Describe a car as a “coupé SUV” and you can expect a few things. There’ll be distinctive styling, a sloping roof at the rear, a high-up ride and lots of room inside. The Renault Arkana ticks all those boxes, but is also affordable in much the same was as the Citroen C4 is.
Compared to premium alternatives from, say, Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, this makes it attractive to buyers with a growing family. Just as long as they’re not fussed about the badge.
Renault offers the Arkana with a choice of two engines: the entry-level TCe 140 mild hybrid, and the self-charging hybrid E-Tech 145, which promises to deliver economical motoring if driven carefully. Each can be had in Iconic, S Edition or RS Line trim, with extras on offer if you’re after even more trimmings. The base price starts at a very decent £27,995, but add those options and the price climbs as high as £32,695 for the car we’ve been driving.
There’s a reasonable style vibe going on with the Renault Arkana and you do get the benefit of a decent sized car that has plenty of space on the inside.
A quick stroll around reveals nothing too dazzling on the design front, and the Arkana is also a little workmanlike in the looks department. That said, Renault has some cool colours in its paint spraying palette. Our example worked to great effect in Zanzibar Blue (not pictured).
Neat bonnet lines at the bulbous front end add a touch of flair, while chrome flourishes on the bottom of the doors add a little zing down the sides. You can really see how the roofline cuts down at the back as you head towards the rear, which features rear light strips that get the job done rather than being eye-catching. Our car also had some decent looking 18in alloys and chunky rubber, adding to the high-up stance.
The interior follows a similar theme, in that it’s got everything you need, but the overall feel is one of practicality rather than showy-ness. The S Edition is going to be a perfect fit for anyone with kids, who just want surfaces that can be wiped over, instead of sumptuous seat coverings that absorb stains rapidly.
There’s a noticeable presence of plastics, which takes the edge off slightly, but the layout is really quite agreeable. The touchcreen sits proud in the centre of the dash, and we love the simple practicality of the climate control dials. The automatic gear shifter feels good in your hand and the rest of the driving controls are impressive too, with a neat little covert radio volume button hiding on a stalk behind the steering wheel.
We found the seats in the front to be comfortable enough, while in the back the look and feel is one of serviceable practicality rather than luxury. Although that roof line does slope down, there’s a decent amount of headroom once you’re inside. Quite how much you like it after you’ve been leaning in and out plonking a small child in a car seat remains to be seen, however.
Still, you get 480 litres of boot space in the hybrid model, with the non-hybrid upping that a little. Either way, there’s room enough for suitcases, pushchairs and all that other family-flavoured paraphernalia.
The Arkana offers a decent view of the road ahead thanks to a reasonably high-up driving position. Our S Edition E-Tech Hybrid 145 test car felt sprightlier than the cheap and cheerful TCe 140, with 143bhp on offer from the 1.6-litre petrol engine. However, it actually has a slower 0-62 mph time of 10.8 seconds, compared to the TCe 140’s 9.8 seconds.
The Hybrid relies on a couple of small electric motors for less strenuous forays, and the combination works well. Your journey begins silently in EV mode, with the petrol engine kicking in when more power is required. The My Sense, Eco and Sport drive modes automatically tailor the setup to the conditions and your driving style.
As is frequently the case with an automatic box though, there can be periods of mildly frantic engine revving, especially when you push on something like a motorway slip road. Nevertheless, the Arkana is pretty good once it gets going. Stopping again is easy enough with the impressive brakes, which have greater regenerative properties if you select ‘B’ rather than ‘D’ from the shifter options.
You’d expect the high-rise driving position to make the Arkana rather skittish on looser surfaces, but it does hold its own. The car is also pretty good fun on B roads, once you’ve settled into its charms, though the ride is quite harsh. Parking is less fun if you’re reversing into a tight space due to the slimline view out the back.
While pretty basic, the Arkana has quite a lot of on-board tech that does everything you’d expect given the pricing. Central to this is the 9.3in display, positioned nicely so that it’s prominent, while also not getting in the way or causing too much distraction.
There are options for radio, navigation and phone mirroring including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Generally, everything works without too much faffing around. The screen resolution is reasonably high, and the sat nav always seemed to work quite well, avoiding the need to use a smartphone and Google instead.
All models get a digital instrument cluster in front of the driver: the E-Tech 145 we drove has a 7in screen, while the TCe 140 makes do with a 4.2in panel. The main area shows available battery power, and how the various bits of the powertrain are working together at any one time. It’s quite good to look at, if short on any neat tricks or tech revelations.
You’ll get good use from the front and rear parking sensors, given the lack of rear view and some chunky pillars to contend with. Ditto for the included-as-standard rear-view camera.
Renault Arkana verdict
The Arkana is a quirky thing. It doesn’t have as much universal appeal as Renault’s Kaptur, or indeed better views from within because of the coupé SUV styling. Nevertheless, you get quite a lot for your money and it’ll make a solid choice for anyone who’s not badge obsessed. Renault claims almost 60mpg is possible, and while real world figures deliver less, this is still an economical car given its size.
As hybrids go, the Arkana’s arrangement works really quite well if you spend quite a lot of time meandering around clogged up town centres. Out on the open road the driving experience is sufficient to get the job done, but that engine does sound like it’s working overtime on occasions.
If you want a reasonably well put together workhorse, that doesn’t look too flashy and is easy to drive, this coupé SUV may well appeal.
The Renault Arkana delivers good value if you want a practical coupé-style SUV, especially in self-charging hybrid form.
Renault Arkana technical specifications
|Engine/motor||1.6 litre petrol, plus electric motor|
|Cargo volume||480 litres|