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Used test: Mazda CX-5 vs Renault Koleos

A used Koleos make a lot of sense, thanks to its spacious interior and tempting prices, but could the sportier CX-5 be an even better buy?...

New Renault Koleos vs Mazda CX-5

The Contenders

Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 SE-L Nav

List price when new £25,695
Price today £16,000*
Available from 2017-present

The CX-5 is great to drive and impressively frugal

Renault Koleos 1.6 dCi 130 Dynamique S

List price when new £27,500
Price today £15,000*
Available from 2017-2021

Renault’s Koleos has plenty of space, but can it match the Mazda's all-round ability? 

*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

There is an old saying that the best things come in small packages. Well, that's all very well in theory, but if you've got a young and growing family and they're eager to carry all their paraphernalia around with them, you'll find the average hatchback a bit of a tight fit. 

Of course, an estate car is a possibility, but if you think bigger is better, and more than enough space is better than just enough space, you might be better off considering a large SUV.

New Renault Koleos vs Mazda CX-5

Looking to satisfy just that sort of need was the Renault Koleos, offered from 2017 until 2021. It may have been a big old bruiser but, like the Nissan X-Trail on which it was based, it was available with a frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine and front-wheel drive to keep those running costs to a minimum.

Here, we're pitching it against one of our favourite SUVs, 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.

To make it even more enticing, both cars are four years old and available for a fraction of the price you'd have paid for them new. They're also significantly less than you'd pay for something similar bought new today.

New Renault Koleos vs Mazda CX-5

Time to see, then, 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.

New Renault Koleos vs Mazda CX-5

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 revving 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, so its engine spins faster and kicks up more of a din at fast A-road and motorway speeds. Factor in a higher level of 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 and 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.

New Renault Koleos vs Mazda CX-5

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. Sharp-edged bumps can be intrusive and irregular surfaces introduce an unsettled feel. The CX-5’s ride'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.