Saturday’s review: The stylish, sporty, new Renault Arkana plug-in hybrid fails the ‘great ride’ test.

Saturday’s review: The stylish, sporty, new Renault Arkana plug-in hybrid fails the ‘great ride’ test.

The new hybrid SUVs are easy on the eyes and on the gas, but lack the “wow” factor.

Some are better than others but that doesn’t matter much to drivers of these cars. Basically, they were not designed for this particular capability. Manufacturers tend to be more concerned with the appearance of the vehicle and its convenience for its occupants.

The latter often don’t care much about how a car “performs” as long as it looks like it’s part of it. Research has consistently found this to be the case: appearance comes first.

In addition, many SUVs/crossovers in this compact class tend to have a higher center of gravity, because they are long, so you don’t get as much of the sense of grip and hugging the road that you almost feel in miraculous exponents of the art like the Ford Kuga. .

Well, I have to say that this week’s review car, the Renault Arkana Hybrid, surprised me on that front. I’m not claiming it’s a Kuga beater but it was a pleasant surprise to get a new combination of decent handling and good fuel economy from this crossover/SUV. Not a bad combination right?

Besides the Kuga, the Arkana’s other rivals include the Toyota C-HR, Nissan Qashqai and Cupra Formentor whose sporty driving capabilities are also good enough.

This is not to condone faults of one kind or another in the Arcana but let’s stick to the positives for now.

As well as adding a nice touch to the drive, it looks good no matter where you’re viewing it from, but it looks particularly good from the side where the coupe’s crescent lines distinguish it and tempt you to take a look around the interior.

The roofline was shaped sharply to facilitate the shape but that did not in any way affect the comfort of the tall rear seat passengers who, incidentally, liked the design, design and cabin space from their point of view.

Now while the handling was engaging, the level of damping (up and down) left something to be desired when it came to dampening and keeping bumpy patches out of the road.

The 19-inch tires on my Alpine E-TECH version bumped a bit and took away from my ride.

On better roads, it felt like a different car, going directly and positively into and out of corners.

Again, there was a lot to like about the interior, which was comfortable, spacious and had high-quality materials.

The infotainment screens look good (10-inch central driver information display, 9.3-inch touchscreen with sat-nav) and I had no objections to how they worked and responded. I enjoyed a good driving position.

The 6-speed automatic transmission is unusual in a car like this as one of the two motors on board is designed to make up and down shifts easier.

Last week, I criticized the Clio for being a bit heavy in shifting; This week’s show was much better. The 1.6-liter engine can be a little noisy when I use pedal power but overall it works well. There are three driving modes to give you a variety of driving options with the best Sport mode doing its best to enhance liveliness.

Then there was the lack of a wiper on the sloping rear screen.

Renault might say that the laws of physics apply, and that rain flows naturally. This is fine in a light shower or on the go, but it was a different story when we had to wait for the air conditioning/defog to create visibility on a dark, humid evening before driving away.

Some things are immediately clear. To my ignorant way of thinking, it needs a mop even if it conflicts with the aesthetics.

Despite its sporty feel, the car also impressed me with its fuel consumption since two of my trips were quite long, and because the battery won’t be used as often as in city driving, fuel consumption will be more difficult.

I calculated a heartening average of five litres/100km in my time driving. I wasn’t trying to improve or reduce consumption, which means it can be easily achieved. Put that as one of the main advantages of this car.

Renault has set the table cleverly with this but is somewhat let down by the not-so-great ride and engine intrusion.

Aimed to appeal to smart car enthusiasts, its appearance means it stands out in a car park, gives it good presence and can fit comfortably in a variety of lanes. The only thing is that many competitors are.

Will I buy it? I don’t think it impressed me enough but SUV/crossovers don’t do that in many cases. What you see and get is better than average and on that basis families will join in. It’s also worth considering if you currently drive a petrol or diesel car and don’t want an electric car yet. As a hybrid car, it could be a stepping stone towards full electric power in the future.

Fact file

Renault Arkana Hybrid

1.6 liter petrol, 1.2 kWh battery

Prices range from €32,590 (Evolution TCe 140 Auto); Test car: esprit Alpine E-TECH Hybrid 145 Auto, priced at €40,690.

Standard specifications (Evolution): rear parking sensors, cruise control, rear view camera, over-speed prevention, 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Esprit Alpine E-Tech 145 adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a custom esprit Alpine F1 blade, TEP synthetic leather, suede upholstery, esprit Alpine exterior detailing, adaptive cruise control, a 10-inch driver information display, and a 9.3-inch touchscreen. inch with navigation system.

(Tags for translation)Eddie Cunningham

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