Renault calls the Arkana its “no-compromise, new generation SUV coupé”, and while my instinct is to flee from such grandiose claims, the company is at least half right.
We live in the age of the higher-riding crossover SUV, and even people keen on something with more stylistic panache are taking this path – at the obvious expense of cabin space.
Renault itself suggests the Arkana might be cross-shopped against things like the Audi Q3 Sportback, which strikes us as a little ambitious but does reveal the company’s intent.
It certainly turns heads with its great stance, characterful front and rear light signatures, nicely sculpted and creased bonnet, and in-vogue fastback-style side profile
Beyond the standout design, one of the Arkana’s more interesting aspects is its point of origin.
The badge may be French, but it’s built in Busan, South Korea, just like the bigger and more practical Koleos. That helps the company’s bottom line, and also assists with sourcing.
While the bulk of the Arkana range launched in August 2021, the flagship R.S. Line emerged here in March 2022. This version taps into the company’s Renault Sport DNA, but mostly from a stylistic rather than performance-enhancing point of view.
2022 Renault Arkana pricing:
- Arkana Zen: $35,800
- Arkana Intens: $39,800
- Arkana R.S. Line: $43,300
Prices exclude on-road costs
According to the Renault Australia website, an Arkana R.S. Line costs $48,000 drive-away.
To put this into a little context, there are smaller offerings such as the high-grade Honda HR-V e:HEV L ($47,000 drive-away), Toyota C-HR GR Sport (around $42,200 drive-away), and Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina (around $47,400 drive-away).
Another crossover that’s more or less the same length as the 4568mm-long Arkana is the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, available in top-of-the-range Exceed guise at $42,690 drive-away. A final, left-field choice is the recently-launched GWM Haval H6 GT at $46,490 drive-away.
So long as you have the brand-signature keycard in your pocket, the Arkana both unlocks as you approach and locks as you walk away, and folds/unfolds the side mirrors – it’s the little things sometimes…
The interior looks great, offering up a perforated leather wheel with tasteful stitch-work, alloy pedals, faux carbon-fibre trim inlays on door and dash, soft-touch leathery material and suede used across the door cars and well-bolstered seats, and racy red piping and stitching.
Behind the wheel sits a digital cluster with analogue-look speedo and tacho, and various menus in between them to cycle through covering driver-assist features, audio functions, and navigation instructions. It also changes its look depending on the driving mode selected.
Renault being Renault, the audio controls are mounted on a fixed stalk with buttons on the right-hand side of the steering column. Once you familiarise yourself it’s quite an intuitive system, but you need to turn the wheel to see what you’re doing at first.
The 9.3-inch centre touchscreen has a portrait orientation and sits nicely at eye level. The software could do with faster processing on startup, but the user experience is quite simple to work out, relying on homescreen tiles.
While I tended to rely on (the almost full-screen integration) Apple CarPlay, there’s embedded navigation as well, which sends directional prompts to the instruments.
I thought the rear-view camera could be sharper though, especially considering how hard the Arkana is to see out of.
Renault is to be commended for retaining physical controls for the air-conditioning system – including some tasteful knurled metallic rotary controllers – and for other functions such as seat heating, park assist, and the lane-assist on/off function.
Ahead of the nice leather-wrapped shifter is an open storage cubby with a charger pad and USB-A ports, while behind it sits a slot for the key card, the park brake and Auto Hold switches and two cupholders with coffee-cup-friendly teeth.
The centre console is smallish but covered by a sliding lid, and the door bins can handle a 1.5-litre bottle. Don’t expect to stuff much in that glovebox.
Side note: we’d love to see the Renault Captur’s floating-style centre console fitted here in the longer but related Arkana, but oh well.
While SUVs are renowned for their interior space, the Arkana is a victim of its sporty roofline.
Granted I’m tall, at 194cm, but the headroom and outward visibility through the side windows isn’t flash – especially with the R.S. Line’s sunroof.
On the upside, there are rear vents and USBs, and knee room is somewhat more acceptable. Yet this is not the SUV to buy if back-seat use-ability is paramount.
The manual roof-hinged hatch reveals a boot with 485 litres of storage space, expanding to 1268L with the back seats folded down. The loading floor has two levels, meaning there’s underfloor storage in its higher position. Below this is a space-saver spare wheel.
Renault Arkana dimensions:
- Length: 4568mm
- Width: 2034mm (incl. mirrors)
- Height: 1571mm
- Wheelbase: 2720mm
- Boot space: 485L-1268L
A Euro 6-compliant 1.3-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol with 115kW of power and 262Nm of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and front-wheel drive.
