By on August 21, 2009

It may come off as odd to road test a French car in Sweden. Play along because as you’ll soon discover no country’s better-suited for the Renault Kangoo. During my brief sojourn in Sweden, I’ve decided Swedes are the Earth’s most utilitarian people. Nowhere else in the Western world do the women own as few shoes or the men know as few jokes. In automotive terms, the Swedish penchant for simplicity has translated into a decades-long love affair with the most utilitarian of all automotive species: the station wagon. The Kangoo is Renault’s foray into the compact hauler market. On paper, it’s a shoo-in: it’s even uglier than an estate, it’s more practical and it consumes less fuel with the optional diesel engine! In other words, what French car could possibly be more Swedish?

Aesthetically, I’d say the Kangoo has a decidedly European character. That’s not a compliment. Like many European interpretations of the budget automobile, it lacks any flair or machismo. The bubbly front sticks out meekly from the whole, its tiny lights giving it the air of a mouse trying to avoid a congestion charge in central London. Meanwhile, the middle lords disproportionately over the front, but arrives too late to the party to assert any character. It would look perfectly at home schlepping around abused suitcases at Charles de Gaulle airport. The styling is possibly an attempt at minimizing the drag coefficient for a continent where fuel costs slightly less than black market infants. Unfortunately, it’s not appeasing to see a rakish front morphing into a big boxy rear. And at the rear, more disaster lurks in the form of asymmetrical doors and a large plastic bracket outlining both sides of the ass-end.

Obviously, the Kangoo does some things better than others, and I’d say it does inanimate objects the best. That’s because no disassembled Ikea dining set would dare complain about the hard plastics and aesthetically boring instrument panel which RSVP’ed but then failed to meet my inflated European expectations. The seats are adequate, though thigh support could be better. I suppose being brainwashed about European sensibilities on car discussions forums for years does that, but this interior wouldn’t look out of place in a Ford Ranger. You can live with it, but would you want to? On the plus side, at least the gear lever isn’t much of a reach from the pilot.

As a driving machine, the Kangoo is a mixed bag. It adeptly splits the difference between big, ungainly car and small, nimble car. The ride is comparable to a typical econobox, say a Civic or a Cobalt. That’s probably because its DNA originates in the compact Mégane. However, it won’t take too many roundabouts to make you hate the momentous body roll, amplified by the car’s ridiculously high center of gravity. Tall and skinny together unfailingly produce understeer, and the Kangoo has both in droves. Conversely, the Kangoo’s seating position is majestically high and offers a commanding view of the road ahead.

The 1.5L diesel is reasonably peppy and miraculous with a full charge, being competent for most of its rev range. Obviously, at 1.5L, you’d never call it a stump-puller. It’s also far too noisy to pay tribute to the country that produced Berlioz and Debussy.

On the plus side, the towering storage area is the king of practicality. It can hold furniture, bikes, humans, couches—even the kitchen sink—all without the need to fold a seat or remove the spare tire. Any transplanted Baghdadi deliveryman navigating the cobblestone micro-streets in Europe would appreciate the privacy, practicality and tirelessness of this rolling depot.

As a value proposition is where the Kangoo suffers in the eyes of the overtaxed Swede. The base Kangoo sells for a deceptively low 107,000 Swedish crowns. Once you start optioning it out (with such decadent amenities as rear passenger seats), it’s difficult to keep it under 125,000. It’s Daedulus flying too close to the sun. The sun, in this case, is off-lease Volvo or Saab wagons that have benefited from precipitous depreciation. These natives feature a moderate upgrade in road manners, a tremendous upgrade in refinement, and an immeasurable upgrade in aesthetics for only a few thousands more. Sure, you’ll sacrifice somewhat in schleppability, but it’s a price most Swedes have eagerly paid and will continue to eagerly pay.

The result is that the Kangoo toils away mostly as a niche-market, ultra-light commercial vehicle, while the family van version is a rare sight. In the rest of Europe, the Scénic variant of this platform has long fallen by the wayside. That doesn’t make it an abject failure but more of a testament to the fact sometimes form will trump function—even in Sweden. Maybe that’s why the girls here are so pretty.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

31 Comments on “Review: 2008 Renault Kangoo 1.5 Diesel...”


  • avatar
    midelectric

    If you’re going to subject us to all these mundane Kangoo pictures it’s only fair they be counterweighted with some cheesecake. Is a Renault all there is to see in Sweden?

