By its own admission, Renault has recently been a bit of an also-ran in the UK. But the company aims to change all that under new boss Luca de Meo’s ‘Renaulution’ plan by launching a new range of electrified cars, starting with a stylish and handily priced hybrid coupé-SUV called the Arkana.
This all-new C-segment offering is one of 14 electrified Renault Group models due for launch by 2025, half of which will be EVs. In particular, de Meo plans to target the Volkswagen Golf segment – an understandable move, since it’s currently Europe’s biggest, grabbing some 40% of sales. Two more electrified C-segment cars are in the pipeline, one of them a fully electric Mégane crossover.
The Arkana is already going down a storm in France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain, where it has just been launched. Back orders are said to have passed 10,000 and are mounting fast. It has also been “a huge success” in South Korea, where it is made (by Samsung), so Renault’s claim that the Arkana is a true global car holds plenty of water. Much of this success, the marketing people say, is down to its dual personality: buyers “have no need to choose between sporty and practical”.
The Arkana sits on an extended-wheelbase version of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s remarkably versatile CMF-B platform, which is also used for the Clio and Mégane, among many other applications. It’s a newer platform than that used for the Kadjar SUV and evidently more versatile: stronger, lighter, capable of autonomous driving, equipped with the latest safety gadgetry and ready for all forms of electrification.
Renault’s engineers are especially proud of the fact that the Arkana’s rakish lines don’t compromise rear head or leg room or boot space, all of which are at or close to class best for the C-segment. The key to this seems to be height and a relatively long wheelbase of 2720mm for its overall length of 4568mm. The car has prominent, muscular rear haunches that allow it a relatively high roof and thus a radically raked rear glass without compromising rear room.
Three trim levels (Iconic, S Edition and RS Line) are offered. All are well equipped, but the S Edition and RS Line (which get niceties like adaptive cruise control and three driving modes) have similarly impressive equipment levels, separated mostly by the RS Line’s suite of 18 “exotic elements” including distinctive alloy wheels, chrome exhausts, sporting seat designs, a Formula 1-inspired honeycomb grille, different bumpers and carbonfibre effects in the cabin. All models have an extensive collection of airbags and dynamic safety aids and qualify for the latest five-star NCAP safety rating.
Two hybrid powertrains are offered for each model. The cheaper option (by £1000) features a 138bhp turbocharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an integrated starter-generator that collects energy during braking and then deploys it through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox when the car accelerates.
Our test car had the pricier 143bhp 1.6-litre four-pot turbo petrol option, which has both an integrated starter-generator and another electric motor incorporated into its eight-speed torque-converter gearbox, offering more comprehensive electric operation and assistance.