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Renault Arkana Intens 2022 review

 

Replacing the competent but dull Kadjar, the slinky Arkana holds the distinction of being Australia’s most affordable coupe-shaped SUV. But does that equate to cheap?


Good points

  • Nicely balanced handling
  • Keen steering response
  • Portrait touchscreen
  • Huge boot
  • Excellent forward vision

Needs work

  • Lacking in charisma
  • Dithering transmission calibration
  • Fussy styling details
  • Needs more finesse

While it’s been generations since Renault’s heyday in Australia – assembling cars in Melbourne’s outer suburbs right up until the early 1980s – the brand has achieved a pretty consistent level of success since it relaunched here with factory backing in 2001, netting 10,000 annual sales in its finest moments.

Among a host of familiar nameplates, however, the Nissan Qashqai-sized, Spanish-built Renault Kadjar wasn’t one of them. Launched in Australia after its mid-life facelift and positioned between the perky Captur small SUV and roomy Koleos mid-size SUV, the competent Kadjar lacked a definitive USP to attract enough punters.

Instead, Renault is now championing the Arkana. Built in South Korea alongside the Koleos and on sale in Europe since 2020, the Arkana brings genuine coupe flavour to the small-ish SUV category – making it easily the most affordable coupe-SUV in the country, ahead of the coupe/hatch/SUV amalgam that is the new-gen Citroen C4.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 profile

For a true coupe-shaped competitor, you’ll need to be looking at an Audi Q3 Sportback (starting at $51,800) whereas the Arkana begins at Zen level ($33,990 before on-road costs) and spans Arkana Intens ($37,490) and Arkana RS-Line ($40,990).

Renault claims the Arkana’s mainstream competitors are the Mazda CX-30 ($29,390-$47,390) and Volkswagen T-Roc ($34,700-$41,800), which means this Arkana Intens with optional sunroof ($1500), white metallic paint ($750) and black roof ($600) – totalling $40,340 before on-road costs – sits directly in their heartland.

And so does the new Citroen C4 – offered solely in top-spec Shine form in Australia ($37,990 before on-road costs).

How does the Arkana drive?

Riding on the same CMF-B platform as the new-generation Renault Captur, Renault Clio V (unconfirmed for launch in Australia) and Nissan’s forthcoming, all-new Qashqai, the Arkana definitely has good hardware bones underneath its slightly unusual, overly detailed shape.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 dynamic 2

What that means for the driving experience is a car that feels like it has a shorter wheelbase than it actually does. Around town, the Arkana feels agile and surprisingly keen, making it really quite a pleasant thing dynamically.

Reactive steering either side of straight ahead with quite decent feel adds a level of involvement to the Arkana’s change-of-direction response that would be completely foreign to anyone who drives a turgid Koleos. The Arkana might be built in South Korea but its dynamic flavour is very much European.

If you push hard, the Arkana does tend to roll a bit in corners because it sits quite high – ground clearance is 199mm, which is quite tall for a front-wheel drive vehicle – though this is hardly vintage-Renault stuff. And because its cornering angles aren’t as extreme as its revered forebears, it doesn’t match their level of ride plushness either.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 wheel

To keep the Arkana’s body control in check, it does have a fairly firm ride, though given that it’s wearing 18-inch wheels, there’s a degree of urban absorbency that transitions into greater suppleness the more you ask of the Arkana’s suspension. In this regard, Renault’s coupe SUV feels solid and nicely polished, though road noise isn’t as hushed as its brand new underpinnings would lead you to expect.

Thankfully, its engine is quite refined – a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder co-developed with Mercedes-Benz that’s somehow sweeter in its Renault application. It’s not an inspiring engine because it never sounds sporty, even though it produces a rousing 115kW at 5500rpm (which is strong for a 1.3), but torque delivery is really satisfying (262Nm at 2250rpm), giving the Arkana a wafty ease.

If only its transmission calibration was on the same page. Offered solely with a seven-speed Getrag dual-clutch automatic, the Arkana’s foot-flat performance and shift quality are strong – 0-100km/h in 9.1 seconds with a top speed of 205km/h. But when you ask for power when exiting a bend or roundabout in Drive, there’s a lag in response that’s then overcompensated for with too much acceleration, or a lower gear than necessary, which can make the Arkana tiring to drive smoothly at times. Your right foot needs to be very finessed in its movement to make the Arkana’s drivetrain behave the way you want.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 dynamic 3

The solution is to alter its ‘Multi-Sense’ drive mode in the centre touchscreen – switching to Sport mode to significantly improve the transmission’s decisiveness and response, though that also brings heavier steering weighting, which the Arkana doesn’t need.

The Custom drive-mode setting lets you alter steering weight, ambient lighting and instrument-cluster display … but not the powertrain! It’s a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – leaving the Arkana devoid of having an ideal drivetrain setting, even though it’s merely a software tweak away.

Renault has long had a reputation for five-star safety and the Arkana is no different, starting with front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera with guides, but also including auto parking, auto high-beam, front AEB with cyclist and pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist with steering assist (that’s easily turned off by a toggle switch on the right-hand side of the dash – not buried in a menu somewhere), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic-sign recognition, a speed limiter and adaptive cruise control with stop and go – all of which operate in a reasonably subtle fashion.

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
7.0
Ride & refinement
6.5
Handling
8.0
Safety
7.5

How is the Arkana’s interior?

