Renault has upgraded its Kangoo Van in a bid to enhance its appeal to operators in what remains a highly-competitive and increasingly-uncertain market.
Some of the changes relate to compliance with the Euro 6 exhaust emission regulations which come into force in September. Others involve re-visiting equipment levels and enhancing the package buyers get for their money.
All Kangoo Vans now come with a full-height steel bulkhead plus a DAB radio with Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in ports as standard and with or without a CD player depending on customer requirements. The line-up now includes Business and Business + trim levels thereby aligning Kangoo with Trafic and Master and making life a little easier for businesses that run all three models.
So far as Euro 6 is concerned Kangoo is achieving compliance without Selective Catalytic Reduction and the need for an AdBlue reservoir that requires periodic replenishment. Instead, it is dealing with NOx emissions by installing a NOx trap in the exhaust system.
Euro 5 models were still available at the time of writing.
Not having driven Kangoo for a little while we decided to get to grips with a 90hp 1.5-litre diesel ML19 Energy dCi 90 built to Business + specifications. The same engine is also available with 75hp and 110hp outputs.
Remember that Kangoo is also sold as the long-wheelbase Maxi with a 4.0cu/m load area. Maxi is marketed as a crew van too with a second row of seats and a load area at the back and both the standard Kangoo and the Kangoo Maxi can be ordered in electric Z.E guise
Access to our test van's 3.0cu/m cargo area was by means of a sliding door on each side of the body plus twin, glazed, asymmetric back doors that could be swung through 180 degrees if you released the stays. The narrower of the pair was on the offside - a quirk of right-hand-drive models - and a wash/wipe system was fitted.
The cargo bay could be extended by folding the passenger seat flat, swinging the section of bulkhead behind it through 90 degrees and latching it into place next to the driver's seat; an optional arrangement that does away with the standard bulkhead. All that folding and swinging boosts the load cube to 3.6cu/m and the maximum load bed length from 1731mm to 2502mm.
Also supplied was an optional girafon rear roof flap. The idea is that you use it to poke over-length items up into the air if the passenger seat is occupied and as a consequence cannot be folded down.
Great idea in theory but we've never seen a girafon used in practice; possibly because items carried in such a fashion could end up fouling overhead obstructions, possibly because leaving part of the roof open risks exposing the load to the elements, possibly because a thief might just be able to take advantage of such an arrangement.
The load floor was protected by a rubber cover and our demonstrator was fitted with eight load tie-down points, which is two more than the standard issue.
You pay extra for them, but the additional outlay may prove worthwhile. You can never have too many lashing rings.
Cab and equipment
Business + in-cab oddment stowage facilities include a full-width shelf above the windscreen, bins in each of the doors, a lidded, but not lockable, glove-box and a lidded box between the seats. You'll find somewhere to put your cup of coffee between the seats too.
The driver's seat is height-adjustable as is the steering column. A multi-functional trip computer is among the standard features along with a 12v power socket.
Optional climate control (manual air-conditioning is the standard offering) helped ensure we kept cool heads when surrounded by cyclists with no sense of self-preservation. Another useful extra fitted was Renault's R-Link multimedia and navigation system.
It can be controlled from the 7ins touch-screen in the centre of the dashboard although the way in which the screen is positioned makes it a bit of a stretch from the driving seat. Fortunately you can use controls on the steering wheel instead, download an R&GO app so you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a touch-screen or simply tell R-Link what you want it to do.
As well as navigation, R-Link features include an Eco Driving coach which gives you useful advice when it comes to improving your driving skills and cutting fuel consumption.
Fiddling about with it stopped us becoming too irritated by our Kangoo's peculiar and rather-annoying L-shaped handbrake lever.
A driver's airbag is included in the deal - our van had an optional passenger airbag too - as are electric windows, folding electric exterior mirrors and reversing sensors.
Our demonstrator was fitted with the usual selection of electronic safety devices including ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Stability Control and Hill Start Assist. Also installed was Grip Xtend, designed to keep you rolling if you encounter mud, snow or need to cross soft sand.
A useful and long-established Kangoo feature is RAID. The initials stand for Renault Anti Intruder Device and it ensures all the doors lock automatically once the van pulls away from the kerb and begins to gather speed.
The four-cylinder eight-valve common rail turbo-diesel engine delivers maximum power at 4000rpm and is married to a five-speed manual gearbox. Top torque of 200Nm kicks in at 1750rpm.
