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To the Thyolo and Mulanje tea fields with the Renault Koleos

Test driving new vehicles on the market by journalists for an objective media review is not an everyday thing in Malawi. And it is only last month when Nissan Motors took some media personnel to test drive one of their new vehicles – and that was probably one of the first of its kind to happen in Malawi.

So when I got an offer last week from Stansfield Motors join my colleague at Nation Publications Limited Chikondi Chiyembekeza to test drive one of their new models – the Renault Koleos, it was also a first for me and I knew that I had to do some basic research to understand how car reviews are done elsewhere and what a critique has to look for when test driving.

One thing I made clear to Stansfield Motors is that the review would not be anything close to a free advert and that they should be ready for an objective analysis of the vehicle based on my independent experience after the drive.

Came Wednesday, September 23, 2015, Stansfield Motors indeed brought the car to my workplace at Ginnery Corner as agreed and we set off on the journey through the tea fields of Thyolo and Mulanje which we had chosen for the test drives.

The Vehicle

The 2015 Renault Koleos is a 2.4ccc petrol engine medium sized Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) with a 65 litre fuel tank capacity. It has a ground clearance of 206 millimeters, an all mode 4 wheel drive auto-adaptive facility and sits on 225/60 R17 tyres with alloy wheels.

It has a maximum speed of 185 kilometres and an acceleration capacity of zero to 100 kilometres in 9.3 seconds.

Interesting features

New range and added features on the Koleos include automatic head lamps and front fog lights, electric foldable exterior mirrors, two panoramic sunroofs, board computer, cruise control with speed limiter, reverse parking sensors, hill start assist and hill down control, perimetric alarm, windshield wipers with rain sensors, electro chrome rear view mirror as well as an automatic and dual zone air conditioner.

The 2015 expression also adds the enhanced R-Link infotainment system with 7.0-inch touch screen and satellite navigation, along with auto headlights and wipers, heated door mirrors, and roof rails.

What I liked

The actual drive through Limbe into Thyolo and Mulanje felt so comfortable and highly energetic and gave an impression of a highly accurate chassis. As we drove through the turns towards Thyolo Number One centre through the initial tea fields, the Koleos exhibited its brittle steering, quick turn-in, and cornering grip that remained resolute even on off load earth tea field roads.

After the on-road cruising comfort, it didn’t falter even off load near the mountain in Mulanje and we could hardly feel the bumps on the rough road except for the smokey dust that we left behind as well drove the through the tea fields.

The sound quality of the stereo and the comfy seats also deserve a mention.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, not much – except for the tyre burst we had on our way back while on the tarmac road. This happened on a smooth surface and we were all surprised as to what could have caused it as it didn’t look like it was a result of any sharp object we drove on. But that is something Stansfield Motors can easily address by just testing the strength of the tyres again.

The Context

The Renault Koleos is one of the vehicle models introduced recently by Stansfield Motors on the market as part of the re-introduction of the brand that used to be popular on the Malawi market prior to the new millennium.

The Renault is back on the market following the return of the French car’s franchise deal to Stansfield Motors Limited.

Stansfield re-launched the Renault brand in the country on June 11 this year in Blantyre to mark its official return on the Malawi market after more than a decade without a local dealership.

Stansfield Motors general manager, Michael Khomani, said the Renault franchise – which left Malawi in the 1990s, has returned to Stansfield as an extension of the company’s attainment of the Nissan dealership early this year.

“As you may be aware, Renault and Nissan are joined together as an alliance through a cross-shareholding agreement at global level. So our getting the Nissan dealership through Nissan Malawi has also enabled us to get the Renault dealership back,” said Khomani.

Khomani said the return of Renault at Stansfield will fill the gap of smaller cars which the company had.

“Renault will bring a wide range of cars – both small and big, to our stock of vehicles,” said Khomani.

He said Renault is also a well know brand which is durable and comfortable with a proven track record in Malawi and on the global market.

“It is a major European brand and one of the best selling cars in the world,” said Khomani.

Stansfield has since received the first consignment of the Renault vehicles in three models namely Fluence – a 1.6 litre saloon car, Duster – a 1.6 litre, 4×2 high suspension vehicle and Koleos – a 2.4 litre engine, 4×4 vehicle.

More models are expected in the country in future, including the Renault pickup which is expected to be introduced in the country in 2017, according to Khomani.

Other dealerships under Stansfield include Mercedes Benz, GWM and Yamaha.

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