2022 Renault Arkana: Modern day mystery machine
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2022 Renault Arkana
First questions first: the name. The derivation is from the Latin arcanum, meaning ‘secrets’, and there's a presumption this is Renault striving to establish Arkana as being all a bit mysterious.
If that’s on strength of its shape, it’s a bit of a crock, monsieur. Coupe crossovers aren’t prolific, but others are on the streetscape. Arkana’s in a club established by the larger scale BMW X6 and Mercedes Benz GLE and GLC coupes, also involving the BMW X4, a virtual dead-ringer for dimension. Which isn't a bad thing, of course.
More solid arcanum comes from Arkana being built alongside the one-size-up Koleos, by Renault-Samsung, of Busan, South Korea (aka, the Samsung XM3 In its homeland); and this is a Mark 2. The first Arkana was only sold in Russia. By coincidence, the plant’s handover to Moscow for, erm, ‘political reasons’ occurred on day of this first drive.
Korean-built Renaults are fine, BTW. Arkana is pure Renault in engineering and design and presentation-wise is more genuinely French than Koleos. An occasional dashboard creak aside, the car I drove was world-class standard.
A supply line from the top of the Pacific makes for higher certainty of supply. A myriad of coronavirus-linked issues and war in Ukraine is why intent to achieve a smaller-still France-sourced crossover, Captur, has gone askew, right when the budget Duster and the Zoe have left local inventory.
Arkana pitches to those keen to move away from small cars and into the SUV space, aren’t sure about making the full switch and also want something a bit flairful.
Local choice initially spans familiar Zen and Intens trim levels, with a sportier-looking R.S. Line and a hybrid coming.
The petrol pure variants run a 1.3-litre turbocharged 115kW/262Nm four-cylinder, front-drive through a seven-speed dual-clutch.
Only Zen and Intens have so far been priced, at $39,990 and $44,990 respectively, with the focus expected to be on the higher spec model, being better loaded for the spend.
The car’s design cuts a dash – the slash of LED illumination across the rear is a neat touch – and a run around Queen Charlotte Drive between Havelock and Picton enforced this drivetrain and platform have been engineered for perky playfulness.
Sure, it’s a dilution of sportiness; 0-100km/h in 9.1 seconds is reasonable rather than remarkable. Yet the CMF-B platform, shared with Clio and Captur, is good bones; suspension feel is European, the engine energetic and transmission snappy.
With Intens there are drive modes that discernibly alter drivetrain and steering characteristics.
Unsurprisingly, Sport mode is for free spirits, emphatically sharpening throttle response and allowing the engine to rev out freely. Perhaps a bit too much in urban driving, but perfect for winding roads.
Eco lends best chance of achieving the cited 6.1lll/100km, but it’s a bit dull, so if you need to tone down, better to hit the default, MySense, which is simply Renault-speak for normal driving settings with options to customise steering and the digital dash.
The cabin’s cosy with four adults aboard. Rear knee space is limited and tight headroom is an unavoidable with this roof line. Design creativity to maximise the interior space is very good; it has an impressively deep glovebox and all sorts of cubbies. The boot's big 485 litres expands to 1268l with the second row folded, and there’s a recess under the floor in which to hide stuff.
Renault-isms include an ability to control indicator volume plus a neat recess for the credit card-style key which offers auto unlocking/locking.
Standard equipment includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leatherette upholstery, LED headlights, 17-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, climate control, and front, side and rear parking sensors.
The Intens upshifts to a 9.3-inch central touchscreen, with an inbuilt satellite navigation that evidenced some intriguing destination offerings during our drive… Google Maps or Waze is a good back-up. Other Intens(ities) include a 7.0-inch driver display, 18-inch alloys, leather and suede upholstery, rear cross-traffic alert, electric front seats with heating and ventilation and a heated steering wheel.
Active safety aids include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind-spot monitoring, traffic-sign recognition and park assist.
Arkana arrives with a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It scored highly in adult and child occupant protection, did well in vulnerable road user protection and decently for safety assist systems.
Volume predictions are not being shared, but Arkana is patently important. Renault has decided to pretty much forego traditional hatches and sedans, in favour making SUVs and crossovers.
What role then, for Austral (Latin for of the south), a larger elevated five-door that might replace Koleos?
Austral shares underpinnings with the new Nissan Qashqai and latest Mitsubishi Outlander, is only mild hybrid and could sit comfortably alongside the more intensely electric Megane E-Tech, also on the local wish list.
For now, Arkana is a stylish, economical and all-around capable SUV that should give Renault some extra credibility and customers.