18 January 2002

LITTLE KANGOO HOPS INTO 4WD

Want a cheap off-road load hauler that isnt a pick-up?

Then what about Renaults upcoming Kangoo-based 4×4?

Geoff Ashcroft had a drive in one

TAKE one Renault Kangoo van, add four-wheel-drive from the French firms Scenic 4×4 and what do you have? A 4WD compact van offering a lockable, load-lugging environment good enough to get work tools, chainsaws and spare parts deep off road.

Its a brave move by Renault but one that could pay off, as those who want to venture off-road for business currently have to choose from trusty pickups or the growing number of 4×4 vans based on relatively costly off-roaders.

The 4×4 Kangoo should be good value when it goes on sale in early 2002, with Renault expecting to pitch the 4×4 at about £1000 more than the £7950 standard van.

Borrowing all-wheel drive technology from elsewhere in its car range means the 4×4 Kangoo gains proven mechanicals. It uses an automatic torque coupling (ATC) to connect the front axle with the rear and was developed for the French firm by partner Nissan. It works tirelessly and efficiently, without intervention from the driver. And combined with an electronic traction control system that takes messages from the brakes, it also avoids the need for a complex low ratio transmission.

Renault says torque varies automatically front-to-rear according to operating conditions, which is said to optimise traction, fuel consumption and performance.

But all these extra components do mean the Kangoo 4×4 sacrifices some of its payload – at 600kg it is 25kg less than the standard van, though load space, at 2.9cu m remains unchanged.

Power comes from a new 1.9dCi common-rail turbo diesel engine rated at 80hp, with 180Nm of torque available from 2000rpm to help off-road ability. Renault claims that even with 4WD, the Kangoo van achieves 38.2mpg on the mixed cycle with the new dCi engine.

To help with off-road conditions, the 4×4 Kangoo does get 40mm more ground clearance than the regular van. It means wading through 400mm of water is possible, should we have a another winter like 2000/2001. Disc brakes all round with ABS and emergency brake assist, plus 15in wheels shod with mixed road/all surface 185×65 R15 tyres contribute to the 4×4 Kangoos performance.

Below and right: A western-European 4×4 hauler for less than £9000? Yes, says Renault.

Volvo, which has had 4WD estates on the UK markets for several years, launches its first fully-fledged off-roader in the US this month. However, it wont appear in the UK until this autumn. Called the XC90, it will come with a choice of 272hp six-cylinder petrol engines or 163hp diesels. No word on prices or detailed spec yet.

The new Range Rover, which goes on sale in February, will come with a choice of 4.4litre V8 petrol engine or three litre common rail diesel. As with previous models, 4WD is permanent, though a new torque-sensing centre diff automatically shifts power between front and rear axles according to traction. Other new features are the ability to shift from high to low ratio (and back again) on the move and a throttle that has separate calibrations for on and off-road use. Expect lots of leather n walnut inside and more electronic equipment than a branch of PC World.

Mazdas Tribute off-roader, which arrived in the UK this autumn comes in four spec levels that range from the 2WD £15,995 2.0Gxi (124hp) to the £21,495 4WD V6 auto (197hp). Sister-under-the-skin to Fords Maverick, it has on-demand 4WD that automatically transfers drive from front to rear when slip is detected. The 4WD system can also be locked in for slippery conditions.