standard on our car. That is really important for me because I do plenty of motorway journeys; just getting to one of our photoshoots often involves an early start and a drive of more than 100 miles.
I’m also a big fan of the Renault’s interior style; all the materials used in the cabin are of good quality, and there are some neat design touches as well.
Our Koleos is a 2.0-litre diesel model in Dynamique S Nav trim, which means there’s loads of standard kit. It features 18-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, climate control, quick-folding rear seats and Renault’s latest R-Link 2 infotainment system.
The seven-inch touchscreen display looks good in the dashboard, but it’s not as easy to use as I’d like. There are too many sub-menus and not enough clear routes between different functions, such as sat-nav and radio.
On the outside, the Koleos has a modern look, and I’m a big fan of the large Renault badge and distinctive light signatures at the front and rear, because they really help the French SUV to stand out from the crowd.
From behind the wheel, the Koleos feels bigger than it is, thanks to thick A-pillars and poor rear visibility. But the high seating position means you can feel reasonably confident in tight spaces. Also, because the exterior is so large, there’s plenty of space on the inside of this flagship Renault SUV as well.
Unlike many of its rivals, it’s not available with seven seats, but the Koleos offers plenty of rear head and legroom, while also having a boot large enough to comfortably stow all my photo and car-cleaning gear. With the seats up there’s 579 litres of space in the load bay, and it stands at 1,795 litres when they’re down, which is sufficient for my needs.
My Renault’s 175bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is really strong and feels punchy even at low revs, but I’m not bonding with the CVT gearbox. If you’re driving normally it will try to keep revs low, but accelerate hard and it’ll bring them up harshly. If I were changing gear myself, I’d keep it at low revs and use the torque instead, but there’s no way to do that here. Still, the Renault’s box is one of the better CVTs I’ve tried, because it doesn’t hold the revs for too long.
Another thing that’s started to grate is the catch on the gearlever gate. When you’re flicking between forward and reverse gears, for example, it will stick and refuse to change ratios. That’s a minor annoyance when you’re on a driveway or in a car park, but it’s worse when you’re doing a three-point turn with someone waiting to come past.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the Koleos gets on during its time on our fleet. I’ve not had a chance to work out a fuel economy figure yet, but its official consumption of 47.9mpg looks promising. I’m not expecting to match that – the real world is so different to the lab test, after all – but I hope the Renault SUV will get close.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.