Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 SE-L Nav
List price £25,695
Target Price £24,614
The keenly priced CX-5 is great to drive and impressively frugal. It’s a hard act to follow.
Renault Koleos 1.6 dCi 130 Dynamique S
List price £27,500
Target Price £25,634
Can Renault’s biggest SUV yet prove to be the ideal family runaround?
Speak to some people – usually short ones – and you’ll be told that good things come in small packages. The trouble is that a growing family and all their luggage is an exceptionally tight fit in your standard hatchback.
An estate car is one answer, but if you think bigger is better, a chunky SUV is probably the most appealing alternative. Indeed, Renault is counting on this, having just released its biggest SUV yet, the Koleos. It may be a big old bruiser but, like the Nissan X-Trail on which it’s based, it’s available with a frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine and front-wheel drive to keep running costs to a minimum.
To see just how good it is, we’re lining the Koleos up against the excellent Mazda CX-5. Although the CX-5 is a bit smaller, it’s still seriously roomy inside and packs more power from a 2.2-litre diesel engine. Time to see if size really does matter.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
With an extra 20bhp under its bonnet, you’d expect the CX-5 to be a bit quicker than the Koleos. In fact, the CX-5 all but destroys its French rival when it comes to acceleration in almost every situation. While that’s great for bragging rights down the pub, it also means the CX-5 struggles far less with steep inclines, short slip roads and heavy loads.
Meanwhile, the Koleos’s motor feels flat at low revs and quickly runs out of puff above 4000rpm. This forces you to change gear frequently to keep the engine in its sweet spot. To make matters worse, the gearshift has a long and vague action, whereas the CX-5’s has slicker, shorter and more satisfying throws.
Furthermore, the Koleos is much shorter geared than the CX-5, meaning its engine spins faster and creates more of a din at fast A-road and motorway speeds. Factor in the extra road noise and the Koleos is a far less peaceful cruising companion.
Not that the CX-5 is perfect when you’re ambling along. Its suspension is quite firm, so you feel more road imperfections than you do in the Koleos. That said, any ruts and bumps are dealt with quickly and there’s no crashing, thumping or bouncing.
While the Koleos initially feels more comfortable as it wafts over crests and dips, potholes are dealt with noisily and the car takes longer to settle down after each big impact. The CX-5’s greater consistency makes it the more comfortable car overall.
There’s certainly no question that the CX-5 handles better. While the Koleos rolls around and lollops from turn to turn, the CX-5 has more precise and quicker steering, leans less in corners and grips much harder. Sure, a good hatchback or estate would be even more agile, but you’d be surprised at how much of a smile the CX-5 can put on your face.
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