Europe’s most popular small multi-purpose van – the Renault Kangoo – is now available from Quasar Carriage Sdn Bhd. Originally to have made its debut in the middle of last year, the Kangoo’s appearance was delayed due to various factors but now that it is officially on sale, Quasar Carriage is aiming to sell at least 1,000 units this year. If the problem of getting enough APs does not hamper its objective, the company should have no problem because the Kangoo is priced at a very affordable RM58,295.20 (inclusive of insurance).
The styling of the Kangoo, of which nearly 380,000 have been sold since its launch in 1997, may seem unconventional to Malaysians but it is a popular bodystyle in France. It is van-like with a large and tall rear cabin area and large windows all round, with sliding doors on either side. And although it is less than 4 metres long, the Kangoo can accommodate five adults comfortably. With the back bench seat in position, the boot capacity is a huge 650 cubic decimetres – the largest volume in the entire Renault range! This volume can be increased four times with the back seat folded down.
Incidentally, like many French cars, the spare wheel is stowed under the floor and too remove it requires unscrewing a bolt in the floor and crawling underneath to extract it. Not quite the thing that most motorists, especially women, would like to do…
Access to the spacious rear seating area is through wide sliding doors on either side. When slid back, the doors reveal an opening measuring 619 mm that makes entry and exit very easy. Furthermore, with the seats set higher (like in the Scenic) than in sedans, entry does not require bending down – you just shift your body sideways and you are in.
PLENTY OF STORAGE SPACE
Like the Scenic, the Kangoo is intended as a ‘lifestyle machine’, one which will serve as transport for those who have active lives. As such, its interior is designed to be functional with lots of storage areas. Most innovative (though by no means unique to the Kangoo) is the shelf that runs the entire width of the cabin across the top part of the windscreen. It’s deep and sturdy and can take more than just maps and newspapers – you can stuff some bags inside although some thought should be given to the possibility of the things falling down accidentally.
While the shape of the Kangoo is unique, it actually sits on a platform derived from the Clio hatchback. However, while the basic elements of the Clio platform are evident, the Kangoo’s chassis has some engineering changes to make it more suitable for the vehicle. Its track is wider and so is the wheelbase which is a generous 2600 mm. All four wheels have independent suspension, the fronts using MacPherson struts while trailing arms locate the rear wheels along with transverse torsion bars. The rear telescopic shock absorbers are slanted at a sharp angle, minimising intrusion in to the cabin and also enhancing their damping capabilities.
STRONG AND SAFE
Renault, as one of the leading global automakers, spends a lot on R&D annually and significant efforts go into developing safety features for its vehicles. With the Kangoo, passive safety is a strong point and the body structure has extensive reinforcement. The floor embodies the unusual feature of being formed from three longitudinal sections, the welded joints between them forming two hollow members which act as extra longerons.
The subframe for the engine also has a part in increasing strength and reducing the intrusion of the wheels into the cabin during a frontal collision.
As with most cars sold today, there is good side protection with anti-intrusion beams in the bodywork and doors. Foam padding is also inserted inside the doors to give additional cushioning during impacts. The arched form and thickness of the B-pillars allow it to be deformed during an accident but without causing head injuries.
The Kangoo’s front occupants are well protected during a collision with an advanced seatbelt system that includes pretensioners and a Renault-developed progressive system of restraint. Dual airbags are also provided for frontal collisions while ergonomically-designed head restraints help avoid whiplash.
Protecting the occupants is paramount but the engineers also designed the Kangoo to withstand low-speed impacts without requiring costly repairs or replacement of parts. The extra-large front and rear bumpers are of flexible plastic and the lighting units are covered by unbreakable polycarbonate covers. Plastic mouldings also give protection to the lower sections of the sliding doors.
1.4 LITRE ENGINE, MANUAL GEARBOX
The Kangoo imported by Quasar Carriage is available only with a 1.4-litre petrol engine which is adapted from the 1390 cc engine used in the Megane. This 8-valve engine uses EFI for fuel delivery and produces 55 kW/75 ps of power at 5500 rpm. Torque is high at 114 Nm (peaking at 4250 rpm) and much of it is available below 3000 rpm, providing the 1065 kg Kangoo with good flexibility.
Renault claims that the Kangoo can do 13.3 kms/litre (about 38 mpg), get from 0 to 100 km/h in 14.3 seconds and zoom to a maximum speed of 155 km/h.
For the time being, only a 5-speed manual transmission is available although Quasar Carriage says that automatic transmission may be available by year’s end, along with the option of ABS. According to a source in the company, customer surveys showed that preferences were almost equal among customers interviewed.
Quasar Carriage has not publicised the Kangoo’s availability much although it was displayed at last year’s KL International Motorshow. Nevertheless, the company’s Managing Director, Lim Khoon Yee, said that there are some 50 customers already in the order books. Though confident that the Kangoo will be popular among Malaysians, he is concerned that the number of APs available may not allow the company to sell as many units as it wants to.
“Ideally, we should assemble the model locally but we need to be sure that the demand is between 4,000 and 5,000 units a year to make it a worthwhile investment,” said Mr Lim. In as far as assembly facilities are concerned, Quasar Carriage will be able to make use of the Inokom factory in Kulim which presently assembles the Permas, which is based on the Renault Trafic van. Mr. Lim said that if Kangoo assembly was possible, then it would also be likely that a panel van version could be offered for commercial purposes.
However, the plan to assemble is still only a thought for Renault. Olivier Delamarre, Renault’s Marketing Manager for Asia-Pacific, told AUTOWORLD.COM.MY that the fact that Malaysia is still not in AFTA as far as the auto sector is concerned made it pointless to assemble the Kangoo or any other Renault vehicle here.