The new Austral is Renault admitting it did not put much thought into the Kadjar, its predecessor. This time though, they really got it right.
Another week another SUV hits the market. At least it’s not 100% electric. No, I am not going into another rant against the electric car. Instead, I am going to explain why this car, the hybrid Renault Austral, makes perfect sense and you would be crazy to go for a pure electric option instead.
First of all, range: almost 900km if you drive it in a calm and smooth manner. 800km if you drive it caring not one jot about it. Really. I swear. I drove the Australe around for almost a week and after 100km or so I started noticing the range was still above 700km.
Driving a lot of cars with different capacities and power figures gives you a kind of mental note of how any given car should perform. And some, not many I have to say, surprise you either for the worse or for the better. Because I was hoping the Austral to be ‘just’ another SUV in an overcrowded sea of lookalikes, I didn’t pay much attention to the specs or the way the car performed at first.
In my mind I was going to do my job on the last day, before giving the car back to Renault. Check the range, do a few corners faster than usual, see how it behaved at different driving situations and all the other small things that allow me to make the correct assessment of the car. Hard work but someone has to do it.
However, I confess that right after picking the car up there was something inherently right about it. But I let it slide. “You are just distracted by the good-looking Alcantara on the cabin” – I said to myself. I do like Alcantara. Anyway, after running a few errands and just using the car like a ‘normal’ person, I noticed that range thing.
“That is incredible! – I once again told myself. Henceforth, I started paying attention to the Austral in the way it deserved. And it just ridicules electric cars. Here is a 200 horse power petrol-hybrid whose integration between propulsion systems is one of the very best I have ever tested. It uses the batteries in a very clever way and maximises their potential to the fullest, offering unbelievable consumption figures in the low ’fives’. For a car that is, well, not small.
This new model sits on the latest CMF-CD platform and uses a brand-new small, turbocharged engine (more on that in a moment). It also makes use of Renault’s 4Control four-wheel steering system, the latest Android Automotive software and in this Alpine branded version, it shows some aesthetic sportiness that marries the Alpine blue with leather and Alcantara in such a way that it could have easily come off as a bit tacky, but it just doesn’t. It works.
The self-charging hybrid powertrain is built around a small three-cylinder 1.2 petrol engine and produces 200 horse power (160 hp is also an option but why would you?). Renault say this system is an E-Tech Full Hybrid and, although that is the marketing department talking, like I said, the results are incredible and the 4.6 litres per 100 km the brand homologated for the car are not that unrealistic.
Inside, comfort is ever present and quality comes up a notch (or ten) compared to the Kadjar. The dashboard holds two 12.0-inch screens, one in landscape orientation behind the wheel for driver information and a portrait infotainment touchscreen in the centre. Space abounds for all passengers.
The Austral rides very well and has an impressive turning circle, making urban maneuvering easier than usual for such a big, tall car. It really makes a difference.
The French constructor offers up to 32 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems in the Austral, including head-up display, 360-degree cameras, adaptive LED headlights, hands-free parking, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors…you name it, the Austral has it.
This Iconic Esprit Alpine version adds a few goodies too. Heated seats with massage function for the driver, 3D taillights, electric tailgate and a very useful 360-degree parking camera.
All in all the Austral is not just another run of the mill medium-sized SUV like its predecessor, the Kadjar, clearly was. Even Renault know it, or they wouldn’t have labelled the Austral the car to re-conquest the C-segment. The Kadjar simply wasn’t good enough and the Austral feels like two generations ahead – at least.
The cherry on top is that it isn’t that expensive for what it offers. With prices starting at €33.000 (okay, admittedly not for the Full Hybrid versions, which start at €40.000), the Austral holds excellent value for money and I just don’t see it being outdated in three or four years. In fact, I believe buyers will feel even happier with their purchase as time goes on and the automotive industry starts waking up to this non-sensical approach to sustainability where we all must drive electric vehicles. The excellent hybrid system in the Austral proves that theory wrong I am afraid.
A good surprise from Renault this one.