Can the seven-seat Hyundai Santa Fe upset the established hierarchy?
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£30,645 when new
The Koleos is a big crossover. Not Renault’s thing, right? No, but you can see why Renault was tempted to do one. It’s doing well with its other crossovers. The small but roomy Captur is the company’s best-selling car in the UK, and the Kadjar is level-pegging with the Clio. Big cars are potentially profitable. And it was easy-peasy to bring us the Koleos. It uses a Renault-Nissan modular platform similar to what’s beneath the Nissan X-Trail. And Renault has partners in Korea and China. The Koleos sold in Europe is made in Korea, where it sells as the Samsung Motors QM6. For you completists, the Chinese version is built by Renault-Dongfeng. Korea? China? Why are you telling me this in a UK road test? Because in both those countries, big rear-seat space matters. So the Koleos is a wide and generous five-seater. Many of its rivals have seven. New ones are Volkswagen’s LWB Tiguan and Peugeot’s 5008. Existing ones include the Skoda Kodiaq, Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander. All with seven as standard or optional.
But without those sixth and seventh seats, this car’s boot is bigger and the main rear seat can move back and make lavish rear legroom. Ideal if you’re chauffeuring stars to a K-pop awards ceremony. Anyway, if you want a seven-seater, says Renault UK, buy one of its Grand Scenics. What’s it like on the roads in Britain? A bit out of sorts. The ride is lumpy, and there’s lots of diagonal pitching too, so it’s unlikely to feel any better controlled when loaded with Psy, his bodyguards and his wardrobe. The steering’s over-light, and lacks self-centring. Cornering is no fun, but hey, it’s not meant to be. The engine, with only 175bhp even in the top 2.0-litre version, might struggle to cope with the extra load too. Even travelling alone, it’s noisy and unenthusiastic. Noisy enough to be audible at a cruise above the rather coarse tyre roar. The Koleos acted quite refined on the smooth European roads where we first tested it, but the journey to the UK has been unkind. What does it do well? That engine is, as an option, paired to a CVT transmission. And it’s a really good one. It slurs the ratios and keeps the revs down when you’re pottering. But if you do need to accelerate, it switches to a stepped mode so it reacts, and sounds, more like a dual-clutch. And as an SUV? Again, more good news. With that 2.0 engine, either as manual or CVT, you get four-wheel drive as standard. (There’s also a 1.6 manual front-driver.) With two tonnes towing capacity, 210mm ground clearance and an electronically locking centre diff, it’s decently capable. But is that enough to buy one? Because it’s a pleasure-free zone to drive, we’d personally avoid it. But there are actually reasons why someone might choose one. It’s quite stylish, with nice details including a three-sided running light motif that cuts into the bumper and echoes the chrome jewellery line ahead of the doors. The cabin’s pleasantly designed, as well as roomy. Most of all, there’s the price. All versions are well-equipped and the 4WD starts at just over £30,000. That’s not a whole lot more than a 4WD version of the far littler Jeep Renegade. The Koleos isn’t going to be a big seller and its plentiful deficiencies mean it doesn’t deserve to be. But don’t laugh at the people who fall for its simple proposition: lots of capacity and capability for the money, wrapped in a decent-looking skin.