With its Duster doing very well in the Indian market, Renault India now wants to give its premium SUV, the Koleos, a second chance, and will soon introduce a facelifted version of it. When it was launched in 2011, the very capable Koleos didn't really take off, for a few reasons. Firstly, Renault was a relative unknown in India then, and secondly, it was priced to compete with already popular seven-seat SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and Hyundai Santa Fe. Most of all, though, the Koleos' soft, smooth crossover styling wasn't a hit in a country that likes its SUVs big and rugged. So will the few key updates that Renault has given the Koleos help it grab a stronger foothold in the market?
Step inside and the Koleos’ dashboard blends plain surfaces (with soft-touch plastics) and clusters of buttons around the lower half. The switches have a nice, damped feel to them and feel quite premium. Only some bits feel low-cost. The leather-upholstered front seats, offer a nice blend of comfort and support, both of them are electrically adjustable and it’s easy to find a nice driving position. The rear bench is comfy too, with a reclining seat back, good thigh support and enough room for three. However, knee room isn’t anything to write home about. However, Renault has at least tried to make rear seat passengers more comfy with flip-open tray tables and cupholders in the arm rest. Since there’s no third row, you also get 450 litres of boot space with the seats up. As before, the Koleos is generously equipped in 4x4 guises, including the fantastic sounding Bose sound system. You do, however, lose quite a bit of this kit if you opt for the new 4x2 version.
So how does it drive? The Koleos’ 2.0-litre diesel engine has been tinkered with and now produces 171bhp (23bhp more than its predecessor). It performs brilliantly on the highway and the engine revs cleanly to the redline. Put your foot down and you really do enjoy this car’s great pulling power. This, combined with the tall gearing, make this a phenomenal cruiser. However, enter city limits and the huge turbo lag makes you really work the gearbox. Below 2,000rpm, you have to downshift, and although the new six-speed manual gearbox has a precise action, the clutch’s sharp bite takes a bit of getting used to. In terms of refinement, the Koleos keeps vibrations and the typical diesel gruffness at bay, and the motor doesn’t feel strained even when the tachometer is just a few clicks away from the redline.
Where the SUV truly impresses is the way it glides over road undulations. Its ride is very absorbent and makes easy work of broken tarmac irrespective of its speed. The suspension also keeps thuds in check and only very large potholes ruffled composure. The overall stability at speed is impressive, and the accurate steering wheel drills confidence in the driver. For an SUV, the body roll is very well controlled too.
The car manufacturer is now assembling the 2.0-litre M9R engine in India, and that should bring the costs down significantly for the company. But the bad news is, the price for this facelifted version is expected to be higher than its predecessor. We expect the range to stretch between Rs. 25-30 lakh, which sadly makes it quite pricey for what you get. However, that doesn’t take away any of the Koleos’ capabilities, and if you drive primarily on the highway, the premium SUV will definitely leave you impressed.