  • avatar
    AKM

    I’ve ridden in one a few times. The ride is very forgettable, but many US contractors would have more room than they’d know what to do with, without the need for a full size pick-up truck.

    And yes, Swedish girls are very pretty. As long as you don’t get bored by LL Bean-type clothing, that is. They can get wilder in clubs, but it’s still quite relative.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    Samir:

    I certainly wouldn’t call the small van market occupied by the Renault Kangoo, Citroen Berlingo and Ford Transit Connect ‘niche.’ These things are all over the place in mainland Europe and the UK. They’re the workhorse of choice for plumbers, electricians, postal companies etc.

    These vans aren’t used much as family vehicles though. The Kangoo is about 5 grand cheaper than its much nicer minivan platform mate the Scenic new but the depreciation is brutal. About 75% after 3 years compared to about 50-60% for the scenic. So you get a worse vehicle for the same price in the long run if you choose the van. Anecdotally speaking, the passenger versions are bought for commercial use by businesses who might find the extra seats useful.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Sun, in this case, is off-lease Volvo or Saab wagons that have benefited from precipitous depreciation

    Or you could buy an off-lease Kangoo or similar.

    I’d say this isn’t really a fair comparison because a V70 or 9-5 is not close to being this kind of car. This is like people who cry for the return of wagons to North America but fail to realize that people who actually buy wagons want space and versatility and long ago forsook the low roofs of LTDs, Caprices and Roadmasters for Siennas and Odysseys.

    Cars like the Kangoo are to Europe what the Sienna, Oddy and Caravan are to North America. I don’t think people who want a Kangoo are really going to cross-shop the much more functionally-limited wagons.

    Anyone who wants a traditional Eurowagon is already making a compromise and that’s why, even in Europe, the low-roof wagon is staring to lose out to MPVs like this.

    Like many European interpretations of the budget automobile, it lacks any flair or machismo.

    And that’s fine by me. I’m getting really tired of North American design trends that have resulted in cars like the Honda Ridgeline sedan and coupe Accord, the Chevy Uplander, post Insecure-About-Owning-A-Minivan facelift, or the Ford Taurus, now equipped with Gangsta-Vision Greenhouse.

    I’d welcome a few more shapeless, big-windowed, thin-pillared, zero-tumblehome dorkmobiles to these shores.

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Lord, don’t let Consumer Reports see that pic of the two airborne wheels. NOT ACCEPTABLE.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    That moose test performance sucks.

    I’d be better with the Saab.

    but this interior wouldn’t look out of place in a Ford Ranger

    Having seated in Fiats, VWs, Renaults and other cars sold down here, that you compare it with a Ford Ranger is quite a compliment (for the Ranger, yes it’s better). The only one that was “nice” was a Peugeot 206.

    “Cheap” european cars (a contradiction itself) have craptabular interior plastics.

    My parents sent me from Italy a recent magazine. I saw the BeeBop and found it nice (weird) looking.

    Make some review about the new Citröen C3, the one with the HUGE windshield.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “That moose test performance sucks.”

    Because, why?

    The ability to make a sudden change in direction and back is absolutely crucial. Like, if a moose would suddenly appear out of nowhere. Much more common is that a child or someone on a bike suddenly appears out of nowhere. Would you like to make that kind of move in a Ford Explorer, or in a car that can actually handle that kind of hazzards?

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Lord, don’t let Consumer Reports see that pic of the two airborne wheels. NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    The man performing the stunt is practising to make the european version of the Arab madness you see in youtube.

    That’s not the actual result.

    PS: LOL

  • avatar
    Stingray

    @Ingvar

    You’re right, the test IS important.

    The performance of the car in the test, as shown in the picture is NOT GOOD. Hence it sucks.

    That’s what I wanted to state.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “That’s what I wanted to state.”

