March 4, 2021

Ultimate Drive

Your FREE Motoring Publication in the Western Cape

French civil war

Renault Koleos 2.5 Dynamique v Peugeot 3008 GT Line

For reasons that are very hard to fathom, South Africans have deserted station wagons in their droves and made a beeline for SUVs which to me are little more than station wagons on stilts. Sure, that SUV fetish is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon, but in the UK and Europe at least, the station wagon is not yet dead.

My recent tenure in successive weeks of two of France’s mid-range SUV contenders brought all this nonsense into focus but it also made me wonder which of the two vehicles would get my money given their end-pricing in RSA at least is separated by little more than 10%.

First off, be aware that the Renault is actually a Korean-built Nissan X-Trail in disguise but that’s no bad thing as the Jap version is most definitely one of the better examples of the breed. Adding a bit of garlic flavouring shouldn’t do too much harm!

The Peugeot 3008, by contrast is a blue-blood Frenchman and winner of numerous international awards, not least, the 2017 European Car of the Year title which to me is the most coveted and most valuable of the trillions of awards dished out all over the globe.

DESIGN

Given that the Koleos is not a pure breed, it’s fair to say that the exterior designers have done a great job at the prow and the stern in making sure onlookers know it’s a “Renault.” Much more imposing and bigger than before, the second gen Koleos does look a tad anonymous in profile but a really excellent, glossy paint finish and decently-tight panel gaps add a touch of premium feel to the package. Wheels are 18-inch V-spoke alloys.

The Peugeot on the other hand, succeeds in looking more distinctive and with it, more premium still. Sure, the frontal treatment is a tad busy, even cumbersome, but overall, if you asked an onlooker which was the posher SUV, the Pug would take the kudos. It too sports really glossy paintwork and tight panel gaps along with 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels

INTERIOR

It once was the case that people bought French cars for their cosseting, softly-furnished interiors that probably had more showroom appeal than long-term appeal. In more recent times, French interiors have generally taken on a harder edge doubtless in the interests of prolonging the life if interior fitments which in a few cases might be subjected to SUV-type use.

The Peugeot dares to be different with loads of soft-touch surfacing but too many surface finishes, not least a grey fabric that adorns the door inlays, for example. It does, though, succeed in looking rather plush with a layered dash design marked out by a configurable digital i-Cockpit instrument cluster (with reverse sweep rev counter!) accompanied by an 8-inch central infotainment/nav display that’s difficult to master, and an array of metallised piano-key switches. The tiny, squared-off steering wheel that effectively sits under the raised instrument display, and therefore feels almost as though it’s in the driver’s lap, is an acquired taste of dubious benefit.

Comfort levels are very high thanks to generous seat padding – the driver also gets two-way memory – and while those in the front will feel reassuringly cocooned, those in the back have space to bask in, especially as the floor is almost flat. All the usual items such as air con, cruise, Bluetooth and electric windows are on board along with keyless entry/start and auto tailgate.

The Renault is altogether more conventional inside, but it’s also nicely finished and kitted out with more soft-touch surfaces than you might expect. The front seats are large and supportive with electric adjustment for both while space in the back is outstanding, albeit that the seat is shaped for two. Be aware that rear three-quarter visibility is shocking owing to the use of very thick pillars.

Keyless entry/start is on the menu along with electric windows, Bluetooth, cruise and air con, but the Renault’s wing mirrors do not fold. It too features an infotainment/nav screen presented in a vertical format, but the main instrument cluster viewed through a smart leather-bound wheel is more conventional than that in the Pug, albeit that it is a TFT display with rev counter circling a digital speedo.

For me, the Pug’s interior looks the plusher of the two but it’s also rather too fussy in its execution so let’s call this part of the contest a draw, especially as passenger and luggage space in both is really good and equipment levels equally high.

