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Renault’s new “super” sub-niche coupe crossover. Competent where you expect, surprises in places you don’t. A recommended buy.

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Mark Gallivan

Model: 2022 Arkana S-Edition TCe 140 Mild Hybrid EDC

Price: from €28,890 in Spain (€31,490 as tested)

Engine: 1.3 litre TCe Petrol Mild Hybrid

Performance: 0-100km in 9.8 seconds, 127mph top speed

Fuel consumption: 40mpg, 5.7 l/100km, 132g/km CO2

Verdict: Renault’s new “super” sub-niche coupe crossover. Competent where you expect, surprises in places you don’t. A recommended buy.

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Clever by half

It seems the whole world has gone “super” crazy. Ask anybody nowadays about something banal and they insert the word super as a prefix to explain the matter. For the life of me I’ve no idea why they do this. It doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Thus it becomes, a person is not just excited, but super excited. It’s all very modern and of the current trend. Not unlike a sub-niche car that is actually a hatchback but reworked it into something super desirable, so to speak. Which brings me, reasonably neatly, to Renault’s Arkana compact crossover SUV.

Fair warning: this review may be too late for some of you. If you’ve already bought the new Renault Arkana you could feasibly add your own subjective views on Renault’s new crossover. It’s a bit of a puzzler this Renault. It ends up being a conundrum as to which hole exactly to place this particular pigeon. It’s bigger than a B segment crossover coupe, nevertheless not quite residing in the the c-segment as a crossover coupe, coupe so to speak.

Squinting at that sloping roof that tapers downward to the rear hatch line with subtly arched rear humps over the rear wheel arches you’d have to agree it does add masculinity to the front three quarter view of the Arkana’s rump. You may point at the high bonnet line that rises high to meet the front, relatively narrow front windshield. So high does it sit in fact like a self-conscious Paris model partially hiding her face in a polo neck jumper. The raised suspension adds the visual impression that the car is teetering on high heels like the erstwhile model trying to stay upright on catwalk come opening night.

You might be very interested in all that. Me? Up to a point. For this test the Arkana’s packaging was secondary to the effectiveness of how well Renault’s non-plug in petrol/hybrid assisted powerplant translated from the Clio E-Tech that impressesed when tested. It served up undemanding battery replenishment of electric-only power to be used when taking local trips to the shops using the EDC dual-clutch automatic gearbox. How would it migrate to this bigger crossover model? Here as before we’re testing the Mild Hybrid system. If you vehemently detest the prospect of getting your hands dirty and grappling with cables in the rain at a charging bay, do stay with this review. It holds a surprise towards the end.

The Arkana is built not in France but far away from a place not high on the list for delicious cuisine or dazzling wines – Busan in South Korea. The car’s introduction of parts of the European market started in September 2020.

Underneath the Arkana’s swish BMW X4-for-less inspired looks the car is actually besed on the same shared platform as the Renault Captur who’s chassis was stretched to accommodate the new car’s 2020mm wheelbase. Overall the car is 4568mm in length with a ground clarance of 199mm. Gross weight is 1876kg/kerb weight 1336kg. Boot space is 485 litres/513 litres capacity. The seven speed auto drives the front wheels only on this test.

Step into the Arkana’s cabin and the Renault Captur theme runs deep though with some caveats. Putting the Captur side by side with the Arkana most of the cabin is covered in durable leather but caress certain areas and prod buttons and you’ll find where the Cost of Goods Sold equation was at the forefront of the project manager’s office before final production signoff. It all looks fine but some of the materials feel less premium than say the smaller Clio.

In general the appearance of the cabin’s controls are chunky and easy to master that get you driving from the showroom floor without scratching your head as to where primary controls are located. The tall central touchscreen is starting to look dated but works with precise engagement. Of less success is Renault’s audio controls buttons which protrude behind the steering wheel. They are fine once mastered but you’ll need practice to get familiar with their actions. Top marks go to Renault for leaving the climate controls as chunky rotating knobs.

Front and rear passenger accommodation is a strong Arkana feature and beats the Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Qashqai for available legroom. If the prospect of a slinky roofed coupe serves up the potential for headroom problems you need not worry. Tall adults will fit fine in the back. So far, so decent and expected. The Arkana is a stylish coupe crossover with decent interior space that rides high to give a sub-SUV experience. All in all you’ll find it a pleasing car to own and run.

But the actual star of the story turns out to be the mild hybrid engine itself. That is the other half of the story.

While the Arkana is not as zippy as a Clio in town I was left plain amazed at how well it replenished the battery’s internal motor without having to do anything. On this test I spent far more time in electric-only power mode than I thought possible. Brownie points are given to the smooth automatic gearbox when driving slowly in traffic. Press on a bit and the engine will become a degree unrefined. But we’d expect that from a small 1.3 litre petrol engine.

In the end the Arkana does itself plenty of favours and is a likeable crossover coupe that adds brilliant mild hybrid electrification to cut the number of times the petrol engine kicks in. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a crossover SUV that adds an element of sparkle. It should be a definite contender for the mild hybrid system on that basis alone. Prices start from €28,890.