Renault’s baby load shifter gets more interesting by the month

It’s Delivery Magazine’s favourite small van, and it’s rapidly becoming acknowledged by buyers in the light commercial vehicle segment as the best of the little league. That’s how much of an impact the Renault Kangoo has made in this market segment where traditionally the crown was held by Volkswagen with the Caddy.

Renault has delivered more than 4000 versions of the Kangoo since the current-generation model was launched in Australia in 2011. It will take a full Australian pallet between the rear wheel arches and the standard specification of a sliding door on each side of the vehicle makes it extremely popular.

The Kangoo has been steadily increasing its market share while Volkswagen has been suffering from its annus horribilis, created when the German manufacturer was caught cheating in relation to its exhaust emissions ratings.

Australian’s purchased 1118 Kangoos, and, although the Caddy eclipsed this figure by 588 units, it’s fair to presume that with its diesel engine range on the nose there’s every chance for the Kangoo to move ahead on sales percentages for the new year.

In terms of competition, Citroen has been making a good fist of things by increasing its performance by nearly 140 percent to take 8.4 percent of the segment with its Berlingo. Fiat came in at under half the performance of the Berlingo, managing 133 sales for a market share of 3.6 percent. Considering its age, Suzuki’s APV managed very well indeed, scoring 12.6 percent market share to finish the year with sales of 472 units for a product that is basically an uninspiring box on wheels.

Those looking for the fuel economy benefits of a diesel have to steer towards the Maxi and Maxi-Crew versions of the Kangoo where a strong and willing 1.5-litre diesel lurks under the bonnet. Matched to a six-speed manual transmission, without an auto option, it’s the versatility of the Crew version with its rear seats folding flat into the floor of the cargo area that justifies purchase on the grounds of being cleverly designed and total functionality, whether used in courier work or for carrying kids to sport on Saturdays.

Buyers of the short-wheelbase previously came home with their Kangoo powered by a 1.6-litre, fuel injected petrol engine that offered the choice of either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

That’s all changed for the new year as the 2017 driveline for the Kangoo has jumped to a more fuel-efficient 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder that’s coupled to a six-speed transmission available either in manual or automated form.

Compared to the outgoing 1.6-litre, naturally aspirated, petrol motor, the new 1.2-litre turbo unit provides a reduction in fuel consumption by 21 percent for the manual to return 6.2 l/100 km – almost a full litre better than its predecessor, but offering 30 percent more torque and 8.0 percent more power across a lower and wider rpm spread. Fuel economy for the automated manual comes in at 6.5 l/100 km, providing a virtual improvement of 2.6 l/100 km compared to the previous petrol motor.

The new 1.2-litre turbocharged engine offers better real-world performance than many larger naturally-aspirated engines. For those that prefer not to change ratios themselves, the automated manual gearbox is based on a six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automated gear change.

“The Kangoo petrol auto has been the best-selling variant to date, and we expect a high demand for the new EDC, which has two more gears than the auto it replaces. This variant has been the most affordable van of its type on the market, and this is set to continue with the new version,” said Lyndon Healey, senior model line manager for Renault Light Commercial Vehicles.

“The success of Kangoo to date has been no surprise given that it’s the right product at the right price, backed with the right reassurance package that customers in this segment demand. The long warranty and excellent service and parts support provide a high level of overall value that is further enhanced by strong residual values,” Lyndon said.

“The additional equipment included in the 2017 Renault Kangoo petrol versions makes this light van quieter, safer and easier to drive. Over five years and 100,000 km, the fuel savings alone will make it less expensive to own than the vehicle it replaces.

“Traditionally, the petrol-powered versions have accounted for around 60 percent of Kangoo sales, and we are confident the new drivetrain and additional specification will give the Kangoo extra appeal against its natural rivals in this market”.

As before, the petrol Kangoo comes with the standard wheelbase body, offering 3.0 m3 of load space. It has a tailgate as standard (barn doors are optional) as well as sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle, for added convenience for urban operators who often work in confined loading and unloading areas.

The new Kangoo is priced from $23,490, and, in addition to the new engine, adds a slew of safety and convenience equipment.

