Renault’s Arkana Hybrid: The Future of South African Driving

  • Stylish Hybrid SUV: The Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid combines SUV practicality with a sleek coupe design, making it a head-turner.
  • Advanced E-Tech Hybrid Powertrain: The Arkana's hybrid system promises reduced emissions, with electric mode for suburban driving, though acceleration can feel sluggish.
  • Price and Future Prospects: Renault plans to introduce the Arkana in South Africa, with the price likely around R700k if the Rand improves.

The South African automotive landscape is evolving, and the future of mobility is electric and hybrid. As we transition towards more sustainable transportation solutions, car manufacturers are stepping up their game to provide vehicles that not only reduce our carbon footprint but also offer a thrilling driving experience. Enter the Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid, a car that combines the best of both worlds – the practicality of an SUV and the sleekness of a coupe. We had the privilege of putting this groundbreaking vehicle to the test at Zwartkops Raceway, and here’s our in-depth review.

Design and Styling

The Arkana immediately captures your attention with its striking presence. Our test cars, one in bold bright red and the other in elegant gunmetal grey, flanked a hybrid Captur model. The Arkana stands out with its impressive ground clearance of 200 mm and an overall length of 4.57 meters. It easily dwarfs the Captur, reaffirming its SUV DNA.

At first glance, you might mistake the Arkana for the Captur due to their similar front ends. However, a closer look reveals the distinctive features that set the Arkana apart. It boasts a larger lower grille and conservatively styled LED headlights, giving it a bold and assertive appearance.

But the true beauty of the Arkana’s design is unveiled when you observe it from a three-quarter angle. This perspective highlights its SUV characteristics, showcasing its capability to conquer rough terrains. The stout front end gracefully leads to a plunging roofline and pronounced haunches, which house stunning 18-inch aluminum wheels. It’s a harmonious blend of power and elegance, a vehicle that commands attention on the road.

Interior

Stepping into the Arkana’s cabin, you’ll find a sense of familiarity if you’ve been in Renault’s Captur. The interior design is not radically different from its sibling, but it doesn’t need to be. The Captur’s cabin layout is already known for its comfort and practicality.

While the interior might not be a showstopper, it offers a comfortable and ergonomic driving environment. The Arkana provides ample space for both the driver and passengers, making it suitable for long journeys. The materials used are of good quality, and the seats are supportive, ensuring a pleasant ride.

The Powertrain

What truly sets the Arkana apart from its competitors is its E-Tech Hybrid powertrain. This cutting-edge system combines a 67 kW 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with a 36 kW “e-engine” and a 15 kW High-Voltage Starter Generator. The result? A combined total power output of approximately 108 kW. But that’s not all; Renault has equipped the Arkana with its multi-mode dog clutch gearbox, which is directly linked to the four-cylinder engine. This gearbox automatically optimizes the operation of the motors and gearbox ratios to achieve optimal fuel consumption levels.

Renault claims that the E-Hybrid system allows the Arkana to operate in electric mode for up to 80% of the time when used in suburban areas. This not only reduces emissions but also significantly cuts down on fuel consumption, potentially saving you money in the long run.

During our test drive at the Zwartkops race track, we couldn’t fully explore the Arkana’s electric capabilities. However, modulating the throttle to maintain “electric power-only” driving was surprisingly easy, thanks to a graphical display that visually represents power flow. It helps the driver understand when the petrol engine kicks in, making it a seamless transition.

Performance

While the Arkana’s powertrain excels in terms of efficiency and sustainability, it may feel a bit sluggish when it comes to acceleration. To coax the 1.9-tonne car to speeds exceeding 120 km/h, you’ll need to press the throttle firmly. However, in regular driving scenarios, the power delivery is linear and adequate for daily commuting needs.

The standout component of the powertrain is undoubtedly the multi-mode dog clutch gearbox. Whether you’re driving aggressively or conservatively, this gearbox delivers smooth gear changes and rarely falters, even when you switch from light inputs to aggressive acceleration. Renault claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.0 L/100 km, but during our extensive test drive, which included 246 laps around the race track, ours rose to 8.5 L/100 km. Keep in mind that this was an endurance challenge focused on fuel consumption, which can be more demanding on the engine.

Price and Future Prospects

The Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid represents the future of hybridized mobility, and Renault is keen on bringing it to the South African market. However, its success hinges on several factors, including the performance of the Rand against other currencies. As of now, if the Arkana were to be introduced immediately, its price tag would likely be in the region of one million Rand, making it a premium choice.

Renault has plans to introduce the Arkana into the local market around the middle of the next year. If this schedule holds and the Rand improves, South African consumers could see the Arkana priced at around R700k. While this is still a substantial investment, it positions the Arkana as an attractive option in the hybrid vehicle market.

Conclusion

The Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid is a glimpse into the future of driving in South Africa. With its innovative hybrid powertrain, it offers the potential for significant fuel savings and reduced emissions. Its striking design combines the practicality of an SUV with the elegance of a coupe, making it a head-turner on the road.

While it may not be the fastest in its class, the Arkana makes up for it with a smooth and responsive multi-mode dog clutch gearbox that ensures a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience.

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