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Car Review

Renault Rafale review

£37,955 - £52,140
Published: 05 Jun 2024


What is it like on the inside?

It’s a plush place to be, make no mistake. Fellow Frenchies Peugeot have recently upped their interior game and Renault hasn’t been left lagging. Plonk a French car sceptic in here for five minutes and you might just shatter any outdated stereotypes.

Gear selection moves to a column-mounted stalk which initially looks clumsy but neatly clears up centre console space, with a large, aircraft-inspired handle that does nothing more than shift the wireless charging pad cover fore and aft to reveal cupholders or a cubbyhole. But hey, it’s kinda fun. But while it could feel like an allusion to the origins of the Rafale name – a record-breaking plane from the 1930s – it’s also present in the Austral. Oh.

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While you can latch up an iPhone for Apple CarPlay, Renault has gone big on in-built Google operation. Which means you get the pleasure of a Google Maps display on the driver’s instrument panel as well as on a large (and pinch-zoomable!) display on the big central screen. It’s preferable to most – if not all – carmaker’s native navs. And you can use ‘Okay Google’ voice controls for many interior functions.

Screens dominate, I guess?

Of course, but Renault’s not forgotten good ol’ buttons. Not only does the climate control operate through a small piano of switches beneath the large central touchscreen, but the button to loosen (or fully switch off) the active safety systems sits neatly by the wheel. The pains at which this is pointed out on our launch event suggests even Renault, the previous lord of the NCAP safety ratings, knows what a tizz an overbearing lane assist system can send you into. Leave the systems switched on, though, and you get a decent stab at level two driving assist that will take the strain out of long journeys for many.

The screens themselves are sharp and luscious – Renault’s really spent the money here – and even the chintzy ‘welcome’ display is kinda fun. Its sound has been composed by legendary French keyboardist Jean-Michel Jarre and it goes rather nicely with the Tricolore contrast stitching of fancier trim lines. Renault may be trying to snare sales from the Germans, but it’s happy to indulge us in a few national tropes. Fun points too for the natty blue felt in the door bins that brings to mind the carpets of an old Clio Williams.

All the major interaction points are nicely appointed, the seats are supportive and the ambience is lifted further with the use of recycled Alcantara, slate and cork trims. Gone are the days of throwing leather at a car and proclaiming it ‘luxury’.

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Is it big inside?

Boot volume is decent; 535 litres with the rear seats up, extending to 647 if you’ve forgone a spare wheel and wish to store things under the floor. Flip the seats and this extends to 1,709 litres (the PHEV will be about 100 litres down owing to a 22kWh battery underneath its floor). Rear visibility isn’t vast, as per the SUV coupe norm, but all trim levels have copious aids to mitigate this – top Rafales getting 360-degree vision and self-parking tech.

Adults below six foot will luxuriate in the rear, and if you opt for the fancy ‘AmpliSky’ sunroof you’ll have them transfixed too. Plusher trims also bring a central rear armrest that incorporates bottle holders and smartphone/tablet holders and charging, though it does feel a little wobbly to us and is perhaps best suited to a shorter lease deal if your kids are especially boisterous. Speaking of which…

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