Dave Whyte finds the Renault Kangoo Maxi Crew can hold is own in any family
Since the release of the updated models last year, the Renault Kangoo range has proven a hit. As you may remember, I reported on two models – the Kangoo SWB and the Kangoo Maxi – just after their release, and was pleasantly surprised. Since that time, the rest of the crew from Delivery, including the judging panel for our annual awards, have driven and tested various Kangoo models.
Each member of this panel was independently impressed with the Kangoo. The handling, driver friendliness and versatility of the Kangoo, along with the list of standard features, contributed to its win in the Small Van of the Year category at our awards ceremony earlier in the year. Following on from this, we here at Delivery thought it might be worthwhile looking further into the Kangoo, and have taken delivery of a Kangoo Maxi Crew for long-term testing and evaluation.
The Kangoo Maxi Crew is the top of the range in the Kangoo model line-up. Powered by a 1.5-litre diesel, and driven through a six-speed manual transmission (with no auto option), the Kangoo Maxi has enough power and the right gear for any situation. With the assistance of a shift light in the instrument cluster, which flashes to prompt economical gear changes, the Kangoo also returns good efficiency. Having used the little Renault as my daily driver for the last month, which includes plenty of short local trips, the fuel consumption is currently at 6.3 l/100 km. This has meant I’ve only had to refuel twice in a month, which I do when the gauge reaches one quarter full.
The Kangoo Maxi Crew, with five seats and a large load space, has proven very handy indeed for me personally. While I do a lot of solo driving, I also do plenty of running around with my wife and two boys on board. This often includes running some errands on the way to our final destination, and has seen the four of us travelling to Melbourne, about 1.5 hours from home, with two spare truck tyres in the back. In the past, this would have been a two-car trip.
The versatility doesn’t come at the cost of comfort though, with car-like handling and passenger comfort making for four happy travellers. When the need arises for more load space, it’s a simple case of folding down the rear seats to provide a flat floor from the rear doors to the back of the front seats.
Getting in and out of the Maxi is a piece of cake, with long front doors and sliding rear side doors. The roof height also adds to the ease of entry, while the low floor height means you don’t need to climb up to your seat. Front-wheel-drive means a flat floor for the rear seat passengers, with plenty of leg room. It’s the same story for front-seat passengers, where the available leg room is enormous, and even the driver has plenty of room around the pedals to be comfortable over long distances. Noise levels inside are low, with just a little wind noise coming through the rear load area walls, which are not lined. Engine noise is almost non-existent at highway speed, with the little diesel ticking over at just over 1200 rpm. The sound system gives good reproduction, and is easily heard from the rear seats without deafening the front seat occupants, which is surprising given the lack of speakers in the back.
The Kangoo Maxi also has plenty of technology on board to add to the car-like experience. Standard equipment includes sat/nav, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cruise control, rain sensing wipers and auto headlights. Most of these features can be operated without taking your hands off the steering wheel, though the sat/nav is an exception here.
While the touchscreen is a long way forward of the driver (perhaps on purpose), it can be operated using a dash mounted dial. Having the audio and phone controls mounted on the steering column means the steering wheel itself only contains the cruise control buttons, which are easy to locate, identify and operate. This is quite a change from the current trend of having as many buttons as possible on the steering wheel, which can be confusing and hard to get used to.
The rear doors on our demo unit are 60/40 split barn doors, and provide the only indication of its left-hand-drive origin, with the bigger rear window, demister and wiper on the left-hand side. This has an effect on rearward vision from the central windscreen-mounted mirror, especially in wet conditions. The large side mirrors go some way to compensating for this though. Forward vision is excellent, with the A-pillars a long way forward of the driver, and large side windows make for easy viewing out either side.
Safety is another aspect of the Maxi that is impressive, with disc brakes all round, anti-lock braking (ABS), stability control (ESC), traction control and hill-start aid all standard. Front airbags for the driver and front passenger are standard, with the option of side airbags. Remote central locking is also included, with one press of the button unlocking the driver’s door only, while two presses unlocks all doors. The central locking also activates when the vehicle reaches speeds over 30 km/h, locking all doors automatically. When the vehicle is stopped and shut down, the driver’s door unlocks while the rest of the doors remain locked. This system, known as Renault Anti Intruder Device (RAID), prevents any unwanted entry and provides greater security for any load on board.
Driving the Kangoo Maxi is a relaxed experience, with great handling, ride quality and manoeuvrability making it easy to forget you are driving a commercial vehicle. While it has the space and strength to perform work duties, it is also nimble enough to fit into a standard shopping centre car park, something that I have found difficult in other similar vehicles. The driver-friendly experience also adds to the appeal for less confident drivers.
Whether you’re a tradie or a courier, or running your own small business, a versatile work vehicle is an important part of life. The Kangoo Maxi Crew provides a very versatile platform, with the ability to fill multiple roles safely and comfortably. While it may look a little awkward from the outside, it’s the use of interior space and easy to operate driveline that makes the Kangoo what it is. Over the last month, our two family cars have spent a lot of time in the driveway, and I have come to truly understand what versatility means in a vehicle. I like to think of the Kangoo as the Mars Bar of the car world – it helps you work, rest and play!