Renault's Kangoo might be more familiar to you as a budget MPV people carrier but this version owes its existence to a commercial vehicle that started off as a slow seller but rapidly became an established favourite, shifting 1.3 million units during its lifespan. The Kangoo van is offered in three distinct flavours - compact, standard and Maxi - but we'll concentrate here on the one that makes up the bulk of the sales, the mid-sized model. Simple, tough and affordable, the Kangoo van more than justifies its market position.
MODELS COVERED: (3 door van: [70, 85bhp, 105bhp 1.5dCi diesel])
The original Kangoo debuted way back in 1997 and established Renault's reputation in this sector and it took fully ten years until Renault felt the need to launch the second generation model, showing the all-new van at the 2008 European Road Transport Show in Amsterdam. This time round, the passenger version got the drop on the commercial vehicle, having been unveiled at Frankfurt a few months previously. Renault's key aims with this model were to improve its design, further its practicality and work on its environmental friendliness. Three engines were offered, all based on the same 1.5-litre dCi diesel block, and offered 70, 85 or 105bhp outputs. A purpose-built high cube van fit to rival models such as Vauxhall's Combo and Volkswagen's Caddy, the Kangoo has acquitted itself well since introduction. Its appeal was strengthened further in October 2008 with the confirmation of a 3 year/100,000 mile warranty (first two years unlimited mileage) across the entire range.
What You Get
From the outside, this Kangoo looks relatively similar to the first generation model but slip inside and it's clear that this is a far more modern proposition. Whichever bodystyle you choose the cab is pretty much identical. The windscreen is placed well forward of the driver and the impression is that you're at the helm of a much bigger vehicle than you really are. Because the Kangoo doesn't have a raised roof, it's overall height of just 1.82m means it's compact enough to use in city centre car parks. The basic dashboard design is lifted wholesale from the MK2 Scenic MPV with its two-tone finish, aviation-style handbrake designed to minimise strain on the wrist and dash-mounted gear lever. Certainly, by the standards of the compact van market, quality of fit and finish is impressive. The upright driving position also facilitates easy entries and exits. An enormous amount of headroom is present in the front of the Kangoo, enough so that all kinds of elaborate headgear could be accommodated should the occasion arise. Though there's no optional middle seat of the kind that some rivals offer, space for driver and passenger is more than adequate, with only the passenger legroom (slightly restricted by the sloping floor) giving any cause for concern.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Have a good look at the load bay area, especially around the rear and side locks to make sure that unsecured loads haven't damaged these expensive parts. Otherwise the back of the Kangoo looks after itself quite well. The fascia mouldings aren't anything flashy but wear well although it's possible to lose coins, keys and credit cards between ill-matched mouldings and down into the fascia innards. The mechanicals are proven technology and shouldn't cause any significant worry. Despite this, check for its service history but even if it's not completely pristine, the Kangoo can usually cope. Just get it in to the garage for a once-over after purchase.
(based on a 2009 Kangoo ML70+ - ex Vat) New front brake pads retail at £50, with rears coming in at about £45. A new radiator is around £175, a new air filter will set you back approximately £14 and spark plugs are £5 each.
On the Road
In terms of driving dynamics, this second generation Kangoo has taken a big step forward from its predecessor, thanks to Renault's decision to base its underpinnings on the old MK2 version of their Scenic MPV: old Kangoos ran on an ancient MK2 Clio supermini platform dating back to the early Nineties. The more car-like platform of today's model means that the ride, though hardly class-leading and still nervous on the worst roads, is now more compliant and forgiving over most surfaces, though delivery drivers in a rush might not find this model as taut round the corners as its predecessor. There's great forward visibility, courtesy of the extensive windscreen and truncated bonnet, while the well-weighted steering and positive gearchange also impress. Tipping the scales at under the Gross Vehicle Weights of 2,000kg means that driver is subject to car speed limits rather than the lower commercial vehicle limits that come into play over this figure: this doesn't apply if you upgrade to some of the Kangoo Maxi models, so check the small print with care. At the wheel of this Renault, you sit very upright, but quite comfortably thanks to the fact that both driver's seat and steering wheel are height-adjustable, plus there are remote controls for the stereo on the steering column. On country roads, the wide track means that there's actually a reasonable amount of grip, while in town, light electric power steering makes it easy to slot into tight spaces, although until you get used to the shape, judging the extremities of the car during parking manoeuvres can be slightly difficult as the bonnet slopes away from you. Performance is leisurely, with even the fastest diesel models taking around 13s to reach sixty from rest on the way to just over 100mph. Most customers choose the 70bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel, but if you need a bit more pulling power, the 85bhp dCi diesel unit is an intelligent choice. Like all Kangoos, it can haul a braked trailer grossing at 1,050kg but if you're going to be doing that very often, I'd suggest you choose the range-topping 105bhp version of this dCi unit putting out a useful 240Nm of torque. That means fewer gear changes for diesel drivers and a much more leisurely feel, especially when towing.
The Renault Kangoo van is an extremely tough little panel van that offers buyers a whole heap of choice. One owner I spoke to had put 212,000 miles on his in 18 months and had treated it to nothing more than a drop of oil and some new front pads. Small wonder he, along with an increasing number of UK owners, are pleased with their choice. When shopping for a used Kangoo van, you'll find the biggest selection amongst the 70bhp models and do ensure that this powerplant has enough about it to cope with your needs. I'd be tempted to play safe and go for one of the rarer 85bhp vans. Either way, you're getting one of the cleanest and most fuel efficient small panel vans around.