But with the introduction of this all new Koleos, a large SUV, Renault is hoping to regain sales with family buyers.
The move is a shrewd one: SUVs are rocketing in popularity while traditional family saloons and estates are declining. However, Renault may have missed a trick with the Koleos, as it is offering it only as a five-seater when many rivals have seven seats.
Having been absent from the large-car market for five years, Renault is targeting drivers who already own an SUV and want a change while also offering a car for current Renault owners to move up into.
Buyers are likely to be almost exclusively families who need a large boot and also good rear-seat legroom, possibly with teenage children. Renault doesn’t give sales expectations figures though and doesn’t expect it to outsell its small SUV, the Kadjar, nearly 21,000 of which left showrooms last year. In addition, the manufacturer said around half of Koleos buyers will be company drivers.
Adopting the Renault SUV family front end, the Koleos looks imposing on the road. The square bracket daytime running lights are distinctive and clearly link the car to the smaller Kadjar, as well as the latest Megane.
Renault designers have also then run a chrome accent line from the headlights to just below the door mirror. It’s a neat touch that makes the car stand out that little bit more.
The rear lights, like those in the Megane, stretch almost to the middle of the car and again help with the family look. Coming together, the overall appearance is cohesive and smart and a definite strong point for the large Renault.
Despite the rising popularity of petrol, Renault has opted for an exclusively turbo-diesel line-up with just two engines on offer. The lower powered of the pair is a 130bhp, 1.6-litre available only in front-wheel drive and with a six-speed manual gearbox. The 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel however is available either as a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic.
The more powerful engine also comes only with four-wheel drive. Of the two, the 1.6 is also the more refined with the 2.0-litre sending noticeable vibrations back through the accelerator pedal.
While the more powerful engine is obviously also the quicker, there’s not a huge amount of real-world difference between the two. On paper the 2.0-litre engine coupled to the automatic gearbox has a 0-to-60mph time of 9.5 seconds against the 1.6-litre’s 11.4 seconds. Yet acceleration on motorway slip roads or for overtaking feels very similar between the two engines, which could be down to the larger engine model’s additional weight.
The top speed for the 177bhp car is higher though at 126mph. Sealing the decision for which engine is best are the economy figures. The 1.6 has an average fuel economy figure of 57.6mpg against the 2.0-litre’s 50.4mpg.
Renault has engineered the Koleos to be a comfortable rather than sporty SUV. The suspension is supple enough to cope well with broken roads. As well as insulating the occupants from the jolts of uneven surfaces, the suspension is also quiet and doesn’t bang or knock.
While the suspension is comfortable and has enough articulation for off-roading in the four-wheel drive version, there’s also little body roll that would normally accompany a softer ride. The comfort levels are further helped by supportive seats.
Unfortunately the steering is devoid of feedback which makes it hard to know what’s going on between the tyres and the road. In everyday driving this isn’t a major issue but in slippery conditions you get no impression of what’s going to happen, which reduces your confidence – particularly when it comes to placing the car on narrow roads.
Renault’s interior quality has markedly improved in recent years and this car is no exception. The Koleos uses the same portrait-orientation screen in the centre of the dashboard, first seen in a Renault in the Megane hatchback.
The standard large colour screen is used to operate the vast majority of controls including aircon, satnav, safety systems and the stereo. The Koleos’s infotainment system operates on the latest RLink2 software which means it now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The screen is easy to operate, although it isn’t faultless.
Technology aside, Renault is pitching the Koleos as a spacious car which is why it’s only offering it as a five-seater. There’s plenty of room in the rear seats with space for two tall adults behind similarly sized front-seat occupants.
The central rear seat is however less comfortable and slightly raised, which reduces headroom. The boot isn’t class leading even for a five-seater but it has a useful 579 litres of space below the luggage cover and the rear seats can be folded to create a flat floor with no lip for the boot edge.
But it’s the decision to go with five seats not seven that may put off buyers. Yes, there’s lots of space in the rear seats and a good size boot but there are seven-seaters in the market that offer similar second-row legroom and more boot space (the Skoda Kodiaq) plus two bonus seats that can be used on the occasions you need to carry more people.
It’s at this point where buyers will have to decide if the Renault offers enough of its strengths – value, equipment and comfort – to offset the lack of a third row of seats. Either way, it’s significantly more appealing than a large family hatchback or estate.
● Model: Renault Koleos
● On sale: Now
● Price range: £27,500-£34,200
● Engine range: Turbo-diesel – 1.6, 2.0-litre
● Power: 0 to 60mph in 9.5 seconds, 126mph top speed (2.0TD) ● Average fuel economy: 57.6mpg (1.6TD)
● CO2 emissions range: 128-156g/km
● Rivals: Ford Edge, Honda CRV, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Toyota RAV4, Skoda Kodiaq
● Rating: 8/10