Renault rewrites the rule book with its latest Renault Kangoo model suggests George Barrows
On rare occasions you get to drive something that totally rewrites the way you think about something and this past month I’ve had not one but two such occasions. Most recently it was the Ram TRX, a 702hp monster of a pick-up truck that I will to tell you more about in the next issue. But now here’s a story about an altogether less likely van going some way to rewriting the rules of what a small van can do.
When details of the new Renault Kangoo were released in March this year it felt like we were getting a raw deal. European models get something called an Open Sesame door, which with its B-pillarless design creates a 1.5m opening which you can load lengths of more than 3 metres in through the side of the van. Yes, through the side door!
On top of this there’s a glovebox big enough for a hard hat that slides out and even a table to eat your lunch from, but these are three things we won’t be getting on UK models. Whether it’s the fault of Brexit (no, really – the costs and potential adverse market conditions were a genuine reason given to me by a top Renault executive) or because there are some pesky airbags and fuse boxes in the way (the reason given by engineers) there is one thing the new Kangoo does get… Prepare to lose your mind because it’s an internal ladder storage rack!
Granted it’s not the most revolutionary thing you’re likely to hear of, but it does solve a rather neat little problem many people have, which is that all these new clever storage solutions like load through hatches and fold down seats all require loading at floor level, which is exactly where you’re storing stuff. The Easy Inside ladder rack takes the problem to the roof, and not only does it extend over the cab it does so without eating into the headroom of the passenger, giving even more space. It’s also foldable so if not in use it’s not in the way. Consider my mind, ever so slightly blown and the rulebook slightly edited – if not rewritten.
But there’s more to the Kangoo than a 2.5 metre ladder storage device. It’s genuinely one of the quietest new vans I have driven. More refined than the Ford Transit Connect and far better than a new Volkswagen Caddy. It’s largely due to more sound deadening but the new, quieter engine plays its part too.
The 1.5-litre diesel engine is available with either 75hp, 95hp or 115hp and Renault is even considering adding its 1.3-litre TCE petrol engine with 100hp or 130hp to the range. It’s paired to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard but selected models will have the option of a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, which is a really smooth and slick bit of kit with fast kickdowns for when you need a turn of pace.
The Kangoo has undergone a significant redesign as well which, brings it into line with the Renault family of passenger cars, but it’s also got quite a bit longer and wider. It gets a distinctive new grille with C-shaped headlights and daytime running LEDs but more importantly it’s got a larger rear loadspace than the previous model.
The standard van’s rear can take 3.3 m3 (Grant can you superscript this 3? ) with the long wheelbase version having a 4.2m3 (Grant can you superscript this 3? ) capacity. Those are the figures for a van with a solid bulkhead, but another trick in the Kangoo’s bag is that UK vans will get a swivelling bulkhead and fold down passenger seat that increases the standard vans capacity to 3.9m3 and the long version to 4.9m3. Importantly that means lengths of more than 3m can be transported within the van.
Payloads for standard vans will be around 600kg but an increased payload option will see that jump to 800kg while the long wheelbase van will have a payload of around 1000kg.
There a big improvements on the inside as well. In fact, this is perhaps where the Kangoo has noticeably improved the most not least because of the van’s overall increase in width, which makes the Kangoo noticeably wider in the areas that are most important for you as a driver or passenger; around your knees and elbows. The roomier cabin is a lot less cramped but it is also smarter with nicer plastics and an 8in Easy Link touchscreen infotainment system that works with your smartphone to give you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There’s wireless phone charging and handsfree card access, which automatically locks when you get out of range of the van and Renault even reckons the seat materials have been made more hard-wearing. Throw in 12 new safety driving aids to bring the Kangoo into line with the competition and this isn’t a rewrite of the rules it’s a close to being a tear-it-up and start-again job.
If it had those new storage features that I mentioned earlier I’d hand on heart say this was the best small van out there, but it’s a huge leap forward nonetheless not least because you can store your ladders securely and still have room on the floor to throw in your chainsaws and other bits.