The all-new Renault Arkana effectively replaces the short-lived Kadjar in Renault’s three-model SUV range, sitting between the compact Captur and medium-large Koleos.
It’s slightly larger than Kadjar in all exterior dimensions, but with almost identical engine outputs.
Arkana comes in three variants: Zen, Intens and RS Line with the first two on sale now and the sportier looking RS due early 2022.
There’s a single drivetrain combining a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and front-wheel drive.
With its smoother, sloping rear profile Renault is marketing Arkana as an SUV Coupe, an increasing trend as SUVs evolve, with an emphasis on styling.
Combining the two different components can be challenging, but Renault designers have managed to do it, putting together a very attractive vehicle.
A high 200mm ground clearance lifts Arkana without making it look too gawky.
LED lighting is used extensively including headlights; daytime running lights; tail lights and turn indicators.
A small powered sunroof is optional on Intens and standard on the RS Line.
There are seven colours, only one of them standard — the others adding $750 to the price tag.
What’s it cost?
Prices for Arkana start at $33,990 for Zen, $37,490 for Intens and $40,990 for the RS.
Our test vehicle was the Arkana Intens with optional sunroof which, together with the coupe-like lines, makes entry a bit awkward.
The driver’s seat has power adjustment but with a limited height range which, even at its lowest level, meant that my head grazed the roof.
Rear space is excellent with surprisingly good headroom given the sloping roof and, courtesy of the 2720mm wheelbase, plenty of knee room.
There’s leather and suede upholstery in the Intens and RS Line as well as electrically adjustable, heated and ventilated seats for both driver and front passenger.
The centrepiece of the interior is a 9.3-inch portrait shaped touchscreen which not only displays normal infotainment features but also, through its multi-sense system, controls the pre-set Eco and Sport drive modes to adjust powertrain and steering.
There’s also a MySense feature which allows the driver to customise these settings to suit their individual preferences.
Directly below the touchscreen is a series of small buttons including quick access to the multi-sense system, front seat heating/cooling and door locking.
Sensibly, the air conditioning is controlled by three large knobs that are easy to reach and simple to operate.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the audio volume controls which require either a series of taps on small tabs at the bottom of the touchscreen or on small buttons on a steering column stalk behind the steering wheel.
There’s a good-sized space at the centre of the front console for storing smartphones and, in the RS, includes a wireless charging pad.
There are two adjacent USB ports directly above it as well as AUX and 12-volt power sockets.
A small storage box sits below a slide-out armrest in the centre console.
The boot features a split-level floor that can take up to 485 litres at its lower level.
With the 60/40 rear seatbacks folded, that can be expanded to 1268 litres.
A space-saver spare wheel sits beneath the lower floor setting.
Arkana uses the Renault Easy Link multimedia system, with a 7.0-inch landscape touchscreen in the Zen and a 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen in the Intens and RS Line.
Likewise, the higher-spec variants get a 7.0-inch driver’s digital instrument cluster with the option of a full-digital 10.25-inch screen while the Zen has a 4.2-inch display.
Satellite navigation isn’t offered in the Zen but is standard in Intens and RS Line.
All variants get a six-speaker Arkamys Auditorium Sound system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Renault Arkana comes with a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a high level of features in all variants.
This includes six airbags; electronic stability control; adaptive cruise control with speed limiter; blind spot warning; autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian and cyclist detection; lane departure warning and lane keep assist; traffic sign recognition; front, rear and side parking sensors; rear view camera; automatic headlights and windscreen wipers; ISOFIX child seat anchorage points; and tyre pressure monitoring.
Intens and RS Line add rear cross traffic alert and speed limit alert.
Renault’s Easy Park Assist is standard in all models and uses a combination of sensors and rear-mounted camera for hands-free parking.
What’s it go like?
Arkana has a 1.3-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol with outputs of 115kW at 5500 rpm and 262Nm at 2250 rpm.
It drives the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Arkana comes with Renault’s credit card style key and includes ‘walk-away’ automatic door locking.
Although the rear window is large, its shape together with the broad C pillars do limit side and rear visibility quite significantly.
Arkana is quite sluggish off the mark with little low-down torque and a jerky dual-clutch transmission.
Switching to Sport mode makes a big difference and, apart from motorway cruising, we spent most of our time with it switched on.
There is a bit of torque steer to catch the unwary.
Steering is sharp and responsive with there’s only minimal body roll through corners although it is more SUV than coupe in that regard.
Ride provides a nice balance between firmness and comfort.
The extra ground clearance infers off-road capability, however that’s offset by the absence of an all-wheel drive option.
Fuel consumption is listed at 6.0L/100km. We averaged a fairly good 7.2 L/100km.
What we like?
Many safety features
Good rear legroom
Walk-away auto door locking
Steering sharp and responsive
Sport mode makes a big difference
What we don’t like?
Awkward audio controls
Limited rear vision
Sluggish off the mark
Jerky dual-clutch transmission
The bottom line?
Renault Arkana is a classy looking, well-equipped and competent vehicle that’s sure to appeal to lovers of French marques and anyone else looking for something away from the mainstream.
In terms of pricing, Arkana can be assessed as either a budget-priced Euro premium SUV-Coupe competitor a la Audi Q3 Sportback and BMW X2 — or as a fairly expensive offering in the congested and highly-competitive small SUV segment.
The buying public will make that decision.
Arkana comes with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, five years of capped price services with an impressive 30,000km service interval and five years roadside assistance when the services are carried out by an official Renault dealer.