Used test: Renault Koleos vs Mazda CX-5
Temptingly priced and spacious inside, a used Renault Koleos makes sense as a family car, but could the sportier and faster Mazda CX-5 be a better large SUV buy?...
Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 SE-L Nav
List price when new £25,695
Price today £18,000*
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 £17,000*
Available from 2017-present
Can Renault’s biggest SUV yet prove to be the ideal family runaround?
*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Speak to some people – often 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 could be more appealing still. Indeed, Renault is counting on this being the case to encourage sales of 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.
What are they like to drive?
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 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.
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 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.
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