Error parsing XSLT file: \xslt\FacebookOpenGraph.xslt First drive: Renault Arkana
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First drive: Renault Arkana

Date: 19 August 2021   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The all-new Arkana arrives with Renault's latest hybrid powertrain. Is this the savvy solution for those seeking stylish, affordable business wheels?
Standard equipment:
Air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlamps, cruise control, four electric windows, 9.3in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android, remote central-locking, autonomous emergency braking.
Engines:
Petrol-electric hybrid: 145hp 1.6
Equipment grades:
Iconic, S Edition, R.S. Line
Transmissions:
Clutchless automatic

What price style? Not a lot if Renault is to be believed. The company is clearly placing a great deal of faith in the Arkana's showroom appeal, and with a starting price of around £26,000 for a hybrid version, is hoping the keen pricing and flashy looks will be sufficient to woo prospective customers away from swankier coupe-inspired SUVs such as the BMW X2 and Audi Q3 Sportback. 

Size wise, the Arkana slots between the hugely successful Captur and its bigger, relatively low-volume selling Kadjar. Although it is built on the same platform as the Captur, the wheelbase is longer, meaning there is a bigger boot and, significantly, more legroom for those travelling in the rear. What's more, despite those curvy lines, it is quite a slab-sided vehicle, so elbow room for back-seat drivers is almost as generous as for those sitting upfront and despite that plunging roof-line, rear headroom is pretty decent too. The only downside is the small, tinted, rear windows and dinky rear screen, which make the atmosphere gloomy back there.

Along with the swish exterior styling, the cabin appointment is fairly funky too, complete with digital instrumentation and a stylish centre console, which features a large touchscreen and a neatly arranged array of piano key switches. 

Being a Renault, it comes as no surprise that there is lots of safety kit, including active emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist, and cruise control with speed limiter. Luxury kit is also fitted to all trim versions, but it is the hybrid badging that will probably do most to pique the interest of fleet managers.

The Arkana E-Tech is not in the same league as many plug-in hybrids, but it does have a reasonably impressive WLTP combined average fuel figure of 58.9mpg and CO2 output of 108g/km, although this still places it in a hefty 25% BIK group.

The Arkana always starts in electric mode, and when driving away from the mark it doesn't produce much in the way of motor noise, but the whine does increase significantly when you lift off the accelerator pedal and the motors send power back to the battery. Also noticeable is some defined audible clunks, as the two power sources merge in and out.

The gearbox uses electronics and solenoids to synchronise gear changes to deliver a driving experience akin to an automatic. It's an ingenious weight-saving solution, but not without its quirks. 

For a start, it's not the quickest shifting device, and when changes are made, they are often accompanied by a small mechanical shudder. There's also a bit of a reluctance to downshift for acceleration, although some of this is probably due to the 1.6-litre engine's lack of low-end torque. Worst of all, there's a discernable pause before the system allows top gear to be engaged - especially noticeable when tackling inclines. In practice, the pause is so prolonged, by the time the electronics have decided top gear is needed, the petrol engine has lost much of its momentum, and the gearbox starts to have second thoughts about the wisdom of this higher ratio transaction.

Compared with the transmission, the 1.6-litre petrol engine is relatively old school. To its credit, however, it is more inclined to smoothness and a hushed existence to minimise any unseemly noise and vibration when the transitions are made between electric and petrol modes, and in this respect, it is pretty accomplished.

Like most Renaults, the Arkana displays a decent balance between comfort and control. The ride is reasonably cossetting, although some heftier depressions do tend to send significant amounts of shudder through the cabin. 

That said, wind, road and suspension noise are generally well suppressed, while both the steering and the brakes have a neatly weighted feel. 

The Arkana is a pleasant enough place to while away the miles, although given the E-Tech powertrain's foibles, the lower-powered and cheaper 140TCe version may turn out to be the sweeter driving model.

Renault Arkana E-Tech hybrid R.S. Line 145 auto 

P11D: £30,900

Residual value: TBC

Depreciation: TBC

Fuel: TBC

Service, maintenance and repair: TBC

Cost per mile: TBC

Fuel consumption: 58.9mpg

CO2 (BIK %): 108g/km (25%)  

BIK 20/40% a month: £129/£258

Luggage capacity: 480 litres

Engine size/combined power: 1,598cc + 2 e motors /142hp


Verdict


7/10
  • Attractive design
  • Feels light and precise
  • Decent interior space
  • Gearbox is prone to shuddering shifts
  • Pronounced motor whine on lift off
  • Some impact shakes

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