Motors with Tony Conlon: Refinement from Renault

A COMMUNAL confession box at some of the global motor shows where the heads of the automotive industry could gather to confess untruths might be an idea worth considering.

Like, for example, claiming a car will deliver a certain economy when, in fact, it won’t unless you let the vehicle freewheel for miles on end. Or suggesting an electric vehicle (EV) will cover a certain distance on its battery when, in fact, a low outside temperature can diminish that claimed figure to a much lower number.

A week spent with the latest Renault Arkana gives me the confidence to say that this French manufacturer need not join the queue for the confessional, because the Arkana simply does what it promises in its brochures. And the biggest plus is that this 1.6 litre petrol hybrid model delivers diesel-like economy.

Renault did not have to do a lot of work on this latest version in order to keep it fresh, and that can say a lot about a car. New logos front and rear, chrome widow surrounds and those on the grille replaced by black surrounds and a new aerodynamic blade on the front bumper of the top two trim levels basically sums up the external changes.

The manufacturer has now also introduced a new premium trim level called Esprit Alpine that joins the Evolution and Techno trims - and it was this top trim level that I recently drove.

Sitting on 19-inch alloy wheels, this more rounded than sharp-looking SUV coupé demonstrates good build quality and additional equipment levels, not that it could ever be criticised for being anything other than generous.

While both the Evolution and Techno trims are comprehensively equipped and feature a raft of safety features, the Esprit Alpine reveals that Renault is pushing the boat out. There is also real value here, considering how expensive most new models have become in recent times.

I really admired the stitching on the inside of the doors and steering wheel and the slate-like cladding on the dashboard which delivers an elegant, well-crafted effect, but it was the general finish and build quality inside the cabin that won me over.

Sitting on comfortable seating covered with artificial leather/suede upholstery, I was surrounded by easy-to-use tech gadgetry. My test Arkana boasted larger screens than the 7-inch versions in the lower trim versions, and this 9.3” centrally mounted touchscreen offered navigation and smartphone replication with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a host of easy-to-use settings, including Multi Sense which offers three driving modes.

Some eight ambient lighting colours are available and the driver information display on this model measures a substantial 10”.

Apart from having 19” alloys in comparison to the standard 17” wheels, my test model came with a wireless phone charger that worked a treat, double exhaust tailpipes, heated power adjustable front seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, stop and go and lane centering assist.

The Arkana is certainly comfortable and spacious inside and offers a boot capacity that can vary from 480 litres to 1,263 with the rear seats folded. One criticism I have of this car, however, is the view via the rear-view mirror when it was raining.

Aerodynamic airflow may help matters when you’re on the move, but this car still needs a rear wiper, in my view, especially when trying to pull out from a parked position.

I can do nothing but praise Renault’s E-Tech full hybrid powertrain. Capable of producing 145hp, two electric motors, a main motor and a high voltage starter generator interlink with a 1.6 litre, 94hp petrol engine.

Driving in Eco mode, this beautiful marriage of mechanical and electric power systems helped to return varied fuel consumption figures: from 5.0 l/100km to 5.3 l/100km (56mpg to 52mpg), impressive economy figures that place this hybrid car in a whole new light.

Powerful if called upon, this 4.56m long Renault starts off in electric mode and, according to its manufacturer, can run on pure electric power for up to 80 per cent of the time in cities.

The car’s innovative e-save feature can keep battery charge at a minimum of 40 per cent. This I can also vouch for as at no time did I see the battery charge gauge fall anywhere close to zero.

The Arkana hybrid was both predictable and always easy to drive. Prices for this refined automatic Renault start at €32,590, rising to €41,515 for the top-end Esprit Alpine model.