Good: looks good, comfort levels, well-equipped, good engine, space.
Not so good: no seven-seat option, cheap cabin, poor infotainment, this version is expensive.
It is possible for a new car to be very, very middling (at best) and yet for us, as road testers, to actually quite like it. We are, as a species, rather fond of our steering feel and response, our touchy-feely cabin quality, roaring and powerful engines and a propensity to oversteer like Fangio on a mission on the way off a wet roundabout. Perhaps it is, then, something of a mark of how generally quite good the Renault Koleos is that, in spite of lacking in almost all of those departments, we actually kind of miss it now that it's gone from our test fleet.
Let's start underneath. The Koleos SUV is, just as the Kadjar is basically a Renault-ised Qashqai, a Nissan X-Trail underneath. Yes, it has a big, imposing and really rather handsome body plonked on top (the styling of which, alongside the Alaskan pickup, shows that Renault is apparently now looking across the Atlantic for styling inspiration), but the mechanical parts are pretty much pure Nissan, using the same CMF platform, the same 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines (some markets get a 1.6 turbo petrol too) and the same four-wheel-drive system.
It's really rather a good looking car, the Koleos. Lacking, perhaps, the urbane sleekness of the Kadjar (a car of whose styling I am unstinting in my praise), but making up for it with sheer loftiness.
The cabin then, is something of a let-down. It uses essentially the same interior as the Kadjar, just a little taller and wider, which is fine up to a point, but there's a lot of rather cheap grey plastic on show. Overall build quality is actually fine, but there's nothing inside that inspires any great admiration. On our test car (which clocked in at an eye-watering price of near-as-dammit €50k) there was the impressive-looking upright touchscreen, but the problem is that the R-Link infotainment system that lives within isn't very good. The graphics are all a touch old-hat, the integration of things such as Apple CarPlay isn't great and the system itself is flaky, randomly dropping the connection to your phone. While we're at it, I don't much care for the all-digital instrument pack, which looks pretty cheap and naff, especially compared to what you get in a rival Peugeot 5008.
There are compensations though, and the first one is comfort. The Koleos might be partly Japanese underneath, and built in a Korean factory, but it has French seats, which is to say the front ones feel like lightly over-stuffed armchairs. They're wonderfully comfortable on a long run, and supportive too. The rear seats are good as well, with plenty of legroom and lots of headroom (even allowing for the optional panoramic glass roof). But as for the folding third row in the boot... well, they're not there. At all. Renault isn't offering a seven-seat Koleos, which in a market already heating up with the arrival of the 5008, the Skoda Kodiaq and the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, seems like a bit of an omission. It's apparently because Renault doesn't want to compromise sales of the Grand Scenic MPV, but frankly I think it's just going to cost sales overall. There's the possibility of a seven-seat version (after all, the X-Trail comes with seven seats), but nothing definite yet. It's a major oversight, not least because you can have a (really rather excellent) Peugeot 5008 with seven seats for several thousand Euro less. At least you do get a big boot in the Renault.
That said, the Koleos is well equipped as standard, too. A 'basic' €34,490 version, with the excellent 1.6-litre dCi 130hp diesel engine, comes with a seven-inch touch screen, satnav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, DAB, an Arkamys sound system, hands free entry and ignition, 18-inch alloy wheels, blind spot warning and a rear parking camera. Is it worth the upgrade to our Signature Nav model? Not really - you only really get the bigger touchscreen and an electric rear hatch.
You do, of course, get the more powerful 2.0-litre dCi diesel, with 175hp, and an automatic gearbox. It's a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), which would normally be a star off the review right from the get-go, but this one's not so bad. Like pretty much all such gearboxes, it allows the engine to rev too high and too long at times, but the 380Nm of torque on offer, even though it's a little down on the 400-or-so-Nm we'd expect, does a good job of building up speed quickly enough that the CVT doesn't become too much of an issue. Certainly, it's nicer and smoother to use than Renault's dual-clutch gearbox, so for that reason if for no other it's a welcome addition. The engine itself is decent - not the quietest, nor the most economical (40-45mpg in general driving), but it's more or less blameless.
Which is a pretty good summation of the rest of the Koleos' driving experience. This is most certainly not the car to convince you that a big SUV can handle and dance around corners in the manner of a sports saloon. It is, though, a car that can convince you that Renault can make a decent SUV. The ride quality is pliant (although rather too noisy over urban bumps, which lets it down a bit), the steering is slow and over-light, but accurate enough and the body control allows plenty, but not too much, lean. So, basically, the Koleos ambles along amiably and makes a terrific long journey companion (those seats, the sound system, the good main-road refinement).
If it had seven seats, even as an option, it might do rather better. As it is, the Koleos is a perfectly pleasant car that does its job quietly and unobtrusively. Not the most exciting nor dynamic thing around but we, genuinely, miss it.