Renault Arkana long-term review

Renault is attempting to make the coupe-SUV more accessible. This is a worthwhile endeavor.

Why it was run: To find out if this stylish new coupe-SUV is built with substance

Renault Arkana: A Renault Arkana is a Renault Arkana.

The New French Crossover is beautiful to look at. But what about living with it? We reveal all

Renault compares the Arkana brochure to the R16 from the 1960s. Philippe Charbonneaux designed this family car, which combined the practicality and style of a hatchback (a groundbreaking concept at the time) with a premium look and feel that was not something that buyers had come to expect from Renault.

The Arkana is a crossover, which means it can be used as a coupe or SUV instead of a saloon or estate car. However, even the most passionate Renault fan would find it difficult to claim that it is a breakthrough. It is a big car, which contrasts with the R16’s flexible and spacious interior. This is due to the Arkana being a stretched Captur and not a larger Kadjar SUV. This is especially evident up front where you are rubbing shoulders and your passengers.

The rear seats are not as generous as the front ones. As a school-run taxi driver, I often drive the children around in the Renault. They complain about the Renault’s bumpy ride and the recessed buckles that make it difficult to click-click. Anna, 12, is admittedly tall and finds herself on her roofline when she is lugged with the middle seat.

The jarring ride is only able to settle once you get up to speed. In town, it can be restless and uncomfortable, and worse, it can become more comfortable over speed bumps and larger potholes. But on the motorway, it feels more composed and settled. The Arkana’s ability to drive in a country lane is quite impressive for a car this tall. The Arkana is grippy and confident with very little body roll, living up to its’sporty SUV” sales pitch. However, the seats lack lateral support, and the inert steering makes it hardly appealing to drivers.

The drivetrain is what really makes the difference. The hybrid setup tends to favor the 48bhp electric engine. It feels responsive off the line, smooth, and refined when fully charged. However, the battery’s 1.2kWh capacity is quickly exhausted when it goes into EV mode. At that point, the normally aspirated 93bhp petrol engine kicks in and makes a loud scream regardless of your speed. You can be going at 15 to 20 mph in EV mode, with the engine revving like it’s forgotten to turn off first. The six-speed automatic transmission is fully manual and can only be operated by waiting for it to finish its job.

It’s a similar story on the motorway: the petrol engine has a very low maximum speed of 109 mph, which is 20 mph less than the TCe 140 mild-hybrid. You find yourself settling at 65 mph to improve refinement. This car encourages you adjust your driving style to maximize battery life. Drop to B mode on the transmission when going downhills for more regenerative brake and use feather-light throttle inputs in order to not engage the engine. The stylish instrument binnacle provides clear messaging that will help you see where the power is coming and going. However, despite my best efforts, the fuel consumption was not alarming. Our testing revealed that the onboard computer was reading at 2-4 mpg.

You will find many of the Renault’s faults easy to overlook once you take a closer look. It is clearly a Captur-based vehicle, with a front end that is quite similar to the Captur. However, it has a unique style and ranks among the best attempts at the somewhat odd combination of SUV and coupe.

The interior is stylish and well-equipped. The central touchscreen is 9.3in and the ambient lighting can be personalized (though the children were annoyed that it didn’t reach the back). Additionally, the automated systems are extensive and efficient. Automatic lights, wipers and blindspot warnings, climate control, cruise control, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic alert are all available. This is similar to the front collision sensor. It’s so equipped that there are only nine options. The only thing I regretted not ticking was the PS250 Winter Pack, which adds heated seats to the vehicle and a steering wheel.

The PS250 spacesaver spare was my choice. This, along with the hybrid battery gubbins, robbed my car of the TCe140’s 28 litres of additional underfloor boot storage. If you have a small family or are unable to pack light, boot space may be a problem. It feels smaller than it is advertised at 480 litres. Even with the seats folded, the maximum capacity of the car was 1263 litres.

