Renault Arkana Review 2023 | Top Gear
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The Arkana doesn't excel anywhere and ultimately feels too clinical

Good stuff

Surprisingly practical, will appeal to those wanting something different

Bad stuff

Firm ride, Renaults are all looking a bit samey these days


What is it?

This is the Renault Arkana, an all-new model from the French carmaker that wants a slice of the coupe-SUV pie the likes of Mercedes and BMW have been baking for a while now. But will buyers warm to a pound shop version of a premium lifestyle-oriented offering? Will this analogy stretch any further, or has the pastry been overworked?

Calm down. What are the engine options? 

You get two powertrains to choose from with the Arkana – there’s a 1.3-litre turbo petrol (138bhp) with 12V mild hybrid tech (it has fancy stop/start and offers a weensy boost under acceleration) and a seven-speed dual clutch auto or a 1.6-litre full hybrid (143bhp combined) that has two electric motors and a dog box.

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The latter transmission is a strange thing to find on a hybrid SUV – it’s usually used in racing cars, and does away with such fripperies as the clutch to remove friction and energy losses. It would normally be a rough shifter, best suited to full bore acceleration, but Renault’s trick set-up uses one of the electric motors to smooth those shifts out. Strangely, one of the company’s engineers came up with the idea and persuaded his bosses to sign it off by building a working model out of Lego.

How does the car drive?

The Arkana handles with reasonable alacrity – the front end bites into corners and the car remains flat, but this is at the expense of ride comfort, which is a touch too firm for a nice family SUV, thunking over speed bumps and the like.

The sporty vibe doesn’t extend to sporty acceleration – both cars sit just either side of the 10-second mark on the 0–62mph run, the 1.3 petrol having the edge. The hybrid car is the better choice around town, its 1.2kWh battery enough to propel it along for a decent amount of time in EV mode, maybe even a mile or two if you drive carefully. As is the way with these things, the engine can be noisy and intrusive under heavy load, but the transitions are fairly smooth around town.

But is the Arkana expensive? 

The Arkana has three trim levels – Iconic, S Edition and R.S. Line – which start at around £25k and nudge to just over £30k in top spec. All models get automatic aircon, keyless entry and start, smartphone integration, LED headlights and cruise control as standard, while the entry car’s 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is upgraded to a 9.3-inch number for S Edition cars and above.

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How does it compare with its rivals? 

Renault is obviously trying to create a bit of a niche for itself with all the coupe schtick, but the likes of the Toyota C-HR (from £25k) and Cupra Formentor (from £27k) have more exciting designs and in the Cupra’s case a proper plug-in hybrid option if the eco thing appeals. Even the Citroen C4 (from £20k) does a better job of distinctive character-led design, and that has an all-electric option too. 

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

The Arkana doesn't excel anywhere and ultimately feels too clinical

Without excelling in any particular area, the Arkana ultimately feels like a bit of a clinical focus group-led exercise. There’s no doubt that it will hit the spot for a certain customer who’s not really interested in cars and wants something a little distinctive, but coming from a company that’s been as stylish and challenging in the past as Renault it’s a bit of a disappointment. 

The upcoming electric Megane has done a much better job at straddling the look of cars from different categories, but we should probably at least applaud Renault for trying. There’s none of the quirkiness we’ve seen from the French carmaker in the past, though. 

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