Final Mile: Renault Kangoo
Compact European vans continue to gain popularity in Australia. Leveraging the trend, Renault’s Kangoo Crew model delivers a package that can readily switch between workhorse and family station wagon.
For a vehicle that was essentially designed to serve as two in one – a van for work, and a big, boxy wagon for play – the Crew version of the Renault Kangoo leaves a distinctly unambiguous first impression.
Both design and spec are refreshingly straightforward – with the remodelled front end now boasting a large black plastic ‘face’ whose modern, almost aggressive look is likely to resonate well with the pragmatic trucking audience. Under the hood, the Kangoo features an equally sensible 1,462cc diesel that can boast a handy 81kW (109hp).
As a result, the lack of an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), which is only available with the petrol engine option, could almost make sense – the easy-to-handle six-speed manual gearbox is a good fit for our long-wheelbase test model and its pragmatic, no nonsense appeal – at least if the terrain is not too hilly.
Granted, with our test a load of around 400kg, the first gear seems a little tall on steep take-offs and requires a bit of clutch slip once the hill hold brakes come off. The manual transmission of the petrol engine available in the short wheelbase Kangoo has a numerically higher ratio for its first gear to compensate for the lower torque of that engine, but maybe it would also go well with the Crew version.
On the inside, the Kangoo continues to make the same pragmatic impression: The cloth seats in the front are supportive and the driver’s has a large range of height adjustment – good for both private and commercial use. More importantly, though, access to the spacious rear is accomplished using sliding doors on each side, a practical solution that is quickly finding a fan base among metropolitan transport businesses.
Our test model is fitted with rear windows and a second, foldable row of seats – bringing an extra level of practicality to the range. To accommodate the extra row, the upper section of the innovative steel mesh cargo barrier slides up along the roof when the seats are in the upright position and locks down again when the seats are folded down to the floor to provide maximum cubic load space.
Speaking of which: Folding the rear seats takes the load volume from 1.3 to 3.4m3 – even though a perfectly level floor is still not achieved. In its defence, the protruding rear wheel arcs are located almost at the back corners of the Kangoo, leaving very little body overhang and contributing to the overall handling and stability of the vehicle. What’s more, they actually help protect cargo from being tossed up when negotiating speed bumps.
Like so many European contenders, the Kangoo’s accelerator pedal has a ‘second stage’ built-in. Characterised by a more resistant spring loading, it is meant to discourage the driver from pushing down too hard and help them contribute to the Kangoo’s already frugal fuel economy. Also standard in many modern vans, an Eco switch is mounted low in the centre console and changes the engine’s performance mapping as well as displaying suggested gear change points on the dash.
With its help, the 60-litre fuel tank should provide in excess of 1,000km between fuel stops – at least if the proclaimed 4.7l/100km combined cycle consumption is anything to go by. During our 300km test drive, our average is slightly higher at 5.9l/100km, which is a good result considering the load and driving style during our time with it.
As such, the Kangoo Crew is just as sensible a vehicle as it is fun to drive – making it the ideal ‘double agent’ for use on the job as well as at home. Helping that impression are a comprehensive trip computer and a Bluetooth-enabled audio system, as well as the comprehensive safety package with additional airbags, disc brakes all round, ABS, Electronic Brake Assist, ESC and traction control. With the ability to accommodate five adults in relative comfort or transport a solid payload, it may just have found the golden mean so many OEMs are trying to meet.