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Road Tests

Renault Koleos

Price £17,995

Top speed 114 mph 0-60mph 10 seconds

Consumption 39.2 mpg

CO2 emissions 221g/km

Best for fashion misfits

Also worth considering? Land Rover Freelander, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage

Have you ever arrived at a party just as everyone else is leaving? Renault must feel a little like that with their new Koleos. The French marques seemed to be in denial about the SUV boom when it was at its craziest. Makes that you might have thought totally incompatible with off-roading – Porsche being the most prominent – suddenly found themselves able to stretch their "brand equity" to make a quick profit from these easy-to-build, usually high-mark-up products. There was even talk of an SUV Smart car. Everyone was trying to gatecrash the party. All were allowed in and left to the punch bowl. It got pretty wild. The French, however, were absent.

Now though, the party's over. SUV sales are way down. We're sobering up. But hang on. There's the doorbell. It's Renault. They've brought a bottle. Let's open it. Hmmnnn. It's not a very satisfying brew, the Koleos. Given that Renault had to graft the "family" Renault look on to an SUV body it could easily have been hideously ugly, down there with the Peugeot 4007, which shoves a too-big version of Peugeot's "pathetic shark" face on the front of a Mitsubishi Outlander; it looks like the designers drank too many snakebites before they got started. The Koleos is actually quite a neat number, though that is where the appeal of this party animal ends. It is, underneath, a Nissan X-Trail, which apparently endows it with excellent off-road performance, but it really isn't much good on road. It feels even slower than it is, it's noisy at speed and, even by the standards of the class, isn't very refined. Worst of all is the attempt at a sort of iDrive system, as found on BMWs. This is where the car's designers decide to put a big knob in between the front seats which you twirl and press to operate the air conditioning, sat nav, radio/CD player and so on. It's supposed to be a rational way of dealing with these multiple demands, but it doesn't even work very well in the premium German brands that have tried it. In the Koleos it is simply impossible to use, as you keep having to look down and back to see where the knob is pointing. It is a truly awful system, the worst of all worlds, and would itself disqualify the Koleos from any sensible driver's list, even if it were otherwise perfect, which it is not.

So, Renault have arrived unfashionably late at the SUV party. Should they have bothered? Not in that outfit, dear.

Next week: Cadillac CTS