Although the R16 would have been thrown in the scrapyard due to its lack of practicality, the Arkana is following its predecessor in pushing Renault into a premium segment that gives the brand new appeal: the Arkana turns heads and draws admiring glances in ways that few other Renaults have managed in recent years. It’s only job is to get you into the dealership. In that regard, it’s well-suited for its purpose.

Second Opinion

The Arkana looks great from the outside, the interior is decent and the engine has very little power. The lack of refinement, the poor ride quality and rearward vision were all shocking to me.

Jim Holder

Love It:

Clever cruise The automated systems impress with their responsive and precise adaptive cruise control.

I can now see clearly The Google-supported navigation is intuitive and the central screen in iPad-style is well-positioned.

Love it:

Uncomplicated omission Fitting a rear wiper was an odd decision that made it worse than the already poor rear view.

Reverse Tardis Although it’s large on the outside, the Arkana feels compact and narrow from the inside, especially up front.

Noisey progress The way that the powertrain switches between petrol and electric power is intrusive.

Final mileage 4533

Cold in the wrong places

My Arkana’s S-Edition trim specification is confusing. There are some obvious omissions, while there are impressive features like the adaptive cruise control. Back to top

Mileage: 3535

A festive run to Wales gives our Renault a leg stretch

The Arkana spent its recent months commuting or dealing with local runs in semi-lockdown conditions. It was happy to have the opportunity to travel across the country to Wales as a holiday shuttle, and enjoyed the opportunity to relax over Christmas.

The journey began with a escape from London’s Christmas Eve Eve traffic, and then a rush up to the A1 to make it to a dinner date with some friends. From there, it was on to the West Midlands to collect grandparents and their luggage. A chauffeur would challenge them to drive as smooth as possible to the middle and southern parts of Wales and then the return trip on the M40.

Renault’s ETech petrol-electric drivetrain promises to be efficient and that the cabin has enough space for family members and Christmas luggage. Unfortunately, the quiet and peaceful progress was not achieved. Although the supportive seats are great for drivers, the passengers, who have a greater life experience, complained that they preferred softer chairs. This impression was not helped by the stiff springs which kept the Arkana’s body in a state of constant fidgeting.

The most annoying thing about the electric motor was its constant interruption by a loud howl from the 1.6-litre petrol engine on the uphill sections. The engine was not very efficient on most routes. It doesn’t have a lot of power, with only 142 bhp and just 148 lb ft. However, it isn’t terribly smooth or economical. You can almost slink it along in all electric mode for a short time with a feather-light right leg, but you really need to try.

Although the windscreen wipers were quiet and effective, they proved to be unprepared for the unpredictable rains of Wales. It seems strange that a hatchback-style car like this doesn’t have a rear wiper. The rearward visibility is not great and the grime quickly covers the rear screen in the rain, so you must rely on the mirrors at the doors (or the rear camera for reversing).

It always felt secure and safe on damp Tarmac. This is important whenever you combine the words “grandmother” and “mountain roads”.

Family members of all ages agreed that the Arkana is beautiful upon arrival. Even the most difficult-to-please children loved it. However, they were disappointed to hear that it was a Renault. This at least shows it is putting more effort into badges.

The interior is also a highlight, with its bright colours (but they don’t reach to the back) as well as that large, modern-looking touchscreen in portrait style.

The headlights work well in the dark. They are bright and powerful. There is an automatic main/dipped beam switch that works well. Night mode reduces interior glare. It’s an easy car to live in, despite the earlier complaints. There are simple climate controls, a rear camera, and intuitive parking sensors.

Renault was a great companion for a stressful holiday.

Love It:

Infotainment screen It’s neat and thoughtful that it can group media, phone and map together and also turn to dark for night driving.

Love it:

Drivetrain An over-sharp brake pedal and long-winded gearchanges have disrupted what should be a well-oiled car.

Mileage: 3294

Renault Arkana: A Renault Arkana is a Renault Arkana.