Given space restrictions, I have not listed all the features available on these cars, so I suggest a visit to a website if you want absolute detail, but I will tell you that the 3008 luggage capacity is listed at 591/1670l compared with the Renault’s 459/1690l. Both cars are endowed with plenty of safety features including six airbags, ISOFIX mountings and a host of electronic aids.

DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS

If you’ve been taking note, you will have seen the Peugeot rides on bigger tyres which have a slightly lower profile. That suggests it starts with a ride disadvantage but not this time, Monsieur. Pugs have always been known for offering a supple ride – sometimes at the expense of outright control – but with the 3008, the chassis engineers have hit a sweet spot.

The ride is nothing less than brilliant, providing occupants with a perfectly judged level of cushioning that’s complemented by decent isolation of road-induced noises. Some body roll is evident but it’s a small price to pay for the supple, controlled ride that’s responsible for creating a most pleasant loping feel on the open road. The steering too is beautifully judged, offering just the right level of assistance and a lovely fluid feel from lock to lock.

Power is provided by a 1.6 Turbo four (121kW/240Nm) that allows for high gearing and relaxed cruising via a six-speed auto box that does its job smoothly and decisively. Two driving modes are offered – Eco and Sport – but stick to the former as Sport mode activates an awful artificial and obtrusive engine note and causes the gearbox to hunt unnecessarily.

The brakes are powerful and progressive at speed but just a tad over-boosted at low speeds which means concentration is needed to achieve feathered stops. As for fuel use, like most small capacity turbos, there’s a big difference between cruise consumption and overall consumption. On the open road, figures in the low 7s were easily attainable but urban running sees 10.5l/100km as the norm.

The Renault offers a totally different mechanical layout in that power is sourced in a normally aspirated 2.5 four (126kW/233Nm) that drives through a CVT gearbox to either 2 wheels or 4 wheels. 2WD is the regular setting but Auto apportions power as needed front to rear while 4WD Lock sends power equally, front and rear.

When driven with absolute restraint, this Renault feels decently refined and soothing with good suppression of mechanical commotion and smooth progress via the transmission. But as with all CVT applications, when pace is demanded, the gearbox winds up like an elastic band and seems intent on curbing rather than promoting progress. The end result is a disappointingly gutless feel for a 2.5 that’s no doubt compounded by the fact that the unremarkable torque peak only arrives at 4 000rpm compared with the 1 400rpm of the 3008. At altitude, and especially with a load on board, this lethargy will be compounded.

If this rather ancient engine/transmission combo disappoints, the overall fuel consumption of 8.9l/100km makes up in part for the lost ground. So too does the excellent ride which is comfortable and controlled, albeit that coarse tar sets up an unpleasant din inside. The steering too is pleasantly weighted and nicely geared and the brakes are beyond criticism. On a related subject, I did not like the American style foot-operated parking brake which contrasts with the Pug’s electrically operated switch.

CONCLUSION

Pricing of these two is relatively close in RSA at least, but let’s say the extra money asked for the Peugeot is reflected in the posher cabin trim in particular, and in a drivetrain that’s light years more modern. The 3008 is also more obviously French, if that appeals. The Renault falls between two stools in terms of identity, even if the front and rear styling suggests otherwise.

Also consider that in this configuration, the Koleos offers 4WD which may well be a deal-breaker for those who spend a lot of time off-road. It also just has the edge on space although I did not confirm this impression with a tape measure. But for the more common urban/motorway operator, and especially those that live at altitude, the Peugeot’s more resolved turbo engine and 6-speed auto gearbox make for a more pleasant drive. On-paper figures suggest that all out, the Koleos will hit 100 clicks fractionally quicker than the 3008 (9.8s v 9.9s), but real-world driving tells a very different story as the Peugeot finds its torque sweet spot much earlier in the rev range.

So, for me it’s a win for the 3008 but the Koleos still has lots of good things up its sleeve, not least space and off-road ability along with a slightly lower asking price, even with that 4WD on board.

Article: Richard Wiley