The engine is fine to use 91 RON fuel, with Renault claiming a combined-cycle economy figure of 6.0 litres per 100km.
The official zero to 100km/h time 9.1 seconds, which isn’t exactly hot-hatch-quick. This is an R.S. Line rather than a full-on R.S. after all.
The R.S. Line is largely an appearance package, given the engine is unchanged.
The 1.3-litre offers all of its torque from 2250rpm, so it belies the small displacement by offering some low-down pulling power.
In terms of performance it won’t blow your head off – even in so-called Sports mode – but it pulls along well enough and you have paddle shifters to take over if you want to give the 6500rpm redline a nudge.
That said, the Arkana also weighs about 130kg more than a Renault Captur R.S. Line with the same engine, and as such does the 0-100km/h dash about half a second slower.
Against the 9.1s factory claim, we recorded a real-world time of 9.3 seconds. More usefully, our 80-120km/h overtaking test took 6.7 seconds.
Where the drivetrain falls down is the transmission. The dual-clutch unit saves on fuel, but it also feels lurchy at low speeds in stop/start driving, and lacks a Volkswagen DSG’s polish and rapid-shifting ability at faster pace.
Small, laggy turbo engines are tricky to tune with a DCT, and Renault needs to make some tweaks come facelift time.
In terms of fuel consumption, I did nearly 500km of mixed driving and yielded 7.2L/100km, 1.2L/100km north of the factory claim.
The Arkana is pretty simple beneath the skin. It uses MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a torsion beam axle at the rear, has an electric power steering system with quoted 11.2m turning circle, and 280mm brake rotors up front with 260mm rotors at the rear.
Yet, the chassis enables pretty respectable handling and the steering while light is reasonably direct.
Granted there’s some body roll in corners (the traction control lights up in very aggressive cornering as a result), and it feels the extra weight over the Captur, but it’s far from the least engaging crossover on sale.
I didn’t personally mind the driving position, but my colleague Paul Maric found it tough to get situated.
One inarguable point is the outward visibility, which is limited on account of the racy roofline and small rear and side windows.
The wheels are 18 inches in diameter and ride on middling 215/55 Kumho tyres, which could be quieter on coarse-chip roads (71.6dB at 100km/h, compared to 61.3dB on smooth tarmac).
The ride quality on its passive dampers is inoffensive, rarely brittle or crashy over expansion joints and potholes. I did a few long trips to the country and didn’t get out sore or irritable.
Arkana R.S. Line highlights:
- 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels
- 215/55 R18 Kumho tyres
- Space-saver spare wheel
- LED headlights and daytime running lights
- Dusk sensors, auto high-beam
- LED tail-light bar
- Proximity key with auto unlock
- Walk-away auto locking feature
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Auto-folding side mirrors
- Privacy glass
- 9.3-inch vertical touchscreen
- Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- 4 x USB ports
- Wireless phone charger
- 10.25-inch TFT instrument cluster
- Button start function
- Electric parking brake
- Frameless, auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- LED interior lighting
- Heated, ventilated and powered front seats
- Black leather and suede seat trim
- Heated leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Climate control with air purifier
- Paddle shifters
- Alloy sports pedals
The Arkana has a five-star ANCAP crash rating with 2019 date stamp, based on tests of the related Captur.
It scored 96 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupants, 75 per cent for vulnerable road users, and 72 per cent for safety assist features.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian and Cyclist detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane departure alert
- Traffic sign recognition
- Adaptive cruise control with stop&go
- Speed limiter function
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Park assist
- Rear camera, front and rear sensors
- 6 airbags
- 2 ISOFIX child-seat anchors, 3 top tethers
That’s a good list of driver-assist features.
Renault really wants people to remember that (supposedly) French cars don’t need to be a nightmare to maintain.
Its five year ‘Easy Life’ ownership plan packages a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, 24/7 roadside assist (so long as you service at a dealer), and five capped-price services.
Servicing intervals are a long 12 months or 30,000km, with the first five visits price at $399, $399, $399, $789, and $399.
The main reason to buy the Renault Arkana over its Captur stablemate comes down to its design – so if you aren’t sold on the looks, think carefully.
There are areas that could do with improvement, but the Renault Arkana R.S. Line still offers a respectable point of difference from most of its rivals.
A tasteful and well-equipped interior, decent (if not rapid) performance, and the fact it shouldn’t break the bank to maintain are all highlights.
If you’re interested to know more about this left-field contender, be sure to watch our detailed video embedded above.
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