    Okey, then…. :)

  • avatar
    AKM

    And that’s fine by me. I’m getting really tired of North American design trends that have resulted in cars like the Honda Ridgeline sedan and coupe Accord, the Chevy Uplander, post Insecure-About-Owning-A-Minivan facelift, or the Ford Taurus, now equipped with Gangsta-Vision Greenhouse.

    A friend of mine wanted a 3-row car as she’s planning on having 3 kids. She refused to own a minivan, and bought an Acadia instead, which is really just a minivan in disguise. Her husband thought a minivan made much more sense. Disclaimer: she was a navy pilot, and her hubby is a test pilot…

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Darn, I wish we had all those small utility vehicles here in the US, along with the frugal 1.5D engines. Every time I visit Europe I drool when I see them. Not only are they superb for tradesmen, but also for folks like me, who like a SINGLE vehicle to take care of commuting, occasional trips to Home Depot/Orchard’s Supply, and frequent hiking/backpacking trips. In other words, young suburbanites.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    many US contractors would have more room than they’d know what to do with, without the need for a full size pick-up truck.

    But the full size pickup is much better for their insecurities about penis size. Macho American men would not drive something like this.

  • avatar

    many US contractors would have more room than they’d know what to do with, without the need for a full size pick-up truck.

    But the full size pickup is much better for their insecurities about penis size. Macho American men would not drive something like this.

    Absolutely! It has to be big whompin’ with a big noisy engine that sucks gas before Americans are happy with it.

    John

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    This puts the mini back into minivan. I hope Nissan brings it to the US.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    spyspeed wrote:
    I hope Nissan brings it to the US.

    I am afraid that even if they do, it won’t have the 1.5D engine, and by losing frugality will lose much of its appeal.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    To be fair, this doesn’t really quite replace either the pickup truck or the minivan. It’s a fair bit smaller than either. If I recall, it’s something like a Mazda5 or Kia Rondo cross-bred with a Ford Transit Connect.

    That’s not a bad thing, as we could use cars like this here, but it’s not designed to carry the kinds of loads a pickup does, nor is it as people-friendly as a North American minivan (that would be the Renault Espace’s job; a vehicle about the size of an SWB Caravan and still about a foot or more shorter than a Sienna). It would be a tough sell here, potentially, unless it was priced very aggressively.**

    That said, it would be a nice change from high-floor, cramped, space-wasting small crossovers like the CR-V or Rogue.

    ** at which point it would murder sales of, say, the more profitable Rogue. Which is why it won’t happen.

  • avatar
    jmo

    125,000 kronor = $17,786.50.

    In Sweden, VAT is split into three levels: 25% for most goods and services including restaurants bills, 12% for foods (incl. bring home from restaurants) and hotel stays (but breakfast at 25%) and 6% for printed matter, cultural services, and transport of private persons

    Is the VAT on cars in Sweden 6% or 25%?

    If it’s 25% the Kangoo would sell for 11 or 12k in the US…

  • avatar
    ChristyGarwood

    Great post SS!

    Your opening line “It may come off as odd to road test a French car in Sweden” and the pics made me think of Inspector Clouseau – I think this is in the running for the most fuggin’ uckley SUV in history, so much so it makes me LOL when I imagine it in a pink panther paint job!

    @AKM – please thank your friend for me, a GM employee, for buying an Acadia. I hope she and her family like it.

    Did I mention earlier that women influence many new vehicle purchases?

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I like this Van Better than the CUBE

    this a cute little car. Sooo cute. I just love it.

    We should have Value Added Tax in America and get rid of the sales tax. 6.25% percent now in Massachusetts used to be 5%.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Such a playful little vehicle, especially up on two wheels – NO THANKS.

    Maybe a tray full of batteries under the floor would be just the ticket for the ‘goo.

