With its primary choice unavailable, Renault NZ is thinking outside the box in respect to finding a vehicle to fulfil a key compact crossover role.
WITH the most obvious compact sibling out of the picture, Renault New Zealand is now considering reintroducing a breakthrough car from its past to sell alongside the next-generation Koleos arriving soon.
The Koleos has potential to massively lift Renault volume even before a seven-seater edition arrives in late 2017 to join the five-pew model that’ll start sales rolling.
A car that was only unveiled for global scrutiny this week will be on sale here in July or August, initially in a front-wheel-drive entry format that continues with the ‘Bose’ badging meted the current base model, and more upmarket four-wheel-drive Privilege trim.
Both are powered by a 2.5-litre petrol with a constantly variable transmission, with a CVT diesel still being considered.
“We’re still awaiting some details,” Renault NZ boss Tom Griffiths told Motoring Network.
“We have most of the spec but there are just a couple of things to be finalized. We know that Kiwis have very high expectations of what to include in a car. We accept that a Kiwi car has to be very well specced. We should have all of that sorted by mid-May.”
With SUVs now established as the dominant new car choice, Griffiths is pleased to get the Koleos especially early, but his lifestyle charge mightn’t yet stop there.
Yesterday he confirmed his operation is now looking into the potential of returning a name from the past, the Scenic (the gold car here).
The latest edition of Renault’s famous multi-use hatchback has reprised now as a crossover, with similar styling to the Captur small car that has been here since last year.
Scenic is being seen as a potential Plan B to fulfil as a compact crossover style car now that Renault NZ has determined its primary choice for that role, the Kadjar - Renault’s technology and platform-sharing version of the Nissan Qashqai – is a definite non-starter.
“We are unable to make it (Kadjar) work in our market … if we can get access to the Scenic, it will fill that hole.”
Considered a landmark design when introduced to Europe in 1996, the five-seater Scenic was a super-sized hatch of such extraordinary versatility it inspired a raft of MPV-style compact cars.
New Zealand received the car in its second generation format for some years, but it was ultimately retired when market tastes shifted toward crossovers.
The latest model, which debuted at the Geneva motor show in March, has undergone a design revision that maintains the traditional flexibility but is now wrapped in a stronger, more stylish soft-roader design aesthetic.
Nothing is certain about Scenic. Something the NZ office has yet to establish is if the latest car will offer in all-wheel-drive, as the gen 2 Scenic did for a few years.
It also knows right-hand-drive production is not set to start until 2017, already a busy year for Renault NZ – it also anticipates having the new Megane, a Clio update and a new Trafic van then. Also on the radar is Renault’s version of the Nissan Navara ute.
“We’re in discussions about Scenic … if we have access to it, especially in the seven-seater format, we would absolutely take it as quickly as we can,” Griffiths said.
“We are also keen on the five-seater but we recognize that the appetite in NZ for seven seaters is particularly strong.”
Griffiths is hesitant to suggest if the Koleos will ultimately become Renault’s primary earner here, pointing out that it’s likely supply will be limited for the first few months of production. But he believes there is potential for it and Captur to cumulatively account for 40 percent of Renault volume in the first full year of combined sale.
But he agrees the latest presents a lot more opportunity than the current same-named offer that provides six to 10 sales per month and stands out for being the oldest passenger model Renault produces and also a car that, after France cold-shouldered it in 2010, became an Asia-Pacific special.
Set to reach 80 markets, the replacement is built on the CMF C/D platform, which is shared with the similarly sized and priced Nissan X-Trail as well as larger Renault-Nissan models and has more of a premium aspect.
Price is still being worked through. The current car kicks off at $39,990 in base Bose trim and lifts through two four-wheel-drives, a 2.5-litre petrol Privilege at $44,990 and a $2000-dearer 2.0-litre diesel.
“We will know (pricing) by mid-May,” Griffiths said. “There’s a fairly big jump in spec from what we are currently offering, so my gut feeling is that there will be a price change, but we are trying absolutely to minimize that.”
The top model will take leather trim, power-adjust heated/ventilated front seats and the highest-end version of the R-Link 2 infotainment system with voice recognition and delivering an 8.7 inch portrait touch display that recognises the same finger gestures (two-finger zoom, scrolling, drag and drop) as a tablet.
Satin-chromed trim, interior mood lighting scattered and a huge, opening glass roof panel are also standard. The front-drive car has a synthetic leather trim as opposed to actual cow hide in the flagship.
However, the entry car is hardly a stripped out special, and it will also benefit especially from a massive technology push, not just with infotainment but also safety.
Renault has signaled that the car’s driver aids will include active emergency braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition with over-the-limit speed warning, blind spot monitoring, safe distance warning, fatigue alert, automatic headlight dipping, front, rear and side parking sensors and parking assist.
“Both are going to be high-spec versions,” commented operations and sales co-ordinator Sal Marti. “There will be subtle differences between the two – the Bose won’t have the glass roof and will have different wheels - but it gets lots of fruit. With the Privilege four-wheel-drive we have taken everything we can get.”
In addition to smartening up, Koleos also enlarges, being significantly bigger than the current edition, not least in length. At 4670mm from nose to tail, it will be one of the longest offers in the medium category. In fact, given it’s also now on a 2710mm wheelbase and is 1840mm wide, could it now be considered an émigré into the next category, though Marti asserts there will be resistance to that concept.
“We will aim to keep it in the current category though we do recognize that the lines (between the medium and large models) are being blurred.”
The extra interior room benefits cargo space. It has a flat floor level with the tailgate sill - but a removable floor increases it to 624 litres, and folding the 60:40 split rear seat-backs expands that to 1690 litres. The other reason for the car becoming larger is for it to ultimately come out with three rows of seats.
How soon before that happens? Not this year. “We’d love to have it this year but the reality is that we are not going to get it until mid to late next year.”
Griffiths believes NZ and Australia will be among the first export countries for the car. The United Kingdom and Ireland, though obviously offering much larger volume potentials, will not see it until 2017.
Being built in the existing Koleos plant in Busan, South Korea, is a major plus for NZ, he says, because it massively shortens the delivery time.
“Sourcing from the Korean factory means delivery is not the normal 90 to 120 days, it is a lot quicker.”