The first Renault Kangoo (1997) is now old enough to be a bit of vintage street furniture.
You can tell this is series 1 Kangoo because of the fun and slightly incongruent indicator lamps. Renault once had a bit of a habit of putting in one design feature that caused you to look a second time, decide initially you didn’t much like it and then eventually make you come around to the idea it was probably okay after all. At that point Renault would of course have excised the troubling feature in a facelift. That is what happened to the Kangoo a few short years after launch. They did the same with the Mk II Laguna’s metallic moustache and the Modus (the entire car).
What ought to have happened with the Kangoo was that it should have remained unchanged for 15 years except for new paints and fabrics. Like the Berlingo and Transit Connect, these cars are not fashion items. The most kudos go not to the fickle follower of modes, but to the brand that can resist useless revisions for the longest time in the right product sector.
Some of the business is high turnover (the C-class or Megane) and some is low volume-high turnover (any sportscar that is not an MX-5) and and some is moderate turnover (like the Kangoo), less frequent re-workings balance with steady sales over a longer period.
The current Kangoo (the year is 2022, dear reader) dates from 2007 and seems to be attempting what the first one didn’t, which is a long product cycle. I hope it can make it 2027 when we can celebrate it with a big, week long festival of articles.
Out of this market a few of the Kangoo’s peers have departed. Opel’s entrant is a bit of badge engineering. Mercedes once had a lovely thing called the Vaneo which has been superceded by the delightful and compelling Citan (and is evidently a shameless rip off of the Kangoo). VW, bless them, are still churning out Caddies though, and Fiat still make Doblos.
I have to say that the current crop seem alarmingly less diverse in character and appearance than the flock of 1997. Some of it is in the inevitable platform-sharing and badge engineering. Most of the effect comes down to a wilfully indistinct application of styling mousse to the designs. I had to double check a few of the names I dug out here to be sure they were not just badge-swapped common bodies (step forward Benz).
This list offers a brief overview of the field and you can see how all the vans are aspiring to be more car-like. The charm of the Kangoo back in 1997 was its un-car-likeness. And the same goes for the Transit Connect of a little later. If you are used to driving a car, the switch to a light van is something of a relief, like getting out sports clothes and into your favourite elastic-waisted jogging trousers. You can lounge about in these cars and rattle down lumpy roads with a carefree smile. These vehicles laugh at dirt and dents and go willingly to the scrapyard at 300,000 miles with your conscience in the clear.