6 March 2024

Renault Arkana Hybrid review: Brian Byrne, Irish Car

Renault’s Arkana seemed something of a quare fish at the beginning, writes Brian Byrne. It appeared to me that it was filling a gap that didn’t exist. The style is a coupe hatch that stands a little higher than similar in its compact family car space. Didn’t they already have a Megane doing pretty well the same thing?

Renault may have felt similar concerns. So they termed it a crossover coupe when they finally brought it to Europe, after an earlier version in Russia and Korea. They were thinking ahead, though. Megane was going fully electric, but despite the hype towards an all-electric cars future Renault knew there was going to be a place for combustion and hybrids for some time to come.

We have had the Arkana in Ireland since autumn 2021, but a refresh last year gave me the excuse to recently take another look at the model, which represents four in ten of Renaults sold here. That it has taken over from the traditional Megane is clear in the fact that the E-Tech Electric Megane now only accounts for 6pc of Renault cars bought in Ireland.

My review car was the full hybrid Arkana, as opposed to the mild-hybrid entry option. What surprises me is that only one in ten of Arkana buyers last year went for this version, the rest plumping for the mild hybrid car. It probably surprises Renault Ireland too, they were expecting a 50:50 ratio when they launched the car here.

The refresh for the current car is mostly on the outside, with revised grille, and changes to the lights front and rear. As the style of the Arkana is already quite pleasing, these are slight enhancements. Inside, the design and instrumentation is tweaked equally slightly. My review car was in the top end esprit Alpine grade, which added blue and red details, larger wheels, and a bio-based suede seats covering. The overall fit and finish is of very high quality.

The infotainment screen dominates the dashboard area, but the information panels within it are neat rather than excessively large. They're also easy to navigate, with clear and colourful graphics. Equally important, the climate is managed by proper knobs, and a line of piano-style switches above them operate other key features, including the heated seats. Driving instruments were as clear as the centre screen. A neat touch, if driving in the UK, the speed limit warning sign automatically registers MPH with a smaller km/h equivalent showing above it. 

It's a roomy car, more so than you might expect with the coupe shape, and those in the back don't have any less headroom than in the front. There's plenty of width, and on one occasion I did have three adults in the rear without them complaining of feeling squashed. The lift back boot is capacious.

The drivetrain is a 1.6 petrol engine with a pair of electric motors and an automatic transmission system, which overall ensures that the car always starts in electric mode, and in urban driving it can operate in EV manner for up to 80pc of the time. Renault claim a 4.7L/100km economy, and while I didn't achieve that on a 3-day family event run across Wales into Shropshire and Hereford and some local driving, my overall 5.3L/100km was very respectable. Some 700km of travel, not including the Irish Ferries section, still left me with fuel in the tank when I got home. Just as important, the car's really excellent handling and comfort proved such that neither I nor my passenger were over-tired at the end.

This was one of those occasions when I had opportunity to truly put a car through all its paces, and the Arkana hybrid showed that it can take all the pressure with aplomb, aiding the driver in doing the same.

PRICE: From €32,590. WHAT I LIKED: Comfort and ease on a long run.