  • avatar
    Samir

    Nowhere else in the Western world do the women own as few shoes or the men know as few jokes

    As the original reviewer, I’d like to point out that the men in Frankfurt know even less jokes than those in Stockholm.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    Great review. I bet there are a lot more people that would be attracted to a vehicle like this. My sisters would love a car like this. They are VW Golf and Honda Fit drivers now…

    BEAT: I would not complain about 5-6.25%… in Chicago it is 10.25%, and probably going up again. Oh, and let’s not forget the state income tax, $109 vehicle city sticker payment yearly, parking meters that are $2-$6/hour depending on where you are in the city, and of course the astronomical license plate renewal (my car is $110/year and my company car is $150/year)

    OK, I am done complaining.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Hwyhobo: Check out the Ford Transit Connect now available in the US.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Nice job on this review, but what’s with all the reviews of work-mobiles lately?

    We need to get something with balls written up, and quick!

  • avatar
    citro

    ok , 107k sek=15050$-25%vat=12040$
    125k sek=17580$-25%vat=14064$
    i would say it’s quite affordable. Ford is slightly bigger than renault but in comparison with kangoo seems to be a little bit to pricey (21475$ msrp).Fuel consumption in renault is impressive : 43-45 mpg ( 700 miles range in combine EU cycle).There is only gas engine in ford that gets 24mpg combine.Transit connect is
    a good car and would be even better with diesel engine.

  • avatar

    Hmmm…..a Saab wagon with a 1.5L diesel and how many turbos?? Could I order the optional electric golf cart motor?

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    I like this car very much. Down here we get the previous generation w/ a “facelift” that makes it look even worse. Yeah, it won’t win any design awards, but I like it. It’s so unconventional. As I said elsewhere on this sight, I’d love to get one some time in the future. Or a Fiat Doblò. Those sliding doors are great for children and all that interior space make it quite a comfy place for a family, tool-carrying DIY-types and outdoorsy-sporty active lifestyle people. Yet even down here few people buy this cars (and others like it) ’cause they’re repelled by the (lack of?) style. But I know innumerous people who once they’ve bitten the bullet simply don’t look back ’cause they very happy ’cause they’re very well-served by this kind of car. And that’s what great about them.

    Below, some comments on the comments:
    Like many European interpretations of the budget automobile, it lacks any flair or machismo.

    And that’s fine by me. I’m getting really tired of North American design trends that have resulted in cars like the Honda Ridgeline sedan and coupe Accord, the Chevy Uplander, post Insecure-About-Owning-A-Minivan facelift, or the Ford Taurus, now equipped with Gangsta-Vision Greenhouse.

    I’d welcome a few more shapeless, big-windowed, thin-pillared, zero-tumblehome dorkmobiles to these shores.

    Mr. Psarjinian though we often disagree I copied your words ’cause you expressed better than I ever could my reaction when I read this particular comment by the reviewer.

    I like this Van Better than the CUBE

    this a cute little car. Sooo cute. I just love it.
    Mr. Beat, so true, so true. Me thinks the Cube just tries too hard. The style of the box is the (relative) lack of style!

  • avatar
    pops

    I spent two weeks in Buenos Aires and saw the Kangoo everywhere. I remember more than one configuration of the vehicle, with a fair number on the road devoted to family transport.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Having been a passenger in a van version of one of these for many hundreds (if not thousands) of miles in one of these, I can tell you several things.
    A) They are dull.
    B) They wobble around roundabouts and understeer like buggery.
    C) They aren’t very fast.
    However, most importantly is…
    D) You can thrash the hell out of the engine and gearbox – give it minimal maintenance and it will still run until doomsday.
    The van I had been passenger in had done nearly 100K miles on one oil change and no other maintenance, routinely hauling far more stuff than was supposed to go in it and often pulling trailers loaded with 1-2 tons of aggregate or concrete.
    Oh and not to mention the fact that my friend once punted a Saab through a brick wall by ramming it with this same Kangoo van and the van was still driveable.
    This poor little van was abused beyond what most cars/vans should expect and it is still passing MOT’s and driving around to this day.
    So Dull – Yes, Too tall – Yes, Absolutely unbreakable? Yup!

  • avatar
    kangooman

    I own a new Kangoo & if your looking for a box that drives like a hatchback forget it but if you want cheap, functional & comfortable you’ve found it. I’ve done a review of the new kangoo

    http://www.campervanforsale.co.uk/new_kangoo_review.htm


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India