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Renault Austral E-Tech (2023 - )

The Renault Austral is a worthy replacement for the outgoing Kadjar but is competing in an arena that includes very big hitters such as the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai.

Starting price:
£39,495

Why we love it:
  • Strong fuel economy thanks to clever hybrid technology
  • Google-based infotainment set-up works well
  • Engaging performance and handling
Where it could be better:
  • Noise levels increase at higher speeds
  • The display screen is quite distracting with all the power usage readouts
  • You will love or hate the 4-wheel steering

Introduction

Renault Austral E-Tech

The family SUV market is bursting with excellent models vying for customer sales, so it’s difficult to launch an all-new vehicle into the sector.

But that’s exactly what Renault has done with its five-door Austral, which replaces the outgoing Kadjar in the French carmaker’s line-up.

Featuring the company’s excellent E-Tech full hybrid self-charging powertrain, the Austral is available in three generously-equipped trims called techno, techno esprit Alpine and iconic esprit Alpine.

All models are powered by a new 200hp petrol hybrid powertrain with a 400V 1.7kWh lithium-ion battery.

We opted for the Austral in range-topping iconic esprit Alpine specification for our test drive.

Renault Austral E-Tech

The five-door Austral is the first Renault vehicle to be designed on the third-generation CMF-CD platform that was co-developed within the Alliance (alongside Nissan and Mitsubishi). It boasts a muscular design and is very easy on the eye.

Design cues include a distinctive grille, signature C-shaped front and rear LED lights with Matrix LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, flush roof bars, tinted rear windows, a shark fin antenna and 20-inch Daytona alloy wheels.

Moving inside, the interior is ultra-modern with black esprit Alpine carbon fabric and Alcantara upholstery finished in smart blue stitching. There is a leather-wrapped steering wheel which, along with the powered seats, can be heated for added comfort.

The main focal point is the 12-inch infotainment display with Google Maps, Assistant and Play Store as standard. A smartphone can seamlessly be connected via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and there is a 12-3-inch driver information display flanked by smart upright air vents, along with a 9.3-inch head-up display where all the vital driving data is clearly shown.

Additional creature comforts include a pitch perfect Harmon Kardon sound system, wireless smartphone charger, two front and two rear USB-C ports, a 360-degree around view 3D camera, automatic dual-zone air conditioning and plenty more besides.

There is a separate panel for the climate control settings and many features can also be controlled via the multi-function steering wheel or voice assistant.

Everything is perfectly positioned for ease of use, although the power usage displays were a little annoying as they were flashing in the driver eyeline. That said, there is a clever feature that shows how close you are to the vehicle ahead in seconds and with colour-coded warnings – red is too close, amber is okay-ish and green is perfect.

On The Road

Renault Austral E-Tech

Handling & Performance

While the front-wheel drive Austral carries the E-TECH badging it, is a self-charging hybrid rather than a fully electrified vehicle such as the Megane E-TECH. Powering the car is a three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 200hp of power and 205Nm of torque. This is paired to two electric motors and the car can complete the 0-62mph sprint in an impressive 8.4 seconds and has a top speed of 108mph.

It certainly feels quick out the starting blocks and the acceleration via the automatic transmission is both smooth and responsive with a constant stream of power on tap.

The car sets off under electric power with the turbocharged petrol engine kicking in when needed. This happens smoothly and is a seamless process.

The Austral is balanced on challenging B roads and nicely composed on motorways where the three-pot engine delivers ample oomph. There are drive modes called Comfort, Eco, Sport and Perso to change the dynamics, along with steering wheel-mounted paddles that can be used to increase or decrease the level of regenerative braking.

Our range-topping Austral featured four-wheel steering called 4Control which becomes more apparent in busy town centre driving as it reduces the turning circle from 11.4 to 10.1 metres. This improves manoeuvrability and, as a result, parking is made easier. 

The suspension feels quite firm so expect to feel the full force of any unexpected pothole and another slight disappointment was the elevated noise levels from the door mirrors as soon as you hit 50mph.

Renault Austral E-Tech

Space & Practicality

The Renault Austral is an attractive family SUV that has a strong road presence. It stretches 4,510mm in length, is 2,083mm wide (including mirrors) and 1,644mm tall.

The cabin is bright and airy with light flooding through the sunroof, and there is plenty of space for two tall adults up front. The powered seats and ample steering wheel adjustment make it simple to find a comfortable driving position and driver visibility is good.

In the back, the seats can slide back and forth and there is enough space for three adults, albeit it at a bit of a squeeze. Alternatively, two adults or three youngsters would sit comfortably on longer journeys with no complaints.

With a fixed rear bench, the boot, which is accessed via a powered tailgate, can swallow 430 litres of luggage. Our test car had a sliding rear bench so the capacity was higher at up to 555 litres. With the split-folding rear seats folded flat the limit increases to a very practical 1,455 litres.

In addition, there are a number of handy storage options throughout the cabin, including a glovebox, deep door pockets, seat back nets, an overhead sunglasses holder, front and rear cup holders, some trays and a hidden compartment next to the driver’s door. There is also a wireless charging pad and four USB-C ports to keep devices connected on the move.

Ownership

Renault Austral E-Tech

Running Costs

The Renault Austral line-up costs from £34,695 for the techno version, increasing to £36,695 for the techno esprit Alpine and £39,495 for the iconic esprit Alpine, as tested. Our car also featured metallic paint that bumped the cost up to £40,945.

Under WLTP testing, the Austral E-Tech can deliver a combined 57.7mpg which is impressive and has carbon emissions of 110g/km. This CO2 output would result in a first-year road tax bill of £175 dropping to the standard fee for hybrids of £170 after the first 12 months.

But there is another factor to consider because the cost of the car (with options) tops the £40k mark. That means it falls into the government’s premium car category and is subject to a levy of £390 for five years starting from year two. That’s why it’s so important to weigh up exactly what optional extras you really need.

The car, as tested, sits in insurance group 23.

Verdict

Renault Austral E-Tech

The Renault Austral is a worthy replacement for the outgoing Kadjar but is competing in an arena that includes very big hitters such as the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai.

In the main, it’s a well-rounded car that ticks most of the boxes for a family SUV. Admittedly, it’s not the most exhilarating model out there when it comes to handling, but most customers will be looking at the Austral for its styling, on-board tech, practicality and excellent fuel economy.

And with families in mind, safety is of paramount importance. Renault has this area covered as the Austral features more than 30 advanced driver assistance systems that helped it secure a maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAPO safety rating.

By Maxine Ashford
Feb 23, 2024

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