Usually, an SUV is a real punishment for any driving enthusiast. It seems that this pleasure is less and less coveted, but for a self-respecting motoring journalist, enjoying a drive and having fun between two curves is still a goal in itself when you get behind the wheel of a car. However, behind the wheel of one these beloved SUVs- which buyers are supposedly crying out for- it is too often impossible to get pleasure… Unless there’s plenty of horsepower under the bonnet to make up for the excessive weight of these vans. And yet… the Arkana is something else!
With its new Arkana, Renault promises spades of dynamism. It must be said that with its coupé-like lines, the new French SUV perfectly mimics the German top-of-the-range offer that’s been a hit for several years now. This is a new C segment range for Renault. However, there is another Arkana, reserved for the Russian market, based on the Duster less sophisticated platform. This new one uses the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance CMF-B architecture, which also underpins the Clio and Captur. Just like the Samsung XM3, the Arkana comes from the Busan factory in South Korea.
Even if it uses all the common usual Renault traits, the new Arkana offers a rather successful design. First, its front end is dominated by an enlarged logo, flanked by full- LED headlights displaying the C-shaped light signature that is also found at the back. Standing on its large wheels, its length is 4,568 mm, its height 1,571 mm and the wheelbase is 2,720 mm. It is therefore longer and lower than the Kadjar, offering more interior space. This is some unexpected internal competition for the French brand’s mid-size SUV.
Interior quality is excellent: foamed plastics, carbon-like trim and, above all, connectivity and displays that are perfectly in tune with the times. The R.S. Line version gets standard red trim and a black roof. Externally, there’s a F1-inspired front bumper and “Silverstone” wheels with red touches. However, let’s not get too carried away, it’s all in the name of a sporty appearance. Under the bonnet, for the moment, we have to make do with the 1.3 TCe engine delivering 140 bhp and 260 Nm torque. Later in the year, new engines will feature on the Arkana: both the 1.6 E-TECH Hybrid 145 and, later in the year, the 160 bhp TCe. Only automatic transmissions are available. The TCe has a seven-speed dual-clutch robotised gearbox, while the hybrid version has a clutchless CVT box.
Let’s now take a seat in a TCe 140 car with Intens trim and priced at €31,000. The equipment list is rather complete: leather steering wheel, tinted rear windows, digital dashboard, Renault Multi-Sense or Easy Link, half leather upholstery and 18″ wheels. Enough to feel good onboard and the driving position is perfect. Despite the rakish lines, there is more room in the rear than, say, in a Citroën C4, for example. The generous wheelbase also allows the rear seat passengers more legroom. According to Renault, boot space is 518 litres or 1,311 litres when the rear seat is down. The Kadjar clearly trails behind, with a 472 litre space.
The 1.3 TCe is quite silent when you start it and particularly lively when it comes to moving the Arkana around in complete peace of mind. It works very well with the automatic gearbox and is a pleasure to drive. It must be said that the engineers have taken particular care to make sure the rear axle offers high stability levels in fast bends. The electric steering has been updated to offer a more precise and even more direct feel. At the same time, Renault has softened the dampers and it is fair to say that all these modifications give the Arkana a real edge. The balance between comfort and handling is very good, even if the dampers rebound on cobblestones and rough roads. However, this does not impair comfort or the driving experience. To be honest, we don’t remember driving such a nimble and dynamic SUV. It’s a real change from the boring competitors churned out by a large German company. The Arkana definitely gets a thumb up and our approval as a fun driving machine!
At the end of a 70-kilometre test drive, our first impression is rather enthusiastic. Renault’s first SAC (Sport Active Coupe) takes the test with flying colours. However, a longer test should confirm our feeling. The range starts with the TCe 140 EDC Zen at € 23.636 and will be topped by the E-TECH Hybrid R.S.Line at € 35.200. Knowing the Arkana is based on the Captur, some will wince at the prices but it is different enough to justify the extra cost. Its coupe-like lines are pretty unique at this market level and should please a lot. Once onboard, the generous equipment should seduce even more… before discovering how pleasant it can be on the road. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)