Motoring: Renault fills new niche with Arkana

The new Renault Arkana is not only the French carmaker’s first coupé-styled SUV, but it’s also its first purpose-built hybrid writes Tony Conlon.

The new Renault Arkana is not only the French carmaker’s first coupé-styled SUV, but it’s also its first purpose-built hybrid.

This was my first real car launch in over 18 months - and I felt a bit like a young lad let out of the car to kick a football after a long journey. While it still wasn’t possible to hug all my motoring friends and greet my hosts with a big handshake, it was a lot better than recent launches.

Up to now it was by appointment only, a short drive by yourself after the car was sanitised, a cup of coffee when you arrived back, a touch of elbows and away into the sunset.

So having produced my digital Covid vaccination certificate and been offered an Arkana-branded mask, this time I could drive with a colleague, discuss the car in depth and enjoy a bit of lunch. How good it felt to be back to something approaching normality.

The distinctive-looking and nicely styled new Arkana is built at the Renault-Samsung Motors plant in South Korea - and also in Russia, but the latter is a different kettle of fish as it features a totally different platform, known as the BO+.

The South Korean version we get here in Ireland features the latest CMF-B modular platform which is based on Renault’s Nissan alliances. Longer than the Kadjar in spite of its sleek profile, the Arkana has the potential to win customers from the traditional hatchback and saloon segments thanks to its sporty looks, practicality and versatility.

Available with mild hybrid and E-Tech hybrid electrified powertrains, the Arkana is offered in Iconic, S edition and RS Line trim levels. All versions feature an extensive list of standard equipment, including an Easy Link touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, rear-view camera, diamond-cut alloy wheels and full LED lighting technology.

The Arkana features a coupé style that does not compromise on practicality and useability and this latest Renault provides a distinctive presence on the road. While S edition and RS Line models have 18” alloy wheels in comparison to the Iconic’s 17” wheels, my attention was mostly drawn to the vibrant-looking Valencia Orange RS.

The top line model also features unique front bumpers that have a full-width Formula One-inspired aerodynamic front-blade and honeycomb grille. There are many more design elements such as the dark gun-metal front and rear skid plates that sets the top version apart.

Both myself and my driving colleague were very impressed with the space and comfort inside the Arkana (513-480 litres of boot space). We thought at first that there would be a price to be paid for the coupé-style sloping roof, like rear passenger headroom suffering, but we were wrong. A six foot-plus passenger sat in the rear quite comfortably.

While the RS Line has the more luxurious suede-effect sports seats and additional specification, the base Iconic version differs by having a 7” touchscreen and a 4.2” TFT colour driver information display while the S Edition and RS Line come fitted with a 9” touchscreen and a 7” TFT display.

In fairness to the manufacturer, Renault is being generous as even the base version comes with a raft of creature comforts and safety equipment such as traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist and active emergency braking.

With the TCe automatic mild hybrid having a 1.3 litre 140bhp petrol engine under its bonnet, the E-Tech Hybrid automatic has a 1.6 litre 145bhp petrol unit, a much larger 1.2 kWh lithium-ion battery and two electric motors that can deliver 250Nm of torque. As an example of Renault’s beneficial experience in Formula One, E-Tech technology is protected by 150 patents.

The E-Tech emits as little as 111 g/km of CO2 and Renault claims a 4.9 l/100km (57mpg) fuel return for the purpose-build hybrid against 5.8 l/100km (47mpg) for the TCe version.

Another example of advanced technology benefits the E-Tech’s easy drive feeling is the car’s automatic transmission system that features what’s called an intelligent ‘dog clutch’ that allows the Arkana drive in all-electric mode more of the time.

Because the car starts up on electric power, a significant fuel saving is made, while reversing is now managed by electricity alone.

Prices: TCe from €28,990-€33,690; E-Tech from €30,490-€35,190.