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All-new compact coupé-SUV announces that the Renaulution will be hybridised

What is it?

By its own admission, Renault has recently been a bit of an also-ran in the UK. But the company aims to change all that under new boss Luca de Meo’s ‘Renaulution’ plan by launching a new range of electrified cars, starting with a stylish and handily priced hybrid coupé-SUV called the Arkana.

This all-new C-segment offering is one of 14 electrified Renault Group models due for launch by 2025, half of which will be EVs. In particular, de Meo plans to target the Volkswagen Golf segment – an understandable move, since it’s currently Europe’s biggest, grabbing some 40% of sales. Two more electrified C-segment cars are in the pipeline, one of them a fully electric Mégane crossover.

The Arkana is already going down a storm in France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain, where it has just been launched. Back orders are said to have passed 10,000 and are mounting fast. It has also been “a huge success” in South Korea, where it is made (by Samsung), so Renault’s claim that the Arkana is a true global car holds plenty of water. Much of this success, the marketing people say, is down to its dual personality: buyers “have no need to choose between sporty and practical”.

The Arkana sits on an extended-wheelbase version of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s remarkably versatile CMF-B platform, which is also used for the Renault Clio and Mégane, among many other applications. It’s a newer platform than that used for the Renault Kadjar SUV and evidently more versatile: stronger, lighter, capable of autonomous driving, equipped with the latest safety gadgetry and ready for all forms of electrification.

Renault’s engineers are especially proud of the fact that the Arkana’s rakish lines don’t compromise rear head or leg room or boot space, all of which are at or close to class best for the C-segment. The key to this seems to be height and a relatively long wheelbase of 2720mm for its overall length of 4568mm. The car has prominent, muscular rear haunches that allow it a relatively high roof and thus a radically raked rear glass without compromising rear room.

Three trim levels (Iconic, S Edition and RS Line) are offered. All are well equipped, but the S Edition and RS Line (which get niceties like adaptive cruise control and three driving modes) have similarly impressive equipment levels, separated mostly by the RS Line’s suite of 18 “exotic elements” including distinctive alloy wheels, chrome exhausts, sporting seat designs, a Formula 1-inspired honeycomb grille, different bumpers and carbonfibre effects in the cabin. All models have an extensive collection of airbags and dynamic safety aids and qualify for the latest five-star NCAP safety rating.

Two hybrid powertrains are offered for each model. The cheaper option (by £1000) features a 138bhp turbocharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an integrated starter-generator that collects energy during braking and then deploys it through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox when the car accelerates.

Our test car had the pricier 143bhp 1.6-litre four-pot turbo petrol option, which has both an integrated starter-generator and another electric motor incorporated into its eight-speed torque-converter gearbox, offering more comprehensive electric operation and assistance.

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What's it like?

The difference between the two is especially evident in their combined torque outputs (192lb ft for the TCe 140 against 293lb ft for the E-Tech 145), their CO2 emissions (131g/ km against 111g/km) and their fuel economy (48.7mpg against 57.6mpg).

Most buyers will think the extra £1000 well spent, especially business drivers, who will note the reduction in the benefit-in-kind tax rate from 29% to 25% – although a few might rue the loss of a second in 0-62mph acceleration (10.8sec against 9.8sec), caused by the extra 100kg in the hybrid’s kerb weight.

On the road, the Arkana E-Tech feels more electric than sporty most of the time, with a creamy take-off from rest and an ability to glide around town with what feels like minimal input from the petrol aspect of its powertrain.

When you press on a bit, the engine becomes more prominent and its four-cylinder sound rather brings you down to earth, although at close to full noise it sounds better and pulls well. The integration of the two electric motors with the engine and gearbox is exemplary: it’s difficult to ever pick which phase the powertrain is in.

For a tall car, the Arkana does well on the road. Its best feature is accurate and nicely weighted steering, whose fairly quick gearing makes it easy to place the car through corners. It feels neutral and impressively grippy, even in the wet conditions we encountered, although ‘sporty’ is pushing it a bit far.

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Should I buy one?

For us and for buyers, the Arkana’s strongest suit is its versatility. It’s roomy, well priced and drives nicely on both short and long hauls.

Its' looks are also more interesting than those of the average square-backed family SUV. It’s easy to see it doing as well in the UK as anywhere else.

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
Zapetero 19 June 2021

They have un RenauLt factoire en Nigeria. Looking forward d'avan, Le RenauLt AlPines en Le Mans. PoLe Position en PortuGaL./

Tom Chet 17 June 2021

I agree with Superstevie that this is the best looking of the coupefied SUVs - neater and better balanced than anything from BMW or Merc for example.  I also think it looks better and, from this review, sounds more appealing than the new Citroen C4.

Good job, Renault

Rick Maverick 16 June 2021

From my vista point: I. Cars like the Arkana have a limited lifespan. II. The Arkana exterior isn't fresh - it was introduced 2,5 years ago in Russia (based on a different platform) III. 1,5 Years ago, the Arkana had a very good start in South Korea (the nation where it's built) with 3.000  to 4.000 units p/m - within half a year, volume dropped significantly. IV. As has been the case with similar looking cars, its will find its fans quickly, but the pool of buyers is limited.