What are you driving?
The Renault Koleos, which is the French company's biggest SUV, and indeed its biggest passenger car on sale in Ireland. Though the Koleos is one of the firm's best-sellers on the global stage, it plays to a rather smaller market here, as most buyers of large SUVs tend to go for those with three rows of seating - the Koleos is solely offered in five-seat guise. That explains the relatively restricted line-up. Buyers choose between Iconic and GT Line trim levels (it's a €2,500 price walk between them) and then between two different powertrains. The 1.7-litre turbodiesel tested here is offered solely with front-wheel drive, while the 2.0-litre diesel option comes with four-wheel drive as standard and costs €3,000 more. Both get a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic as standard.
Early this year, the Koleos came in for a midlife update, including new engines. Tweaks to the exterior appearance include LED lights as standard and new colours and wheel designs, plus a new front bumper and additional chrome highlights. The cabin features higher-quality materials than before, while the standard specification has been enhanced.
Name its best bits
I realise that this is subjective, but I reckon the exterior design of the Koleos is one of the things that will attract buyers. While it's not what you'd call traditionally pretty, it certainly has presence, thanks to its size, the massive front grille and distinctive lights front and rear. I'm still undecided about the side 'gill' detail, but at least it's not dull and boring. Same for the interior; it's not comparable to cabins from the premium marques by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels spacious, comfortable and, well, luxurious.
That's helped by the generous specification, which, on this entry-level Iconic model, includes dual-zone climate control, electric windows all-round, ambient lighting, heated and electrically folding door mirrors, auto lights and wipers, heated seats and more. The optional leather upholstery on our test car no doubt enhanced things, too.
Anything that bugs you?
The 1.7-litre diesel engine powering this particular Koleos is nothing short of disappointing. It has plenty of go (though the CVT is oddly jerky at times), but it's way too loud in a car that otherwise does a good impersonation of a semi-luxury SUV. And speaking of which, the Koleos' chassis should, in my opinion, be set up for far more comfort. As it is, it's great at speed and on the motorway, but it's a tad too firm for comfortable urban driving.
And why have you given it this rating?
It's difficult to find one compelling and unique thing about the Renault Koleos, other than its appearance, that lifts it above 'average' in the class. It is very well-equipped, but so are the rivals listed below. On the road, the Koleos is forgettable and not quite refined enough. It's spacious inside and in the boot, but that comes at the cost of no seven-seat option. In fact, if it did have a third row of seats, its success in Ireland would likely be a lot better, without cannibalising sales from the Renault Grand Scenic. This is a missed opportunity from Renault.