- Impressive handling
- Good infotainment system
- Decent sized boot
- Poor rear headroom
- Lacklustre engines
- Limited visibility
Many people want a sophisticated coupe with the high-driving position of an SUV. So why not combine them both?
It turns out that the concept has proven extremely popular. And more and more manufacturers are now jumping on the bandwagon.
The Arkana is based on an extended Clio platform - the same used for another of its SUVs, the Captur.
There are two powertrains. The turbocharged petrol TCe 140 is a mild hybrid. It comprises a 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, producing 140PS, combined with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
The alternative is the pricier E-Tech hybrid 145 Auto. It’s a self-charging hybrid made up of a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol that combines with an electric motor to produce 142PS.
Both powertrains are available with all three trims.
At entry-level, there’s Iconic, which features 17-inch diamond-cut alloys, automatic headlights and rain sensitive front wipers. It also boasts a rear-view camera and a seven-inch touchscreen on the infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. In addition, there’s keyless entry and start, USB ports, an electronic parking brake, electric windows, electric de-icing and a synthetic leather steering wheel. This grade only comes with cloth seats, though.
S Edition upgrades the alloys to 18-inches, while the infotainment screen increases to 9.3-inches. In addition, this trim level includes half synthetic-leather upholstery. At the same time, it also adds adaptive cruise control and blind-spot warning, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and a speed limiter.
Top-of-the-range is RS Line, which adds black leather and suede upholstery with red stitching, heated front seats and hands-free parking. The driver and passenger seats are electronic, too, while you get some exterior design touches, as well as red highlights in various places. This grade also comes with aluminium sports pedals, a leather steering wheel and half-leather, half imitation-suede seats.
On The Road
The lower-spec engine accelerates well from a standing start. This is undoubtedly assisted by the small electric motor, which also helps cut fuel bills.
It’s nothing special, though. And, once you’re up to about 40mph, accelerating towards 70mph feels a little restrained. It takes 9.8-seconds to get up to 62mph from stationary, which is slower than most rivals.
In the E-Tech 145, despite the full-hybrid E-Tech 145 having a much bigger electric motor, it’s even more sluggish, taking 10.8-seconds to get up to 62mph.
The gearboxes are different with each engine. But both are well refined, while the crossover from all-electric power to engine power is also smooth.
Overall, you couldn’t call the Arkana performance-focused, and the range seems best suited to lower speeds. The engines tend to scream a bit when you demand a lot of power by burying the throttle.
Pottering around town at low speeds is a strong point of both powertrains. But the Arkana feels in no hurry to get moving when you want to go more quickly.
The ride is relatively firm. But, despite this, the Renault deals with lumps and bumps in the road well. It doesn’t bounce much, though. As a result, the thud from potholes generates quite a loud noise.
It’s not uncomfortable, but other rivals are better set up to carry passengers on longer journeys.
The firmer suspension arrangement means the handling is impressive, though.
The Arkana grips corners well, with body roll minimised, giving you the confidence to take bends at a brisk pace. It's not exactly sporty, but it's undoubtedly more driver-focused than some rivals.
Renaults often have divisive looks. Unfortunately, the Arkana does little to change that, although nobody can accuse the French manufacturer of being boring.
The model’s front is somewhat rounded, although there is a fraction of sportiness with a lower grille broken up by diagonal lines, creating aggressive air intakes at either side. The day-running lights sprout out from the headlights in a serif.
The roofline curves downwards towards the rear at the sides, while the doors have a sporty, curved crease just above the side skirts.
The back is more sculpted than rounded, with LEDs spanning the width of the boot through the Renault badge in the middle.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
The Arkana’s interior looks quite sharp.
A tablet sits on the dashboard, while the gear lever sits on a pedestal raised from the rest of the centre console.
The dashboard has a sculpted shape making its way between the air vents, while the steering wheel has silver décor to break up the darker colours of the interior.
You’ll find lots of soft-touch, plush materials, although it would be a step too far to call the Arkana luxurious.
There’s a digital instrument display behind the wheel, which is 4.2-inches with the TCe 140 engine and seven inches on the E-Tech 145 hybrid. Thankfully, physical climate controls are retained, sitting behind the gear lever and beneath the infotainment screen.
The larger 9.3-inch touchscreen is preferable (the entry-level Iconic trim gets a smaller seven-inch screen). It’s an impressive system that is clear and responsive.
The visibility out of the front isn’t the best as the pillars are quite large, while the sloping roofline limits your view out of the rear window, too.
Space & Practicality
There’s a fair amount of space in the front seats and plenty of travel in the seating and steering wheel adjustment. Therefore, finding a comfortable driving position is easy.
Headroom is just about okay, but taller passengers will struggle in the back. This is due to the aggressive slope in the roofline, although a decent amount of legroom helps matters.
There is plenty of storage space on offer, too. There are generously sized door bins; there's a decent amount of room in the centre console and space to put your phone between the gear lever and the dashboard.
The TCe 140 has 513-litres of space in the boot, expanding to 1,296-litres with the rear seats down in a 60/40 arrangement. But this capacity reduces to 480-litres (extending to 1,263-litres) in the E-Tech 145 due to batteries underneath the boot floor.
Nevertheless, even the reduced figure of the E-Tech 145 is enough to put it above its rivals for boot capacity. For instance, the Cupra Formentor, Toyota CH-R and Citroen C4 offer less space.
The TCe 140 achieves a claimed 49.6mpg, producing 130g/km CO2.
This isn’t as good as the E-Tech 145, though. Nevertheless, it claims fuel economy figures of 58.9mpg, emitting just 108g/km CO2, which will undoubtedly make it the powertrain of choice for company car owners.
The Arkana is competitively priced, too, coming in significantly cheaper than the Toyota C-HR. That said, Citroen offers an all-electric version of the C4, while there’s a plug-in hybrid variant of the Cupra Formentor.
Renault will sell you a two-year, 20,000-mile servicing plan for £349, while a three-year, 30,000-mile one costs £499, and a four-year, 40,000-mile plan costs £749.
Quality & Reliability
All Arkanas come with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. This might seal the deal if you’re worried about after-market maintenance costs.
The French automaker’s generous guarantee will come as a relief, too, as Renault hasn’t done that well in recent reliability surveys.
Nevertheless, the interior quality feels good, and the attention to detail is impressive. We hope that translates into the build quality of the car itself.
Safety & Security
The Arkana was tested in 2019 by Euro NCAP (it's new to the UK, but it's been available in other countries for a couple of years now).
It was awarded a full five-star safety rating, scoring 96% for adults, 83% for children and 74% for safety assists.
If you are looking at other cars, then it’s worth noting that safety testing standards were beefed up significantly in 2020. So, a crash rating from 2019 is not necessarily comparable.
The Arkana offers automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning.
The Renault also has safety distance warning included as standard on all trims, but S Edition and RS Line get rear cross-traffic warning and blind-spot monitoring, too.
The Renault Arkana is a good competitor in an increasingly busy marketplace.
It doesn’t set the world alight, but it’s economical and reasonably priced. The French car also handles well, has a nice interior and comes with a lot of decent safety kit.
On the downside, the sloping roofline limits rear visibility and compromises headroom in the back.
The RS Line trim isn’t worth the extra money. Effectively, you’re paying a lot more for not a vast amount more. We recommend the mid-range S Edition, as you get a bigger infotainment screen and plenty of extra safety features.
The engines are much of a muchness, though company car owners will likely choose the full hybrid for its lower CO2 emissions.
Whether you like or loathe the looks, Renault’s Arkana has got a lot to offer. The car provides a decent driving experience and, as far as the aesthetics are concerned, bags of personality.