Renault Arkana overview
It doesn't seem that long since the Renault Arkana first appeared, but the French company has seen fit to give its mid-sized crossover an update. The car was first revealed in October 2020, but less than three years later Renault announced the revised look, introduced so that it matches the appearance of the larger Austral SUV, as well as the updated Renault Clio.
As before, the Arkana is referred to as a coupe-SUV, and since the Megane hatch has gone all-electric with the latest E-Tech model, the Arkana could be considered a spiritual successor to the previous version of that car. It helps that the Arkana is more like a hatchback than an SUV anyway, with the raised ride height being the only real concession to the world of 4x4s.
The updates to the line-up consist of an altered look and revised model range. The facelift introduces a new grille with a diamond pattern, flanking a revised Renault badge on the nose, while below the bumper is another wide grille featuring a Formula One-style 'blade' slicing across it on high-spec models. There are smoked lights at the back, too, but overall, the Arkana has the same five-door hatchback body as before.
For the trim line-up, Evolution and Techno specs are carried over, but at the top of the range - and in keeping with the Renault Austral and updated Clio - now sits Esprit Alpine, which is part of the French company's effort to try and make the most of its sporting division.
THe top-spec Esprit Alpine trim really does turn a lot of heads. The updates have smoothed out the nose, and the diamond pattern grille is distinctive, while the flat Renault badge looks classy. This version is helped by its 19-inch wheels, which really boost the car's stance. The spokes are stylised to look like Alpine 'A's, and lettering on a single arm leaves you in no doubt that this is the top-spec model.
That coupe-SUV body positions the Arkana in an odd place within the new-car market, and it could be seen as an alternative to plenty of family hatchbacks as much as a rival to other compact SUVs. Perhaps the most similar rival is the Peugeot 408, which has a swoopy hatch body and a raised ride height, while the Citroen C4 and C4 X - also based on the same platform as the 408 - follow a similar template. Another car with coupe-SUV aspirations is the Toyota C-HR, while other models of a comparable size include the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona. Price-wise the Arkana could be a larger alternative to a top-spec Volkswagen Taigo, or a similarly-sized rival to a mid-spec VW T-Roc.
If you're keen on a Renault, then the Arkana has rivals within the company's line-up. The Captur costs a little less, but is arguably more practical, while the Megane E-Tech Electric is worth considering if you can make an EV work for you.
The Renault Arkana model range
Irish prices for the Renault Arkana have risen by around €600 with the arrival of the updated model and start from €32,590 for Evolution trim. While it's the entry-level car, it still comes pretty well equipped, with kit such as 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, automatic emergency braking, road sign recognition, lane departure and steering assist, auto lights and wipers, keyless entry and starting, heated electric door mirrors, an electric parking brake, a seven-inch digital driver's display and a seven-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth and wireless smartphone integration.
It's €2,400 extra for Techno trim, and this adds 18-inch two-tone wheels, fabric and synthetic leather trim, front parking sensors, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, three selectable driving modes, eight-colour ambient lighting, auto-hold, wireless phone charging, a 10-inch driver's display, a 9.3-inch central portrait touchscreen with voice control, plus the F1-style 'blade' below the bumper.
At the top of the range, the Esprit Alpine costs €2,800 extra, and adds 19-inch diamond-cut alloys, adaptive cruise control, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, synthetic leather and suede upholstery and unique Esprit Alpine styling touches inside and out.
Power comes from three engine options. The TCe 140 unit is available in Evolution and Techno specifications and is a mild-hybrid 1.3-litre petrol engine with stop-start and a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. It has emissions ranging from 130-133g/km, depending on trim level. The Esprit Alpine comes with a TCe 160 petrol engine, which is the same unit with an extra 20hp and emissions of 135g/km. This is the quickest Arkana, with a 0-100km/h time of 9.1 seconds, seven-tenths of a second faster than the TCe 140.
For €2,900 extra, Renault offers the 1.6 hybrid E-Tech 145 powertrain on all three trim levels. This is also an automatic car, but the petrol-electric powertrain features a 1.2kWh lithium-ion battery that helps take some load off of the engine. Emissions range between 105-110g/km, while the official fuel consumption figure is 4.7 litres/100km. The extra weight of the hybrid system means a 0-100km/h time of 10.8 seconds, a second slower than the TCe 140 model.
The Renault Arkana interior
While the Arkana's ride height gives it a suitably tall driving position, that five-door body is more like a hatchback's in shape. This means the door openings are surprisingly small, with the car's low roof compromising entry and exit for very tall people. Everything's fine when you get behind the wheel, though, with a good view of the road ahead, while the cabin feels upmarket and is finished to a high standard.
This top-spec Esprit Alpine features seats trimmed in synthetic leather and Alcantara for a sporty feel, while the red, white and blue tri-colour stitching across the cabin is a reminder of the car's French heritage. Another neat touch is the marble-look trim on the dashboard - it feels rough, but not in a scratchy, low-quality way - it's actually tactile.
The 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen located on the central dashboard isn't the biggest around, but it works well, with quick responses to your inputs and plenty of apps for you to use. Even better is that the separate climate controls beneath the main display have been carried over with the update. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity helps keep the dashboard free from cables, while a wireless charging pad can keep your device topped up while in use, too.
The driver's display has been enlarged for the update, and is now bigger than the main screen, measuring 10 inches across. The dials look good, although the digital screen isn't as configurable as some systems found.
Cabin space remains unchanged between the outgoing Arkana and this latest version, so while you might think the curvy roof line will rob the cabin of headroom, it's actually pretty reasonable, even in the back. Only the tallest back-seat passengers are likely to feel hemmed in, but sitting in the centre seat is only recommended for short trips - the seat is quite narrow and tall, and while the car has a transmission tunnel, it doesn't take up too much foot space. Back-seat passengers also have air vents and USB charging sockets to play with, while the outer rear chairs both feature ISOFIX child seat mounts.
Boot space for the new Arkana is quoted at 480 litres in five-seat mode and 1,263 litres with the back seats folded flat. Those are useful figures, while the Arkana features a split-level floor, and in the highest setting it creates a level surface when the rear seats are folded.
The Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid driving experience
Techno and Esprit Alpine versions of the Arkana feature Multi Sense, which allows you to select between three different drive modes - Eco, Sport and MySense, with the latter offering configurable settings. While some systems don't seem to make much of a difference when switching between modes, there's a distinctly racier feel to Sport mode when compared to the Eco setting.
Whichever mode you choose you'll feel the hybrid system working and at low speeds when running in EV mode there's a sound generator to warn other road users of your presence. The car does try and use electric power as much as possible, which helps contribute to decent fuel economy - we managed 6.0 litres/100km in our time with the car over a mix of road types, which isn't bad at all.
The ride comfort is reasonable, too, especially when you consider that this Esprit Alpine features the biggest wheels available on the Arkana. It's perfectly comfortable most of the time, although speed bumps do unsettle the car somewhat if you don't moderate your speed.
Our verdict on the Renault Arkana
The Arkana caters for car buyers that don't really want an SUV on their driveway, but still fancy the idea of an elevated driving position. It's more of a crossover than most vehicles assigned that tag due to its mix of hatchback practicality, coupe-like lines and a high ride height. It'll suit those looking for something distinctive that won't break the bank, or others wondering what to replace their traditional C-segment car with. The 2024 updates enhance the package further.