From Russia with Renault.
Best get this beast out the room, sharpish. A mere four years ago, Renault’s international plans were expectantly grand. A car was co-developed, launched and expected to sell in large quantities within the French car maker’s then second largest market, Russia. As part of the Renault Drive the Future plan, Arkana was all set to bolster figures in that region alone by some half a million units. Plants in both the capital and at Togliatti geared up for a 2019 Russian release, with the rest of the world to follow soon after.
Engines specific to the CIS region along with a drivetrain robust enough for typical local road surfaces were prominent Moscow car show features. Let’s hand over to design head honcho, Laurens Van den Acker to fulfil his obligations, then diplomatically move on. “A distinctive coupé-crossover, striking a balance between the elegance of a sedan with a powerful SUV stance. Dialled in specific Renault cues, a strong design, strength, sensuality and a French touch.”
Your correspondent has sighted far more Arkana’s than Astras on Sheffield’s mean streets since its arrival, the Renault offering a pleasing countenance to these commuter grid-locked eyes. According to its maker, Arkana is a C-segment, four and half metre long mass of metal with a 200mm ground clearance. European models are affixed to the CMF-B platform, based upon a 2,720mm wheelbase and standing 1.5M high. Yet such dimensions appear to recede when travelling alongside – the ride height being appreciable – but no aggressive pick-up, this – especially seen in vivid Valencia Orange or personal favourite, Zanzibar Blue. Of course, in the real world most models are black n’ grey, hues regarded as more difficult in the bulk shedding stakes.
After Captur, Clio and Mégane, Renault is pursuing what they term innovative E-Tech Hybrid propulsion with Arkana. This being the age of chip-unobtanium, the car is available as full or mild hybrid. The mild or first level of hybrid assistance can be had with the trip-off-the-tongue TCe 140 EDC. Contained in that equation and bonnet space lies a 1.3-litre petrol engine linked to a battery, harnessing braking energy and producing a combined 140bhp. In turn boosting acceleration along with smooth Start/Stop, Renault openly admit the car is not fully electric but does offer reduced tailpipe emissions.
In their anxiousness to confirm that racing really does improve the breed, they claim the full hybrid “benefits from ten years of F1 experience.” The E-Tech 145 Auto can muster close to 60 mpg along with the attributes mentioned above. However, a comparison with the evolution spec for both available power units, illustrates significant changes can be observed, on paper at least.
Mild produces a solid 260NMs whereas Full peters out at 148. Mild has seven gears, Full one less. This drivetrain does include a B setting for more advanced braking regeneration allowing for what has become known as one-pedal driving. Both ‘gearboxes’ are without mechanical connection. Out the exhaust, Mild pumps out 132 grams of nasties, Full much leaner at 108. Next up, performance figures. The Full hybrid runs out of steam at 107mph. The Mild version however ups the ante by 20mph as well as trouncing the 0-60 dash – 9.8 seconds plays 10.8, respectively.
Both variants tank the sans plomb to the tune of 50 litres hauling different weights around. The Full tips the scales at 1,435Kgs, the Mild a flyweight of 1,336Kgs. Current range names can be found, all in lower case starting with evolution rising to techno and on to rs line with top dog being the E-Tech engineered, trim colour alongside wheel size and style the only discernible difference.
Arkana journeys begin in electric mode and remain propelled this way from anywhere between 43 and 80mph when the internal combustion engine kicks in. Renault believe that up to 80% of journeys grinding through the suburbs will be under these electric auspices. The interior appears a nice enough saddle to be ensconced upon, with faux leather on lower trims leading to sporty red or gold trim and stitching on cowhides should you shell out more. Of control screens there are two but also some suitably robust looking switches.
Billancourt are open about the car’s driving characteristics being dynamic, rather than sporting. Laurent Hurgon, more used to belting around the Nordschliefe or setting up suspensions on more sporting sister, Alpine, appreciates Arkana’s responsible manner and verve. “Comfortable, roomy and great to drive”, he states.
Outside, it’s clear to see the influence exuding from the Captur. The moderately indented rib at the door base attempts, and to some degree succeeds at lightening the visual load. A chrome flourish and/or some colouration to the F1 inspired front wing differentiates trim levels. In a market awash with utilities, Arkana could only ever be French, but not in the sense of a 4 or 16, despite what Renault’s PR brigade might tell you.
A modern attribute worthy of applause? There’s a ruggedness to the package, a broader filled canvas that the smaller cousins can’t quite pull off. The black plastic extrusions found around the wheel arches and rear will doubtlessly fade to a washed out grey in time but by then most customers will have moved on. Will a moderately shabby Arkana blend in better outside the boulangerie, supermarket or golf club? Difficult as yet to tell, but with its front wheel drive along with faux off-road looks, the car offers a calmer nature to the one from whence it came.
Hand on heart, few really need such a large device, but against similarly sized competition, either laden with aggression or stultified by blandness, Arkana delivers looks, practicality, technology and value. Myriad online reviewers clearly think otherwise, describing an average overall effort with a poorer quality interior than price or competition offers.
Oh, but what do they know? Well, more than this ignored Herbert, for sure. That the car exists and offers a little je ne sais quoi suits this author just fine.
My local Renault/ Dacia dealer had a pre-registered 21 plate 1.6 rs line on the forecourt, grey as a November evening falling upon a village. Sunday lunchtime, I strolled into the showroom and made myself known, without reciprocation; three salespeople appeared more engrossed in their mobiles. Prodding and poking around a brand-new E-Tech engineered in the show room consumed a good ten minutes. The car’s interior smelt lovely, and most attributes appeared competent. Though not a fan of the wheels or rear windows – both in black – the seats were comfy, entry and exit a doddle, though I couldn’t open the boot. There was nothing discouraging about Arkana – except being roundly ignored by the staff in the small showroom.
Everyone lost. Okay, your disgruntled correspondent was never jumping ship from Volvo – just a test drive. Some recognition however would have been nice. How beastly.
* Anti-Cyclone Hartmut was the official name given to the 2018 meteorological event, dubbed ‘The Beast from the East’
 Renault’s Russian ambitions having come cropper to what can be termed, ‘events’.
 Still waiting…
 Arkana arrived in the UK with an extensive engine line up – the range now slashed to just two hybrids.
 In Would Like to Play Mode – real world figures predictably lower
 setting the FWD lap record at in a Megane Trophy 275-R at 7:54.36, some 4 seconds faster than previous holder, SEAT. M. Hurgon won’t be repeating the feat in this car.
 But not the more Rubenesque Kadjar which to these eyes looks ungainly
Data Sources: Renaultgroup.com, Renault.co.uk