Refreshed and reinvigorated

Refreshed and reinvigorated

The Renault Kangoo, last featured in April 2012, has undergone a mild facelift and engine upgrade – addressing one of GAVIN MYERS’s biggest concerns.

The automotive “midlife facelift” exists for a number of reasons. A restyled body and interior, improved engines and mechanicals, updated features, and even all-new models, are added – anywhere from three to five years into the vehicle’s life cycle – to keep the range up to date, refreshed and appealing in the face of newer competition.

The facelifted Renault Kangoo Express has benefited from its midlife refresh in some very important aspects, but, strangely, not in others …

Focusing on the core changes, Renault has updated the Kangoo’s looks to more closely align with the rest of its portfolio. The large Renault badge sitting proudly in the bold front grille, flanked by redesigned headlights, endows the new model with a funky, yet smart, front end. The remainder of the vehicle largely remains as it was, with black plastic bumpers, mirrors, door handles, and bump strips.

As the main shell of the body remains unchanged, so do the interior and load dimensions: payload weighs in at 800 kg, while the load volume measures three cubic metres from load-compartment dimensions of
1 476 (l) x 1 218 (width between the wheel arches) x 1 251 mm (h).

The second aspect of the update has addressed my biggest concern with the old model; the 1,6-litre eight-valve engine that wasn’t strong enough for the application. Renault has replaced it with a new 1,6-litre 16-valve engine.

The 16-valver is noticeably stronger; producing 77 kW at 5 750 r/min and 148 Nm torque at 3 750 r/min. That’s, roughly, a 20 percent increase in power and 15 percent increase in torque. These gains are very welcome in terms of everyday driveability, pulling power and fuel consumption – Renault claiming 7,7 l/100 km as opposed to the previous 8,2.

The remainder of the driving experience is very much the same. The Kangoo grips and handles well and the anti-lock braking system (ABS) equipped brakes, with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, are strong – albeit with soft, long, difficult-to-modulate pedal travel that can result in one uncomfortably applying more pressure than is needed.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and the cabin is simple and functional. However, there are some issues … First, Renault has removed the overhead parcel shelf; significantly reducing cabin storage space. Access to some of the storage trays between the front seats is also compromised, due to the oddly designed “aviation-style” handbrake lever.

Significant blind spots behind the driver and to the side, especially when looking left, also hamper the driving experience – wide-angle mirrors should definitely have been a feature of this facelift.

Standard equipment includes a rubberised load bay, a driver’s airbag, air-conditioning, an on-board computer, follow-me-home lights and remote central locking. An MP3- and Bluetooth-equipped radio is available as a dealer extra.

The Kangoo Express benefits from Renault’s standard five-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, six-year anti-corrosion warranty and three-year/60 000 km service plan – all included in the R209 900 purchase price.

Overall, it’s nicer to drive and live with than the significantly more expensive Nissan NV200 1,6, but it can’t quite match Volkswagen’s Caddy 1,6 which, however, is R5 000 more expensive and does not include standard air-conditioning.

For something a little different, and a little less expensive, the facelifted Kangoo is definitely worth a look.

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Revealing the plaque from left: Mike Hall-Jones, Key Pietermaritzburg MD; Colin Cowie, chairman of the GM Childlife Foundation; Gishma Johnson, GMSA corporate communications manager; Siyanda Secondary School principal, Selby Madlala; and Grace College principal, Vincent Luksich.
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