When I first clapped eyes on the new Renault Kangoo on the eve of the CV Show last month. The cheeky styling of the van has been replaced by something far more suave, stylish and sophisticated. In short, the Kangoo has come of age.
Launched in 1997, the Kangoo gained the reputation of being a cute yet capable performer. The facelift brings Kangoo more into line with the rest of the Renault range, giving the van a look more like its big brother, the Trafic.
Elliptical headlights, a plunging bonnet line accentuated by a centre crease and new body-coloured bumpers sharpen the style at the front, while there is more plastic at the rear end and new rear light clusters.
Inside, the seats have extra side support and the underside of the dashboard has extra padding. Engine mountings are stiffened and there is a new subframe, all of which makes for a quieter cab.
The new range will be powered by a choice of 1.5 dCi common rail diesel engines offering either 57, 65 or 80bhp and torque of between 95 and 136lb-ft. There is also a choice of petrol engines – 1.2-litre with 60bhp and 68lb-ft of torque and 1.6-litre 16v with 95bhp and 109lb-ft. Standard equipment is high and a new '+' range offers a host of extra goodies for £400 more.
Renault believes more than 50% of sales will be + models. Fuel economy is a claimed 53.4mpg for the 80bhp 1.5 dCi and prices range from £6,900 to £10,300 ex-VAT. On-sale date is April 11.
I joined a party of UK van journalists in Leamington Spa on the eve of the CV Show at the NEC Birmingham, where we were the first to drive the new models.
Renault describes its styling changes as subtle. That may be, but the result is astounding. Now looking more like a small Renault Trafic (the best looking van on the market bar none), it makes its rivals, the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo, look positively dowdy.
There are masses of plastic all round to help prevent the van being knocked about too much in its busy life and the wheel trims look just like alloys until you get close.
In the front
Too many van manufacturers, in my book, scrimp a bit when it comes to seat technology. I reckon van drivers deserve the best and they certainly get it with new Kangoo. Both driver and passenger seats are superb, with extra side support to stop the occupants sliding around on corners. However, there is no height adjustment on either seat or steering column, although my 6ft 3in frame fitted in well.
The dash is as stylish as you'd expect from this most stylish of manufacturers and standard spec is pleasingly high – included in the basic package are tinted windows, power steering, tubular steel bulkhead behind the driver's seat, driver's airbag, remote central locking, anti-drill locks and ignition barrel, height adjustable seat belts, engine immobiliser and side impact bars.
Most of the models for driving at the event were + versions, which meant they were also kitted out with a side-loading door, overhead parcel shelf, radio/CD player and rear wheelarch covers. Included in the options list are ABS brakes (£400), air conditioning (£550), electric windows (£125), rear roof flap (£120) and a swivelling tubular bulkhead (£150).
In the back
In + guise, our test Kangoos were equipped with rubber load floors, side loading doors which snicked nicely shut with not too much banging and a rail along the load area that houses two sliding load-lashing hooks. There are other fixed anchorage points dotted about the load area.
Rear doors are split 60/40, which means you can see the road behind through the rear view mirror instead of a metal post, and they open to 180 degrees for ease of loading. Load volume is 2.75 cubic metres (Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner boast three cubic metres, while Vauxhall Combo has 2.75 cubic metres) and payload is either 625kg or 800kg depending on the model chosen. Berlingo/Partner offers 600 or 800kg and Combo 595kg or 810kg.
On the road
The first thing you'll notice when driving the new Kangoo is that you'll be able to converse with your passenger in hushed tones. Renault's boast that it has decreased cabin noise by three decibels at 80mph is no idle one. The reduction has been achieved by the addition of extra padding under the dashboard and stiffer engine mountings.
Other big news is that the range has a new set of engines. Out goes the old 1.9-litre unit, to be replaced by the 1.5 dCi common rail diesel powerplant with either 57, 65 or 80bhp on offer. It may seem a strange move to decrease engine size but the fact is that the 1.5-litre unit is such a powerful performer that the extra 400ccs are unnecessary. For those few operators wanting petrol power, there are two units available – 60bhp 1.2-litre and 95bhp 1.6-litre 16v. A factory-fit LPG version will be available in the summer, followed by a 4x4 later in the year.
My first test drive was in a 65bhp diesel Kangoo and I wasn't exactly expecting blistering performance. But with a nice slick gearchange and ideally balanced power steering, progress was more rapid than I'd imagined. It's amazing how much power you can gain by working your way round the gears.
As time was tight at the driving event, the assembled journos had sprinted into the vans rather like a Le Mans start. I hadn't looked in the back before driving off so imagine my surprise to find a half-load of sand there. The 65bhp van is a lot more powerful than it has any right to be.
Next up was the 80bhp version and while it proved superior at higher speeds on steep inclines, I reflected that for average fleet use the lower-powered version would do fine. A canny operator would save £800 on each van, too. We did not drive far enough to make any observations on fuel economy, but Renault reckons the 80bhp version will return an amazing 53.4 miles per gallon. Also to keep running costs low, servicing is required only every 18,000 miles or two years.
However capable a performer, this van has always played second fiddle to the Citroen Berlingo. With its stunning new exterior and fresh set of engines, maybe it is now the Kangoo's turn to shine.
How the rivals shape up
THE Renault Kangoo has always lurked in the Berlingo's shadow in the UK, seemingly for no other reason than that Citroen has a better marketing machine. Kangoo loses out to Berlingo on load volume (2.75 cubic metres as opposed to 3 cubic metres) but payloads are equal at 600kg and 800kg. Both vans have now been facelifted. Kangoo beats Berlingo on list price but Citroen is offering big cashback deals.
UNTIL the new Kangoo and Berlingo models were offered recently, the Vauxhall Combo was the newest kid on the block and is currently selling like hotcakes. Combo and Kangoo are head-to-head when it comes to payloads and load volumes but Combo prices range from £8,670 to £9,445, as opposed to Kangoo's £6,900 to £9,900. Choice here could well be made according to who offers the biggest fleet discount.
|Renault Kangoo fact file|
|Model||Price (£)||Power (bhp)||Torque (lb-ft)||Load vol (cu/m)||Payload (kgs)||GVW (kg)|
|1.2 8v pet||6,900||60||68||2.75||600||1,600|
|1.5 dCi dies||8,550||57||95||2.75||600||1,660|
|1.5 dCi dies||9,100||65||118||2.75||600||1,675|
|1.5 dCi dies||9,900||80||136||2.75||800||1,885|