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How does this SUV-coupe acquit itself in mid-range spec?
Having sampled the range-topping R.S. Line Arkana at launch, we try the mid-range S Edition version.
Standard equipment on S Edition:
18in alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, full LED headlights with C-shape DRLs, extra-tinted rear windows and tailgate glass, automatic high/low beam, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather steering wheel, hands-free keycard with push button start/stop function, selectable drive modes and ambient lighting colours, automatic air conditioning, 9.3in touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, 7in colour TFT driver's information display, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and speed limiter, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition with overspeed prevention, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert.
The Arkana sits in an interesting position in Renault's model line-up. As an SUV-coupe, it's the second C-segment SUV in the manufacturer's range, after the Kadjar. Given its sportier styling, you might expect a price premium, but the Arkana is actually cheaper than the Kadjar, despite also being larger. This is because the Arkana isn't actually related to the Kadjar at all, but is instead based on the same platform as the smaller Clio supermini and Captur SUV.
As well as sharing the smaller models' platform, the Arkana is also available with their conventional hybrid powertrain and this was fitted to our test car (a mild hybrid alternative is also available). The advantage of a conventional hybrid is that it brings electrified fuel saving without needing to worry about plugging in and charging infrastructure, but the disadvantage is official emissions figures - and, therefore, company car tax rates - can't get close to those seen with plug-in hybrids.
You might think putting a smaller car's powertrain in a family SUV would mean sluggish acceleration, but it's not too bad - 145hp is perfectly standard fare for the segment after all, and the two electric motors you get with Renault's E-Tech set-up help to fill out the power band. There is a selectable pure EV mode button like we're used to with plug-in hybrids, but this feels a bit superfluous given the conventional hybrid Arkana's unsurprisingly limited pure EV range - in any case, the car is perfectly happy to switch the engine off by itself for regular bursts of electric running around town, and at higher speeds when off-throttle. The engine can be noisy at times though, with the automatic gearbox feeling the need to hold lower gear ratios for longer to make progress.
The Arkana's coupe styling doesn't signify a sporty drive. In typical SUV style, the car's weight shifting around has a major effect when cornering - though not alarmingly so - and the steering lacks feel, as does the brake pedal to a certain extent. Ride quality is unremarkable - not uncivilised, with the harsh edges taken off ruts in the road, but a fair way from being silky smooth.
A downside of that coupe roof is you get a relatively small rear windscreen to look out of, limiting visibility and, given our test took place on muddy December roads with a low sun, we'd have also liked a rear windscreen wiper.
The differences between the mid-range S Edition Arkana tested here and the range-topping R.S. Line we tried previously are mostly cosmetic, though this car does miss out on the like of hands-free parking, electric seat adjustment, and heated seats and steering wheel, but for a P11D saving of over £2,000 that hardly seems unfair. The S Edition still gets a responsive 9.3in infotainment touchscreen, and a 7in driver display with helpful integrated satnav instructions. There's also a reversing camera to help alleviate that rear visibility issue.
A decent amount of leather and soft-touch material is spread around the cabin, which is reasonably visually appealing, though cheaper plastics found lower-down are more supermini-esque. Two USB charge points in the back will doubtless be welcomed by families, while rear legroom is also pretty good and, despite the coupe roofline, headroom is also fine for adults. The 480-litre boot is a decent size, but 33 litres smaller than that found with the mild hybrid.
Although SUV-coupes have become fairly popular in recent years among premium manufacturers, the Arkana is ploughing a lonely furrow in this segment from a mainstream brand, which would make it an unusual enough proposition even without considering its value-focused platform and pricing. But it's a decent enough offering overall, and the S Edition might be the sweet spot in the range.