Inside, the Arkana is essentially a less-boring Kadjar … though that doesn’t mean it’s near the top of its class for design and materials quality. It’s more a case of solid proficiency.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 cabin

What’s on the surface is rather nice and occasionally really quite chic, but the deeper you dig, the more inexpensive the Arkana appears – though it definitely has ergonomic and packaging basics thoroughly nailed.

For example, the top of the dash is smoothly tactile, contrasting nicely with faux turned-aluminium trim inserts and eight-colour ambient lighting strips, as well as lovely exposed stitching in the doors. But below the cabin’s centre line, the plastics are hard and unyielding, and aspects like the cheap-looking rear-seat air vents and controls don’t convey the class you’d expect.

Unlike the Arkana’s mainstream competitors – the Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen T-Roc – the Renault is far less accomplished at appearing premium for a sub-premium price, though the Intens version’s lovely perforated-leather seat facings with suede inserts offer welcome relief.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 seats

Both front seats (with three-setting heating and fan-cooling) provide eight-way electric adjustment, and while they initially feel quite firm, they’re really supportive over longer distances. Combined with Renault’s lovely new-gen steering wheel (now featuring all the cruise-control buttons), an impressive driving position and quite a high hip point, the Arkana builds on its ground clearance to deliver a real sense of SUV elevation. For that reason alone, many people will love the Arkana.

They will also appreciate the clarity and processing speed of Renault’s vast new-generation 9.3-inch ‘portrait’ touchscreen, accompanied by ‘cheat-sheet’ buttons across its lower edge to quickly access major functions. While it includes navigation, digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a pair of USB ports front and rear, the Intens leaves wireless charging to the more expensive Arkana RS-Line (available January 2022) and the strong sound quality of our early-build test car – equipped with Bose surround sound – isn’t representative of the six-speaker ‘Arkamys’ system fitted to all Australian-spec Arkanas.

Renault Arkana Intens touchscreen

With its lengthy, Koleos-beating wheelbase – at 2720mm, it’s 15mm longer – you’d rightly expect the Arkana to offer greater rear legroom than its larger, taller sibling but that isn’t the case. The Arkana favours a more laid-back packaging arrangement with a slightly reclined but decently supportive rear bench, a moderate amount of legroom and masses of foot room.

Even when optioned with a sunroof, there’s enough head space for six-footers (just), though it’s the Arkana’s excellent forward vision – thanks to both the sizeable sunroof and the rear bench’s theatre-style seating positioning – that makes this coupe SUV surprisingly giving.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 tail

Ditto the Arkana’s enormous boot – 485 litres with the floor in its lowest position (and a space-saver spare beneath), which is medium-SUV-rivalling, and with the ability to extend to a completely flat floor with the backrests dropped and the boot floor in its upper position.

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
6.5
Cabin technology
7.5
Driver comfort
8.0
Passenger space
7.5

What are the Arkana’s running costs?

The official ADR81/02 government combined fuel consumption figure for the 2022 Renault Arkana Intens is 6.0L/100km – achievable drinking 91-octane regular unleaded – though we averaged 7.9L/100km.

Recommended servicing is every 12 months or 30,000km – easily best-in-class for distance – with the Arkana’s five-year/150,000km capped-price service amount totalling $2385.

Renault Arkana Intens 2022 dynamic 1

This compares to a five-year servicing total of $1700 for a Mazda CX-30 G25 Touring (though over a much-shorter 50,000km distance). At the time of writing, the five-year/75,000km servicing plan for a Volkswagen T-Roc 110TSI was $1900.

Renault’s warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres, combined with five years’ roadside assistance if you service the Arkana according to its recommended servicing schedule.

Running costs scorecard
Consumption
Good
Servicing
Great
Warranty
Good

The final verdict

There’s a good car lurking underneath the Arkana – one that’s only a comprehensive model-year update or a decent facelift away from being so much slicker in terms of appearance and drivetrain behaviour.

As it stands, the Renault Arkana Intens is not as polished as it could be, but it’s better to drive than you might expect it to be – transmission calibration issues apart. It’s a more interesting car than the Kadjar it replaces (in Australia), delivers a few genuine highs and definitely a few points of difference.

It has a touch of personality and it’s reasonably effective at what it does, though it rarely goes beyond where it needs to be – especially compared to its mainstream competitor set, as well as some of the really good French cars we’ve seen in recent years. A car wearing the Renault diamond deserves more charisma than what the Arkana offers.

Overall rating
Overall rating
6.5
Drivability
6.5
Interior
7.0
Running costs
Good
Overall rating
6.5
Drivability
6.5
Interior
7.0
Running costs
Good

Variant tested INTENS

$37,490
Details
Options fitted
Black Roof and Exterior Mirrors
$600
Metallic Paint
$750
Power Sunroof
$1,500
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges
$42,428

Key specs (as tested)

Engine
Capacity
1333 cc
Cylinders
4
Induction
Turbo
Power
115kW at 5500rpm
Torque
262Nm at 2250rpm
Power to weight ratio
85kW/tonne
Fuel
Fuel type
Petrol
Fuel capacity
55 litres
Consumption
6L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
916km (claimed)
Drivetrain
Transmission
Automatic
Drivetrain
Front Wheel Drive
Gears
7
Dimensions
Length
4568 mm
Width
1802 mm
Height
1571 mm
Unoccupied weight
1358 kg

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