Whatever you may think of SUVs styled to resemble coupes, you can’t deny that of all the avenues the SUV as we know it has ventured into, this is probably the most popular to date. Say hello to Renault’s offering, the Arkana, and on the face of it, Renault’s foray into this niche seems to have plenty to like.
The range starts at $39,990 plus ORC for the entry level Zen, but my test car, the range topping Intens, sits at $44,990 plus ORC. Whether you opt for the base model or the flagship, you still end up with a rather handsome coupe-SUV. There are plenty of nods to the Clio in the front such as the C-shaped LED headlight signature. Where things start to differ is the way the roofline arcs down towards the rear.
The rear light cluster with an almost full width look to it also looks the business, as does the bold Arkana lettering on the boot lid. All in all, this chique looking gallic soft roader works as a visual treat. The Intens gets 18-inch Pasadena black diamond cut alloys over the Zen’s four 17-inchers, but both models gets body coloured door handles and those aforementioned LED lights.
Also shared between the Zen and Intens is the Arkana’s 1.3L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox. More on how this set up fares in a minute, but you get 115kW and 262Nm going through the front wheels. Renault also claim combined fuel carbon figures of 6.7L/100km and 152g/km of CO2 respectively.
Inside everything is certainly well laid out, with the addition of some classic Renault eccentricity, such as the positioning of the volume controls for the infotainment system. While I couldn’t help but notice some of the switchgear on the centre console felt a bit cheap, its positioning above the new look air con controls adds to what is a rather uncluttered cabin.
The leather and suede seats offer a good deal of lateral support but I found them to be quite firm at times, though not uncomfortable by any means. The Arkana claws back points by having a comfortable feeling heated leather steering wheel and sports considerable head and legroom. Front and rear passengers shouldn’t find it cramped. Pop the boot and you get 485L of boot space with a split-level floor. Drop the rear seats and this becomes 1268L.
The Arkana sports a good safety suite as standard too. Features like active emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, active emergency braking, hands free parking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist with active steering and lane departure warning all make an appearance. There Arkana also gets a three years/unlimited km warranty and three years road side assistance.
So, what does the Intens give you if you fork out that extra $5,000 over the base Zen? Well, you get a bigger infotainment system for starters. A 9.3” touch screen system over the Zen’s 7″ set up sits within easy reach of you and is a very good system at that. It incorporates Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which also happens to be standard, and the maps shown for the sat nav system are very easy to use and clear to view. The Arkamys Classic sound system with six speakers isn’t too bad either.
The Intens also benefits from getting auto hold, those leather and suede seats, of which the driver and front passenger seats are heated, ventilated, and electrically operated, a greater selection of ambient lighting options, and a 7” colour driver instrument cluster. The latter of these offers a clear picture and its easy to get your head around.
People do notice the Arkana. During my time with it, I brought it along to my Badminton Club night. Upon arrival, some of my fellow players ushered plenty of verbal admiration towards it. When telling them the price, remarks like “wow, that’s pretty good” and “I thought it would be quite a lot more” were commonplace.
Gently motoring around suburban Christchurch is a doddle for the Arkana, however getting off the mark with moderate acceleration requires a bit of patience while waiting for that turbo to kick in. Its probably not the most refined power unit when it comes to get going but once you are into its stride, it is happy to zip along nicely.
You change drive modes via the third button on the centre console. Press it and you can change from Sport to Eco and the regular “MySense” mode via the infotainment screen. The ambient lighting also changes, with green for Eco, red for Sport and blue for MySense.
Keep things in Sport and the Arkana show itself more than happy to dart forward like a hungry Jack Russell. However, I much preferred to leave the seven-speed DCT gearbox in automatic, as flicking up and down via the paddles felt somewhat delayed.
On the flipside, its relatively compact dimensions and 2720mm wheelbase coupled with some communicative steering, the Arkana starts to feel more like a warm hatch than a soft roader. Certainly not a hot hatch, but certainly warm for a car like this. It provides a good teaser for what a hot Arkana RS could be like.
The Renault Arkana has its drawbacks. However, it’s an enjoyable drive with a good degree of kit for the money, and for someone wanting a stylish looking SUV come coupe with an affordable price tag, then the Arkana could be right up your alley. Plus, as we have established, people may very well think you have forked out a lot more than you actually have, which certainly isn’t a bad thing!