We tested the new Renault Austral E-Tech 2023, is it really a premium SUV?

The Renault Austral it is a key car for Renault. This compact SUV is going to compete with such heavyweights as the Hyundai Tucson or the Peugeot 3008, and it is also the car on which the future of the Renault Spain factory in Palencia depends, where it is manufactured for all of Europe. In this test we are going to tell you All you need to know about the new Renault Austral, especially if you are evaluating your purchase. Also, let’s check if Renault’s premium swerve What we have already seen in the electric Renault Megane is also noticeable in the new Renault Austral, and therefore, if its price increase is justified.

How is the Renault Austral positioned?

The Renault Austral is the replacement for the Renault Kadjar. A compact SUV that went unnoticed commercially, perhaps because of the tremendous popularity of its twin brother, the second-generation Nissan Qashqai. The Austral also shares the CMF-C platform and some of its technologies with the Nissan Qashqai, but differs from the Japanese with totally different hybrid mechanics and a theoretically more premium positioning. And we say theoretically because the prices of the Austral are almost identical to those of the Nissan Qashqai.

The new Renault Austral measures 4.51 meters and has a refined design, inheriting a multitude of aesthetic winks from the electric Renault Megane, for example in its headlights or the shape of its grille. All in all, it is a more traditional car, and although it is elegant and has a certain sporty touch, especially in the Esprit Alpine version we are testingdoes not risk excessively in search of gaining the favor of the majority of the public.

A strategy perhaps different from that of its Korean rivals, with a very striking design, seeking a great impact on their potential customers, even if it is at the cost of alienating part of the public.

This is the interior of the Renault Austral

From the outset, the interior of the Renault Austral strongly reminds us of the electric Megane. And that’s great news, since it uses the same infotainment system and digital instrumentation. The steering wheel is also identical. We may like it more or less, but what is certain is that feels light years away from its predecessor’s interior, and in my opinion, even more refined than the interior of the Renault Megane. By definition, a premium vehicle must feel above the average for the segment, and therefore, we are going to judge its qualities with a high level of demand.

It retains physical controls for air conditioning and in the automatic versions, it has a curious mobile handrest in the center console.

Soft plastic is present at the top of the front doors and over the dashboard. In this Esprit Alpine version we have suede leather with blue stitching on the dashboard and door trims. Hard plastics are present on the underside of the dash and feature a great fit. Only the glove compartment leaves me with a bittersweet taste, too “plastic” and the rear doors, which abandon soft plastic for hard plastic, with a focus on cost adjustment that does not quite match its premium aspirations.

However, I have to admit that the perceived quality is really good. It is well above the average for the segment and it does fit with the theoretical repositioning of the brand. The Renault Austral is a very technological car. The instrumentation is digital, it has 12.3 inches and has very good visibility, as well as a powerful brightness. It has great customization possibilities, with several views in which we can even project the cartography of Google Maps, a detail that only some Volvos allow.

The seats are spacious, with many adjustment possibilities, and very comfortable. One of the strong points of the cabin.

The infotainment system screen is 12 inches and is vertically oriented. It works with Android Automotive OS and integrates a latest generation Snapdragon processor. It works very smoothly, which is especially noticeable when swiping the map or changing functions, and it presents all the information in a very logical way. The OpenR system is at a high level and is identical to that of the electric Renault Megane. Going to the rear seats, we find a stool in 40/60 configuration, sliding in 16 cmand with reclining backrest.

The space available in the side seats is very good, although the central seat is slightly narrow for an adult. We have no objection to these seats or their levels, which are the average for the segment. The trunk cubic 430 liters in hybrid versions – due to the relocation of the 12-volt battery to the trunk, the high-voltage battery is under the front seats – and 500 liters in the mild-hybrid versions. Moving the rear seats forward we can get up to 75 additional liters of volume.

There are aerators and charging sockets for the rear seats, but no individual climate control.

