In-depth reviews

Renault Arkana E-TECH Hybrid review

Renault’s full-hybrid coupe-SUV may not have the performance to match its sporty styling, but it's well equipped and has fuel economy to rival the best diesels

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Styling
  • Fuel economy
  • Standard equipment

Cons

  • Engine noise
  • Not very quick
  • Transmission
Car typeFuel economyCO2 emissions0-62mph
Hybrid56mpg109g/km10.8s

Nowadays, whenever a carmaker produces a new SUV, it’s almost inevitable that in just a few years a coupe version will follow: just look at the BMW X4, Mercedes GLC Coupe and all of Audi’s Sportbacks, for example. That pattern even extends to electric cars, like the Volvo C40 and Volkswagen ID.5. However, these are all pretty expensive upmarket models, which is where Renault comes in with the new Arkana: the more stylish sister car to the French brand’s conventional Captur and Kadjar family SUVs costs from just £26,000 in full-hybrid from. 

The Arkana range kicks off with a petrol-engined variant packing a 12-volt mild-hybrid system, but it’s E-TECH full-hybrid version that we’ve put through its paces here – the one Renault expects will make up two-thirds of all Arkana sales.

Under that coupe-esque body is the same full-hybrid E-TECH powertrain also available in the Captur SUV and the Clio supermini. It comprises a 1.6-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, with power sent to the front wheels through a six-speed clutchless transmission. Like all full-hybrids, the Arkana E-TECH doesn’t need to be plugged in; instead, the energy to top up its small battery is gathered by the regenerative braking system.

The larger of the two electric motors is used for kicking off driving in zero-emissions mode, while the second provides additional boost when you’re on the go. This system certainly pays dividends: at the end of our test drive, which featured stretches of dual-carriageway driving, bursts of twisty country lanes and sitting in town traffic, the Arkana reported a fuel-economy figure of 42mpg. And that would increase with more driving in town, where there’s more opportunity to drive on battery power.

But while its fuel economy is fairly good, the Arkana's performance is sluggish, despite what its styling may suggest. The E-TECH engine produces just 143bhp and takes 10.8 seconds to accelerate the car from 0-62mph. While doing so is a relatively smooth experience, the transmission takes its sweet time changing gears, leaving you stuck with the roar of the petrol engine working overtime; there are no paddles on the steering wheel or other way to shift gears yourself.

The Arkana’s handling also isn’t as sharp as you might expect from a car styled to match the BMW X4. Instead, covering miles is a more comfortable affair than you might think, making this a great solution for those who want rakish looks without the firm and sporty suspension that often goes along with them. On the downside, the Arkana’s cabin can get quite noisy at higher speeds, and the engine's droning when you push it hard quickly dispels any sense of serenity.

Thankfully, if you go for the sportier Arkana over the boxier Captur, you don’t lose much in terms of practicality. There’s a 480-litre boot and rear headroom is good for a car with such a sweeping roofline, although kneeroom is lacking a bit in the back.

Staying inside, the Arkana’s cabin is plush and crammed with technology, with all but the entry-level Iconic trim featuring the same 9.3-inch infotainment touchscreen as the brand’s ZOE electric supermini. It’s not the slicket unit on the market, and some may find trying to hit icons on the tablet-like touchscreen a little difficult while on the move, but overall it won’t infuriate you. Entry-level cars, on the other hand, feature a seven-inch unit, but do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

The Arkana also comes as standard with LED headlights and a comprehensive list of safety kit, including traffic-sign recognition, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance and safety distance warning.

The Arkana is an appealing package that combines coupe styling with effortless hybrid fuel economy and a well finished, well equipped cabin – plus a comfortable ride for those who don’t want the firm suspension that often comes with a car looking like this.

However, the rakish Renault’s underwhelming performance, powertrain and refinement may be what turns potential buyers onto its rivals. For a more in-depth look at the Arkana, read on for the rest of our review.

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