Renault back in the

SUV big-time

Renault Koleos, front action
Renault Koleos, side action
Renault Koleos, rear action
Renault Koleos, side action 2
Renault Koleos, front static
Renault Koleos, front action 2
Renault Koleos, rear static
Renault Koleos, dashboard
Renault Koleos, rear seats
Renault Koleos, sunroof
Renault Koleos, sat nav
Renault Koleos, boot
Renault Koleos, boot 2
Renault Koleos, dash wood

RENAULT is picky about the models it sells here, needing them to boost the bottom line before crossing the Channel.

So, the new Koleos has obviously been judged a likely profit turner as it completes the company's trio of SUV machines, sitting comfortably at the top of the pile already occupied by the Captur and Kadjar.

The new Koleos takes its name from a car whose first outing here ended in 2010 after three years and an almost imperceptible number of sales.

But, as they say, that was then and now is now. Sharing only the name, the new Koleos is both much better looking than the old one and - crucially - arrives in a motoring world that can't get enough SUVs.

Along with the culling of Koleos mark one other Renaults were waved a not-too-tearful goodbye from Britain as the company attempted to make a bit of money.

The financial landscape looks more assured these days and a drive in the new Koleos provides enough positives to hope profits will continue heading in the right direction.

Renault continues not to offer all its European range to UK buyers, with neither handsome and spacious Espace people carrier nor roomy and good looking Talisman saloon sold here on the grounds that we'd not buy enough.

Both, though, have influenced the way the Koleos looks, and to great advantage. You'd never guess that underneath the stylish lines is a car (and engines) very similar to a Nissan X-Trail, from the other part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

The Nissan offers a third row of (kiddie-friendly) seats while the new Renault has only two rows, but makes much of the generous space available for all five possible occupants.

And there is plenty of space in the back for grown-ups, along with a boot easily big enough to pass muster without a second glance in this family focused part of the market.

Renault obviously sees the market for the Koleos as towards the upper end of its natural place in the world (in the UK at least) and the two trim levels on offer are plush and plusher, with Dynamique S Nav from £27,500 and Signature Nav from £29,800.

There are two engines available, both diesels with a 1.6 litre and 130 horsepower and a 2.0 litre, 175hp model. You can specify a six-speed manual gearbox for either or a continuously variable (CVT) automatic for the more powerful engine, which adds four-wheel drive too.

The entry level £27,500 1.6 Koleos in Dynamique S Nav dCi 130 trim is far from a poverty spec model, numbering among its standard niceties a rear parking camera, opening glass panoramic sunroof, dual zone climate control, part leather upholstery, satellite navigation and a host of safety features including active emergency braking.

With the 1.6 diesel doing the work, this Koleos hits 62mph in 11.4 seconds, goes on to a top speed of 115mph and manages an official economy average of 57.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 128g/km.

Move to the 175hp model with 4WD and performance increases (10.7 seconds/126mph) but consumption and emissions take a modest hit (50.4mph/148g/km).

Adding the auto box actually improves acceleration (now 9.5 seconds to 62mph), takes a mere one mph off top speed but raises average consumption to 47.9mpg and CO2 to 156g/km, which pops this version into the £500 first year road tax bracket. Other Koleos models are £160 or £200 in their first year.

Pick a top spec Signature version and added to already generous spec are bigger alloy wheels, full LED headlights, powered tailgate, full leather trim, electronically adjusted driver's seat, a bigger touch screen. There's also a connectivity system geared up for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - an increasingly demanded feature that some rivals charge extra for.

Options range from a (thoroughly practical) spare wheel at £120, through metallic paint (£545), climate pack (heated seats all round, cooling for the front pair, heated steering wheel and windscreen) for £400 to a £600 Bose sound system.

The only non-chargeable colour is a non-metallic white, with the other six (metallics) all costing £550. It's a manoeuvre being pulled by lots of car makers these days.

Out on the road in a top spec £34,200 Signature with more powerful engine, all-wheel drive and an auto gearbox, first impressions are of a car that feels modestly upmarket, thanks in part to fancier trim on dash and doors added to cars bound for Europe before they leave their South Korean production line.

Underway, the ride stays comfortable but lets you know when big bumps are encountered with a rather solid reaction from down below.

The engine stays pleasantly distant, resisting the full throttle drone that afflicts many other cars using the CVT technology in its auto gearbox. This type of transmission has theoretical advantages for economy, but the 35.5mpg recorded over 100 miles of not very demanding test route was not overly impressive.

On the right road surface this is a very refined car. It is also a roomy one, with enough leg and headroom in the rear (even with the standard sunroof) to make this a car you'd use to collect the company chairman from his flight.

The odd slippery slope would present no problem on the way, with the test Koleos scrambling up a rain wetted off-road Cotswold's slope with something approaching contempt.

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