CREW CHANGE

Renault’s latest Kangoo increases competitiveness in the small van segment

French marque Renault is one of the few importers to have realised the gains that can be made in market share that are obtainable by putting some strong emphasis behind supporting its light commercial range in the Australian market. Having gone from almost no presence at all just a few years ago, the company revised its Australian operations, appointed new people to spearhead the sales operations, and, surprise, surprise, it’s not only selling its vans, it’s doing so with increasing numbers.

Three different products form the basis of the Renault offering in our market –the Kangoo small van, the Trafic medium-sized van and the Master large van. In addition to these there are different wheelbases, lengths and cargo volumes, plus at Master level there are single and dual-cab light trucks.

While the accolade for generating interest in the small van segment belongs fair and square to Volkswagen for its Caddy, Renault has come in with a revised Kangoo for 2014 that is really well worth a close look.Renault-Kangoo_7

In the first four months of this year, Kangoo sales jumped 38 percent, knocking back Caddy sales from 708 units to 562. Renault’s total of 147 Kangoo registrations doesn’t leapfrog the range into first spot, but it shows a trend that can only increase due to the release of more models in the range with higher specifications, greater variation and keen pricing.

Sporting a more radical design of Gallic nose, the Kangoo for 2014 brings with it the choice of a short, petrol-powered van with an auto or manual transmission, or a longer, diesel-engined version with a manual only transmission. At the top of these two models is what Renault calls the Kangoo Maxi Crew.

Although short or longer-bodied small vans tend to offer much the same in terms of overall specifications, it’s the Maxi Crew that Delivery believes is going to make the Kangoo a topic for conversation amongst couriers and tradies alike. Why? Because it’s more clever, and in our view better than anything else on the market in this category.

Across the Kangoo range for 2014 are some pretty bold styling upgrades and a stronger appearance, thanks to new bonnet, mudguards, bumper and headlamps. Engine-wise, the choice as mentioned comes down to a 1.6-litre petrol four-cylinder, or a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel, with outputs of 79 kW and 148 Nm of torque for the petrol, against 81 kW and 240 Nm for the diesel.

Delivery has not yet driven the petrol version, but scored an earlier than launch date drive of the new diesel, literally new, with just 240 km on the odometer.

The first thing you have to do from an expectation perspective is to forget any preconceived ideas you might have about small capacity diesel engines being gutless, sluggish or otherwise really annoying. This 1.5-litre is one of the most responsive diesels Delivery has driven. It revs cleanly but pumps out the torque so that, with the aid of the six-speed manual gearbox, you’ll be seeing 110 km/h on the speedo and just 2,800 rpm on the rev counter. Peak torque of 240Nm comes in at 1,750rpm, with maximum power of 81 kW at a relatively high 4,000 rpm.

Renault-Kangoo_P1It’s the ability of this new breed of small capacity diesels to rev easily that makes driving the Kangoo Maxi Crew such a pleasant experience. But there’s much more to this model than the engine and driveline, such as the vehicle platform that it shares with the Renault Scenic people mover.

The interior is very quiet, thanks to extensive soundproofing that excludes tyre and road noise from the interior. Couple that benefit with an excellent quality sound system that you can actually hear throughout the cabin, and it’s easy to start thinking that you are driving a passenger car rather than a small commercial vehicle.

Seating is really comfortable in the front bucket seats, and there’s good thigh support from the seat squabs. Headroom is not an issue either, with a roof height sufficient to accommodate the wearing of a top hat, should you feel so inclined. It’s therefore ideal for those who feel vulnerable if they remove their “Bob the Builder” hard hat.

The big drawcard for the crew version is the inclusion of three seats in the centre of the van. These are fitted on a split/fold basis of two seats and a single seat, with each equipped with lap/sash diagonal retracting seats belts and ISOFix mounting for child seats. The seating position is upright rather than reclining, but access and egress is very easy, resulting from sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle.

While other passenger versions of small vans have centre row seats, the Kangoo Maxi Crew takes the design ethic further by enabling either, or all, of the seats to fold forwards and tumble into very deep footwells to provide a completely flat and uninterrupted cargo floor.

There’s nothing else on the market in this category that offers a total, and practical, flat-floored cargo carrying capability that can then flick, in a second, into offering an additional three-seat capacity.

Pricing for the Kangoo range starts at $19,990, and the Maxi Crew heads up the top of the range at $27,990, but for a courier or tradie the versatility of being able to switch from work to play makes it good value on the company books.

From a safety perspective, Kangoo Maxi Crew includes driver and passenger airbags, front fog lights, auto windscreen wipe with rain sensor, dusk sensing headlamps, a big full width parcel shelf over the windscreen, power mirrors and windows, 15-inch alloy wheels, cargo tie downs in the rear, Hill Start Assist, cruise control and upper speed limiter, Bluetooth for phone compatibility, and audio streaming. It comes with a three-year/200,000 km warranty, roadside assistance and capped-price servicing at $349 per calendar year for the first three years (or 45,000 km).Renault-Kangoo_12

All these inclusions drive down the cost of ownership, but, in light of the impending increase in fuel prices, it’s the fact that you’ll be enjoying a combined fuel economy of 4.7 l/100 km that’s equally appealing. With a 60-litre fuel tank, this gives you an easily achievable range in excess of 1,200 km. Not filling up every second day saves time and means you can pick and choose from the better-priced fuel outlets.

Delivery will be reporting in full on the complete range in the August issue once we have driven all the different versions, but, in the meantime, for those planning their next purchase, here are the dimensions and weights for the 2014 Kangoo.

Payload varies from 611 kg to 740 kg (small van to Maxi Crew), and the cargo volume runs from 3.0 cu.m to 4.0 cu.m (with seats folded into the floor), or 1.3 cu.m with second row seating upright.

In a nutshell, Delivery’s first drive of the Kangoo proved it to be highly impressive, very capable and extremely clever by design. The ride and handling is well up to passenger car standards, and, as mentioned, the lack of interior noise immediately makes it a standout performer.

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