Test Drive: Renault Arkana E-TECH Hybrid: the SAC with the French Touch

The Sports Activity Coupé or SAC concept was a BMW creation that Audi and Mercedes copied before “percolating” (as economists would say) on mainstream brands like Kia with the XCeed or Toyota with the C-HR. This time, it’s the French’s turn to get on the bandwagon with the Renault Arkana. Peugeot and Citroën will come to the party with the 4008 launch in the middle of next year while the C4 Sporty Cross will be around by the end of 2022.

As you can see, the Renault Arkana is playing on the current wave of crossovers, those vehicles that have become indefinable as they are part SUV, part coupes and part estate. Our regular readers will remember we briefly tested this newcomer recently. However, the opportunity of driving it for a week was too good to miss. We wanted to find out if it was any good or if there were hidden defects. We must admit we quite like the Arkana’s aesthetics, even though it’s a rebadged Samsung XM3. It uses the same platform as the Captur but is 31 cm longer overall and there are 8 cm more in the wheelbase. Unfortunately, the TCe 140 was no longer available in the press fleet and we had to make do with a 145 bhp non plug-in hybrid. On the plus side, this one features the purposeful R.S. Line trim.

I like it

Once inside, the atmosphere is rather pleasant even though many details are carried over from the Captur. The plastics are rather nice and the numerous red and fake carbon R.S. Line touches lend quite an exclusive feel to the interior. The steering wheel is pleasant to handle even though, once again, the paddles are way too small. The electrically adjustable seats offer a perfect driving position, even if it took us a little while to find it. The 9,3” screen planted in the middle of the dashboard is bang at the eyes level and good old buttons allow air conditioning adjustment. Bravo Renault!

Quite clever

The French brand really delivers on the driving pleasure side. Obviously, we are not at the wheel of a Mégane RS… however, let’s admit it, the Arkana is quite agile on the road. Of course, under some circumstances it lacks some bite but this is not a significant flaw. Average users will benefit from a sufficiently incisive steering and the chassis is rather firm to negotiate twisty bits of road. Selecting the Sport driving mode makes things happen quicker and with a welcome subtlety, without pushing things too far. This hybrid version weighs only 100 kg more than the ICE version.

I don’t like it

Poor rearward visibility is the Arkana’s biggest flaw. However, it’s the price to pay for its exclusive look. We also complained several times about the hybrid engine’s character : sometimes it can be hesitating between regeneration modes. This leads to a certain inertia in the engine, leaving you with the feeling that the on-paper power is not really there.

Why I buy it

As we said, Renault is the first French car maker playing  in the premium league. Its aesthetics are pretty good looking, and the interior lifts it up even further, at least in this beautiful R.S. Line guise that we can only recommend to you. Fans of the German premium brands might point out some inside quality shortcomings but they should be reminded that the Renault is available from just 28,600€ and the particularly lavishly-equipped version we tested starts at 36,350€. As far as fuel consumption is concerned, we averaged 6.3 l/100 km during our 400 km test drive.

Why I don’t buy it

If we were tempted to buy an Arkana, we would most probably settle for a TCe version as this hybrid did not fully convince us. The fault lies in the drivetrain sometimes erratic way of working. It took us quite a while to figure out what it was supposed to do. This was obviously noticeable under acceleration as well as through the groaning sound of the engine. Rear visibility is not the Arkana’s forte… just like comfort with the stiff suspension settings or the conspicuous absence of some premium touches : tailgate automatic opening or getting a glass roof to illuminate the interior. However, let’s admit we can perfectly live well without these extras… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain / Pictures: Pierre Fontignies)

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