The Energy designation means that a Kangoo is fitted with a regenerative braking system that helps recharge the battery when the van decelerates, recovering energy that would otherwise be lost. The package includes Stop & Start.
Chassis and steering
MacPherson-type suspension is fitted at the front while a torsion beam set-up helps support the rear. Our test van sat on 15ins steel wheels with plastic trims and shod with Michelin Energy Saver 195/65 R15 tyres.
Disc brakes are fitted all round; 280mm-diameter at the front, 274mm-diameter at the back.
Gone are the days when swapping gears in a Renault was a bit like stirring a bag of marbles with a stick if our test van is anything to go by. The five-speed gearbox offered a slick, quick, change although there were times on the M4 and M5 when we would have appreciated a sixth gear.
Nor did we have any complaints about the performance.
Our Kangoo turned out to be a lively, eager little van even with some weight in the back and offered a surprisingly-good ride combined with sharp, responsive handling. The electric power-assisted steering provides sufficient feedback (and delivers a 10.7m turning circle between kerbs) and feels neither dead nor sloppy.
In-cab noise levels were too high however, especially at motorway speeds, with too much racket emanating from the rear for comfort. Attribute that to the way in which a mesh-type bulkhead had been substituted for the solid, standard offering which as well as protecting the occupants of the cab provides better sound insulation.
Hit the Eco Mode button and you can improve fuel economy by up to 10% says Renault thanks to the effect it has on engine torque, the accelerator pedal's mapping and the gear shift indicator. Doing so has little discernible impact on the vehicle's performance when you are lightly-laden but the effect does become noticeable if you are climbing a hill with some weight on board.
Buying and running
Renault quotes an official combined fuel consumption figure of 67.3mpg. We averaged just shy of 60mpg which is still perfectly respectable.
Service intervals are set at 2 years/24,000 miles but all vans should of course undergo interim safety checks; especially those that are used intensively. Kangoo is protected by Renault's 4+ warranty which runs for 4 years/100,000 miles - there is no mileage limit for the first two years - and includes roadside assistance for the duration.
Side rubbing strips help protect Kangoo and its optional metallic paint finish from minor scratches and scrapes.
|Renault Kangoo ML19 Energy dCi 90 Business +|
|Price (ex VAT) – £14,700|
|Price range (ex VAT) – £13,350-£18,600|
|Gross payload – 650kg|
|Load volume – 3.0cu/m|
|Load length – 1731mm|
|Load width – (min/max) 1218mm/1464mm|
|Load bay height – 1251mm|
|Loading height – 609mm|
|Rear door aperture – 1194mm x 1194mm|
|Side door aperture – 762mm x 1041mm|
|Gross vehicle weight – 1950kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight – 1050kg|
|Residual value – 13.7%*|
|Cost per mile – 30.4p*|
|Engine size/power – 1461cc, 90hp @ 4000rpm|
|Torque – 200Nm @ 1750rpm|
|Gearbox – 5sp|
|Fuel economy – 67.3mpg|
|Fuel tank – 60 litres|
|CO2 – 110g/km|
|Warranty – 4yrs/100,000 miles|
|Service intervals – 2yrs/24,000miles|
|Insurance group – 6E|
|Price as tested – £18,025|
|* after 4yrs/80,000mls source Keeresources.com|
|Metallic paint - £400|
|Extra load area tie-down points - £75|
|Airbags; thorax and passenger seat - £370|
|Bulkhead; swivelling with folding passenger seat - £225|
|Cruise control with speed limiter - £200|
Launched almost 20 years ago as a replacement for the square-cut, boxy-looking Extra, Kangoo has been a massive success for Renault. Face-lifted in 2003, completely revamped in 2008 and upgraded yet again in 2013 under the Phase 2 banner, it has been assembled in such far-flung countries as France, Argentina, Malaysia and Morocco.
Prior to the launch of the NV200, Nissan sold it as the Kubistar while Mercedes currently markets a version of Kangoo as the Citan under a joint-venture agreement.
Although the diesel version outsells it by a huge margin, much of the focus on Kangoo has been on the battery-powered Z.E model. Volumes remain modest, but Renault has persevered with the Z.E nevertheless; and the mounting hostility of big-city authorities in particular towards diesel power may ultimately show that it has made the right call.
Renault's Kangoo is a much-under-rated package which delivers most of what it promises and deserves to be a lot more popular in the UK