Keep your head down, boys

You have to make some compromises when it comes to practicality with a car like the Arkana. Although the Arkana’s 480-litre trunk sounds good on paper, it is not practical. The optional space-saving spare wheel means that the floor cannot be dropped and the roofline reduces height. Even my small dogs had to duck when I closed the lid. The bulky, solid cover was difficult to store.

Mileage: 2948

Renault Arkana: A Renault Arkana is a Renault Arkana.

Good homage

The Arkana’s Pasadena alloys look great, and they feel familiar. They look almost identical to the Momo Vega rims that Alfa Romeo Spider owners used in the 1970s. They are wrapped in 215/55 R18 Kumhos, which is even more surprising considering their Italian heritage.

Mileage: 1408

Arkana is welcomed to the fleet

It is not always easy to establish a niche in the car market. The mid-1990s saw the Suzuki X-90. This is the perfect example. Who would have thought the world would be so desperate for a four-wheel-drive, two-seater, targa-topped 4×4. It wasn’t, but it was a good thing that this new avenue for the auto industry proved to be a success. The idea of a sportier body and the elevated underpinnings for an off-road vehicle is not going away.

The coupe-SUV concept was first introduced in 2007 with the BMW X6. Many people, including me, were puzzled at the thought of purchasing a car that had much of its practicality removed. There’s more to buying a car than just how many things you can fit into the trunk. Coupe-SUVs became a statement of style and wealth, often at the top of their manufacturers’ price lists.

However, the new Renault Arkana does things differently. It looks amazing, and is easily the most beautiful coupe-SUV (at least to my eyes). It’s also very affordable at PS25,300 for the E-Tech 140, or PS1000 more for E-Tech 145. This is not a cheap vehicle, but it is still a premium option. Renault boasts that it is the brand’s first all hybrid range. However, this positive message should be temperated slightly by pointing out the fact that the entry-level TCe 140, which is a mild hybrid at 48V, can’t run entirely on electric power.

The range-topping E-Tech145 produces only 3bhp less than the model, but it can boast a hybrid drivetrain with its 48bhp electric engine (plus a smaller, more efficient one for starting or regeneration) and a 1.2kWh battery. This means that there will be some EV driving around town when the powertrain is at its best. You might even wish it was a plug-in hybrid to increase the electric-only range. We will be closely watching the space below the boot floor to see if Renault has a similar idea.

Renault’s 93bhp naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre fourcylinder petrol engine is running in tandem with the electric engine. These two units are connected to a clever 4-speed transmission. It can isolate the engine from the front wheels and allow it to charge the battery by internal combustion.

Although this is great in theory, it can lead to some odd looks as you trundle down the high streets on battery power. The engine suddenly starts revving at high speeds and you get the impression that the clutch slip has caused you to be either stuck in the first row or suffer from an all-out clutch slip.

This quirk can be circumvented and the system works very well. Clear messaging on your dashboard allows you to monitor the battery level and give it an extra boost when needed. You can also drop the gear selector to regenerative B mode on hills to help your progress on the flat.

The Arkana is not based on the Kadjar SUV, but the Captur. This is obvious even to an untrained eye. The front-end styling is very similar. This results in a large car that feels small, thanks to its narrow dimensions and perched driving position.

The wheelbase is very long and makes a big difference in cabin space. There’s plenty of leg room at the rear, and decent headroom thanks to the steeply dropping rear roofline.

The space is great and keeps the kids happy. There are powerpoints back there, as well as separate air con controls. However, it feels a little cheap that the cool interior lighting, which can be adjusted at the touch of an button, doesn’t reach to the rear doors.

The boot appears to be sensible in shape and decently large, though not overly generous. Combining the optional spare wheel that raises the floor with the sloping rear roofline, the boot offers a lot more space than a traditional estate car or SUV.

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Second Opinion

The Arkana’s design is very appealing, but I was a little disappointed when it arrived. Although there are nice touches like the doors and dashboard panels, the boot’s bottom is very disappointing.