The truth is, it looks a little too much like a van with windows to convince the ever more style-conscious that it would be a good buy for anyone whose primary concern wasn't that of pure utility. Well, that might be about to change. The new Kangoo Trakka 4x4 has undergone various changes that transform it from van conversion to quirky, off-the-wall sport utility vehicle (SUV).
The Trakka is intended to echo the Pangea concept of 1997, supposedly offering off-road adventure, flexibility and user-friendliness. To this end, the Trakka has gained a new set of body-colour bumpers (including a metal bash-plate on the front), some heftier side-cladding and a 'bull-bar' effect on the front grille. It also gets a new design of alloy wheel, a 40mm suspension lift and the all-important four-wheel drive gubbins to drive the back axle.
The oily bits are actually sourced from none other than Nissan, comprising an ATC (automated torque coupling) which drives the back wheels when the fronts start to slip. Combined with the ASR traction control, the Kangoo can maintain real-world progress in some serious off-road situations, certainly more than you would put it through on the most adventurous day out. It is strongly reminiscent of the system in the Scenic RX-4, which it actually is, although the ratio has been increased for the petrol version.
On the road, the Kangoo feels very much like a tall estate car, the lean angles adding to the feeling of height in the cabin, but nothing to worry most people. The 4x4 drivetrain feels very front-driven, although it needs a few more revs to pull away than the two-wheel drive variant and the weight of the mechanical undercarriage is sometimes apparent at slower speeds. The 1.6 engine is smooth enough, if not particularly torquey, but suits the Kangoo well. Progress is capable and cruising is quiet and refined even given the Trakka's extended profile, though the gearbox is mushy and the steering more van than sportscar.
From the driver's seat you are initially struck by the amount of space in the Kangoo. The raised roofline makes for unlimited headroom and the boxy dimensions make the most of every inch that appears on the road. Pockets and places to lose stuff abound, from bottle-holders on the rear parcel shelf to airliner-style overhead lockers in the rear. The Kangoo provides a place for all the various equipment a weekend warrior might need, including a possible 2,500 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded flat, more than enough to slide in a couple of mountain bikes or serious camping equipment.
Other than that, trim looks utilitarian and indestructible, and the spec list includes all the exterior massaging, better front seats for the 4x4, ABS, airbags, radio, central locking, electric front windows. Make: Renault Model: Engine: 1.6 16v Capacity: Max power: 95bhp @ 5000rpm, Max torque: 109lb/ft @ 3,759rpm Max speed: 95mph 0-62mph: 14.3 secs Combined Euro fuel consumption: 31.4mpg C02 emissions: 212g/km On sale: October 2001 Price: 'Less than £11,000'