The new all-aluminium, petrol-powered, 1.2-litre, four-cylinder engine is a version of the unit used to great effect in the Renault Clio, Captur and Megane passenger cars, and is retuned for LCV work. The engine is 10 kg lighter and uses a low-friction timing chain that lasts the life of the engine, saving on whole-of-life running costs.

With peak power of 84 kW at just 4500 rpm, and 190 Nm of torque available between 2000 and 4000 rpm, the Kangoo’s new direct-injection engine is 6 kW more powerful than the previous 1.6-litre unit, while torque increases by a much more useful 42 Nm.

Peak power is now achieved 1500 rpm earlier, while peak torque is spread across a wide, useable band compared with the previous engine’s torque peaking at 3750 rpm. This benefit comes from the use of turbocharging to deliver a fatter torque curve much lower down the rev range, which in turn improves acceleration. Reduced noise and vibration for a quieter drive, and less engine wear are further benefits.

There’s a combination of reasons for the improved fuel economy and these include Renault’s idle stop/start system (on the manual transmission version) and Eco mode, as well as a variable displacement oil pump, low-friction timing chain and reduced engine weight. The rated exhaust emissions also fall, to 144 g/km for the manual and 147 g/km for the EDC auto transmission.

The six-speed manual gearbox is derived from the previous generation Clio R.S. and has a light clutch action assisting the changes. Engine speed at freeway cruise is reduced by 30 percent to 2450 rpm.

The EDC automated gearbox, with manual shift over-ride, maximises the performance of the engine, with ultra-fast shift times (290 milliseconds) allowing surprisingly spritely performance, again from low revs.

The new engine comes with an array of features not previously available in the petrol-powered range. These include hill-start assist and Grip Xtend, driver and passenger airbags including side airbags, cruise control and speed limiter, reverse parking sensors, and Eco Mode. For the manual transmission versions, Energy Smart Management and stop/start are now available.

All standard-wheelbase petrol models also feature a new rubber cargo mat for the load area, which reduces road noise in the cabin. These features now mirror those offered in the long-wheelbase turbodiesel Maxi versions.

Buyers of the new turbocharged petrol engine also gain Renault R-LINK enhanced satellite navigation complete with a seven-inch colour touchscreen, as well as access to a rear-view camera. Also available are the same 15-inch ‘Aria’ light alloy wheels as fitted to the Maxi Crew, as well as glazing for the side sliding doors. A fold-flat front passenger seat is also available along with an overhead parcel shelf, a steel bulkhead to be fitted behind the seats, anti-slip timber floor and the highly individual ‘Girafon’ retractable roof flap.

To keep things simple, Renault is offering a Kangoo Pro Pack for the petrol-powered models that comprises R-LINK enhanced sat/nav, overhead cabin storage shelf and glazed dual rear and side sliding doors.

For those looking to capitalise on the additional space provided by the Kangoo Maxi Crew long-wheelbase model, Renault has introduced a new up-spec work-and-play option pack for the popular five-seater.

The new Kangoo Lifestyle Pack is only available on the long-wheelbase variant, with the 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox.

Priced at $1290, the Lifestyle Pack adds visual, comfort, technology and privacy features to the standard specification with the R-LINK enhanced audio and navigation system with seven-inch touchscreen and digital radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rear ventilation outlets for the second-row passengers.

Externally, the Lifestyle Pack adds a colour-coded front bumper, a painted rear bumper, gloss black door mirrors, and extra tinted privacy glass. Rear side windows are a dealer fit option, priced from $290 plus dealer fitting.

All Kangoos built after June 2016 come with driver and front passenger side airbags and rear parking sensors for additional safety and security.

“Thanks to the Kangoo being based on the platform of the Scenic people mover, the Kangoo drives like a comfortable passenger car, and business users have access to a very versatile workhorse that is 100% claimable as a business expense for ABN holders,” Lyndon says.

Like all Renault LCVs, the Kangoo is equipped with a three-year/200,000 km factory warranty and three years of roadside assistance, plus the first three scheduled services are capped at $349 each. Kangoo requires servicing only once each year, or every 15,000 km (whichever comes first), making it a very efficient business tool.

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