Car Test   R0355
September 2003
First Drive Renault Kangoo
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.5dCi Expression
Remember Renault's cheeky little chappie the R4, that rustic runabout with the big tailgate and a facia gear lever the missus could hang her handbag on?
   It's long gone, of course, but it does have a spiritual successor in the shape of the Kangoo. This is a small, van-based MPV-style estate (the sort pioneered by the Citroen Berlingo Multispace) that sits on the Clio platform and slots in between Clio and Scenic in size. Last April it was given a facelift, together with improvements to the interior.
   Talking of size, there's stacks of it within the lofty, light and airy interior, particularly when the 60/40 divided cushions and backrests are double-folded. Only the Fiat Doblo 'out-cubes' it - fractionally. Curiously, though, you can't carry one passenger in the back and tumble-fold the widest (60%) section of the seat - only fold it on to the cushion. Without rear occupants, both sections tumble-fold. Is there some French logic here that escapes us? Anyway, the ultra-low, plastic-covered load deck makes it easy to slide luggage aboard, and an optional extra load net stops high loads from decapitating rear passengers. Although there aren't many immediately-to-hand lower storage spaces, a full-width shelf above the big sun visors and four overhead 'aviation' compartments swallow a lot of family paraphernalia.
   Rear passenger space is very reasonable, too, with enough width for three, who enjoy lots of footspace and absurdly generous headroom. Access is via a pair of large, sliding doors, but there's a prominent sill, with only a small gap for feet to negotiate.
   Despite its modest cc's, the perky little 1.5 turbo-diesel gives lively performance in the 2000-4500 rev band when the car is lightly laden, as well as heartwarming overall fuel economy, bettering that of any Berlingo or Doblo. It's not a particularly noisy motor, either, but its overall refinement is ruined by an awful growly roughness from 1500 to 2000rpm. As this is just the engine speed one uses a lot of the time (between 40 and 50mph in top gear), it's a serious shortcoming. Quelling it with a downshift is no hardship - the gearchange is nicely positive, if a bit weighty. This isn't exactly a quiet car, though, because of body drumming and tyre noise.
   While the Kangoo's ride is comfortably compliant when bowling along main roads, the suspension lacks some of the Berlingo's smoother absorbency. What's more, on broken surfaces, the ride appears to be worse than it really is because of the accompanying road/suspension noise. The steering column rattles, too, and bodywork components fidget and fret. The Kangoo has the edge in handling, though, despite the fact that when cornered hard the accent is on roll. Fortunately, however, this is neither acute nor grave. Indeed, the Renault feels alert and responsive compared with the more languid Citroen.
   There are no steering wheel or seat height adjustments, yet our 'about average' drivers settled in comfortably behind the wheel. All round vision through the big windows and mirrors is excellent. The minor controls (column stalks do most of the work) are well placed, but the gloomy, sunken instruments are practically illegible - except at night. How do such gaffes reach the production stage?
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • generous front seatbelt height adjustment
  • rear head restraints lower almost flush with backrest
  • separate audio controls on column stalk
  • central panel of grouped warning lights
  • large tailgate aids loading in the wet
  • pair of front pillar grab handles
  • reverse gear's lift-up collar awkward to work
  • back seat release tags fiddly to operate
  • no rear footwell heating/ventilation
  • base of front seats hard on rear shins
  • no 'clean hands' recesses in tailgate
  • seatbelt warning 'beeper' irritating
Although in this small but popular niche market the civilised Citroen Multispace is the acknowledged leader, the sharper-handling Kangoo is certainly no distant also-ran. It's peppy, economical and easy to drive, while offering huge load space within compact dimensions. And although practicality takes precedence over image, there's an unpretentious honesty about the rather austere interior - what you see is what you get. So, yes, it's cheap and cheerful, but in the nicest possible way.

engine 1461cc turbo-diesel, belt-driven single overhead camshaft and 8 valves; 80bhp at 4250rpm, 136lb ft at 1750rpm, with common-rail fuel delivery; 50-litre fuel tank
drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual; 25.4mph/1000rpm in 5th
suspension front: independent MacPherson coil spring/damper struts, anti-roll bar
rear: semi-independent trailing arms linked by torsion bars, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 5in alloy with 175/65R14T tyres (Continental on test car), full-size (steel) spare
brakes ventilated discs front, drums rear with brake assist/ABS and brake force distribution
0-62mph+ 12.5sec
official mpg^ 44.1/61.4/53.3
maximum speed+ 96mph
AA mpg range 38-64
AA typical mpg 51miles
CO2 emissions 139g/km
+ maker's figures  ^ urban/extra urban/combined

size and type budget-priced, 5-door MPV-style estate car and 4x4 Trekka   trim levels Authentique, Expression
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.2 litre/75bhp, 4/1.6/95
diesel: 4/1.5/80, Trekka 4/1.9/80
  drive front-wheel drive (Trekka: permanent 4-wheel drive); 5-speed manual on 1.2, 1.5dCi and Trekka; 4-speed stepped automatic standard on 1.6
notable features twin sliding doors, overhead (aviation-style) compartments, electric/heated door mirrors, pollen filter, panoramic electric sunroof, part-leather upholstery

  in centimetres (5-door MPV-style estate)
  length 404
  width - including mirrors 203
    - mirrors folded 180
  height (with roof bars) 183
  load sill height (inside/outside) 0/51
  turns lock-to-lock 3.4
  turning circle (metres) 10.7
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 85-103
    - headroom 94-117
  rear - typical legroom 103
    - typical kneeroom 69
    - headroom 102/122*
    - hiproom 143
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 84/135#-/164~
  load length to facia no
  load width 114-142
  load height (to window line/top of aperture) 61/116
no sunroof  * with/without overhead compartments  # rear seats folded  ~ backrests-only folded
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