Renault sells vehicles in over 120 countries worldwide and while Malaysia is not among its largest markets, it is the fifth country to get the all-new Koleos SUV since it was unveiled at the Beijing Motorshow at the end of April this year. It’s also the first country in ASEAN to start selling the second generation of the model which is manufactured at the Renault Samsung factory in Korea for all markets except China (where the model will be produced locally).
Renault does not hide the fact that the Koleos, even in its first generation, shares the same platform with the Nissan X-Trail. This is a common practice by most carmakers to reduce costs as developing a new platform costs a lot of money. For many companies, platform-sharing is usually done within one brand but when the alliance that exists between Renault and Nissan means that there can be even more sharing, providing better economies of scale.
Smart companies that want to stay in business in the long-term understand that if their volumes are not huge, then they must work with other companies – even merge with them – to survive. The cost of remaining independent is too high these days as you cannot expect good economies of scale when you produce just 200,000 vehicles a year. Production costs are higher and if profits are lowered to keep prices competitive, then they may be insufficient to enable the company to grow and improve its products and worse, it may continuously face financial difficulties.
Dimensionally, the Koleos is about 30 mm longer than the X-Trail and it is also slightly wider. However, the wheelbase of 2705 mm is the same for both vehicles which is interesting since the X-Trail has 3 rows of seats and the Koleos has two. What this suggests (on paper at least) is that the Koleos should have more space for the occupants in the second row, plus more boot volume.
The other area which is shared is the 2.5-litre powertrain. The people at TC Euro Cars (TCEC), which is sole franchise holder of Renault cars in Malaysia, acknowledge that the engine and X-Tronic CVT is the same as that in the X-Trail but avoid being drawn into a discussion on who developed the engine. They prefer to describe it as an ‘Alliance’ engine that is shared by members of the group which began in 1999.
Incidentally, the Koleos has only front wheel drive (FWD), for now at least, although there are also AWD variants offered in some markets. There are pros and cons to having FWD instead of AWD and for the majority of owners, it is probably not a major issue though there is a different in grip and stability on wet or slippery surfaces. However, the advantages of FWD are likely to be more appreciated, ie the drivetrain is lighter and has less mechanical parts, so drag is less which in turn helps in fuel economy.
But the buyers don’t care about platform-sharing and most would not even know about it. This is because the upper body design is substantially different and the new Koleos is a good example. Park it next to the X-Trail and you would not know they ride on the same platform and have similar powertrains. Designers in each company have their own styling approach with the Renault product having a more ‘European’ look.
In this area of the design, the Koleos thus has a distinct and different character from the X-Trail and it is evident all round. We’re told that the styling has similarities with the Talisman sedan but this is irrelevant to Malaysians since the model is not sold here. What’s important is the identity is presented by the front-end design that incorporates a prominent Renault logo set at the centre of a broad chrome grille.
The headlights are high-tech Full LED Pure Vision units that are claimed to be 20% more powerful than a halogen beam. As with many models these days, the day-running lights provide a sort of visual signature for the car. The same goes at the back where there are permanently-lit LED taillights with Edge Light technology which generates a clear, bright 3D effect.
The cabin is also said to draw inspiration from the Talisman which is a large model. It offers a premium ambience with high quality materials such as satin-finish chrome for the steering wheel, gearlever and air vent inserts. The cushion-backed materials for the dashboard and door panels and the leather upholstery also contribute to the premium image.
Where cars once had just a single light mounted in the middle of the ceiling to provide illumination when needed, today’s cars have a number of different lights and with the Koleos, there is even ambient lighting in certain areas that can be customised. The driver can choose from a variety – green, blue, yellow, red or violet – to suit personal preference. It’s a nice feature for a salesman to show off and gives the owner a chance to personalise this aspect.
The centre of the dashboard has Renault’s R-LINK 2 multimedia system, a connected tablet which is also found in other high-end models of the brand. Unlike other displays which have a horizontal screen, the one in the Koleos is in portrait format. It’s pretty much a ‘control centre’ as it has numerous functions with adjustment of settings or scrolling done in a similar fashion as a tablet.
The well-shrouded instrument panel looks conventional but has a unique feature whereby the 7-inch central colour screen can be customised to one of four displays. While some companies may offer just different background colours as a gimmick, the different screens on the Koleos instrument panel display information differently so it’s not so gimmicky but can appeal to drivers more.
As mentioned earlier, although having the same wheelbase as the X-Trail, the Koleos has only two rows of seats whereas the Nissan has three. The interior designers have taken full advantage of this difference to provide more comfort for the rear passengers. The knee room of 289 mm is better than that offered in rival models and headroom, shoulder room and elbow room are also generous.
The boot volume is also large with 542 litres when both backrests are raised. Pull a lever and the backrests (60:40) lower to extend the boot floor, increasing the volume to 1,690 litres.
The first batch of the new flagship SUV will be arriving in port soon and before the official sales launch, there will be roadshows around the country for the public to view the model. “We expect to have units in our showrooms starting from mid-October and as a flagship model for Renault, it will be the principal face for the brand in Malaysia,” said Kuan Kim Luen, CEO of TC Euro Cars.
The Koleos will have an introductory price of RM172,800 (excluding insurance) in Peninsular Malaysia and RM116,800 in Langkawi. Customers can choose from four colours – Universal White, Grey Metallic, Black Metallic and Meissen Blue – and every unit will come with an unlimited mileage 5-year warranty.