The mouth of the trunk is wide, is fully lined in plastic, and is at a very good height from the ground. In this aspect, it is impeccable. There is little jump between the loading mouth and the loading surface. In the mild-hybrid versions we can place the loading floor at two heights, but in the tested E-Tech hybrid version it is not possible.

At the wheel of the Renault Austral

The version that we are testing of the Renault Austral is the hybrid E-Tech version, a priori the most interesting. This full-hybrid version is available in powers of 160 and 200 hp, based on the difference in the power of the heat engine. Now, before going into analyzing its behavior, we have to explain how this hybrid mechanic works. Interestingly, it has nothing to do with the Nissan Qashqai e-Power that we tested a few months ago. The E-Tech Hybrid system of the Renault Austral is a full-hybrid system.

In the rest of the Renault with an E-Tech hybrid engine, the thermal engine is a four-cylinder atmospheric engine.

combine a thermal engine of 1.2 liters and 131 CV of power, a three-cylinder turbocharged Miller cycle engine, with two electric motors, 68 hp and 34 hp, and a gearbox. The 68 hp electric motor is the only one in charge of propelling the vehicle, and it is in charge of putting it in motion. This is because the gearbox no clutch or synchronizers. And that is why the 34 hp electric motor is necessary: ​​it is responsible for adjusting the revolutions of the thermal engine to five different developments, five gears, in addition to acting as an energy generator during braking and deceleration.

The last ingredient is a 2 kWh capacity battery, located under the front seats, which acts as an energy reserve and intermediary between the rest of the systems. The result of all this is 200 horsepower, a 0 to 100 km/h time of 8.4 seconds and an average WLTP consumption of 4.5 l/100 km. The E-Tech system of the Renault Austral is an evolution of the E-Tech present in the Renault Clio or Renault Arkana, but replacing the naturally aspirated engine with a turbo engine and adding one more gear to the set.

It can drive in electric mode at speeds of up to 80 km/h and even higher, with little charge and in favorable conditions.

Electric propulsion is very present in the operation of the hybrid Austral. Although the electric motor has only 68 hp, the thrust is strong in electric mode and the combustion engine starts up only when it is strictly necessary. The hybrid system feels very similar to a conventional car, in terms of acceleration and progression. The existence of gears prevents that feeling of constant slipping that we have in hybrids such as those of Toyota or Nissan.

But on the other hand, the existence of gears causes interruptions in the delivery of power and in specific circumstances, an operation not as refined as expected. I have noticed this when we are overtaking a vehicle and need more power, or trying to drive sporty. Under these circumstances, the system has difficulty choosing the proper gear and may hesitate. In conventional circumstances it is difficult to fault the system, which is not only very fluid and efficient, but also powerful and agile.

The three-cylinder engine is somewhat noisy and vibrates a little more than expected in specific high-demand conditions.

As for the driving feel, we are talking about an SUV with a family profile. It maintains a good balance between comfort and transversal stability, but if we look for the tickles on a twisty section, we will find them. It has not seemed to us that it stands out in isolation, but it does in comfort for passage on bumpy surfaces, even in versions with 20-inch wheels like the one we have tested. It is not a problem in family use, but its direction does not transmit anything to us about what happens under the wheels, it is very filtered.

The last point I want to address is the presence of a four wheel steering system in the Renault Austral. It’s called 4Control Advanced and it allows the rear wheels to turn up to 5 degrees at speeds of up to 50 km/h, shortening the turning radius to 10.1 metres. At higher speeds, they turn about one degree in the direction of the front wheels, ‘virtually’ increasing the wheelbase and increasing the car’s longitudinal stability. This system is optional, it is not standard.

The real consumption of this vehicle is very low. It is one of its main strengths.

There is no all-wheel drive in the Renault Australbut a traction control adapted to different surfaces, selected depending on the driving mode.

How much does the Renault Austral cost?

On November 1, the Renault Austral officially begins to be sold and Spain, where we manufacture it, will be the first country to receive it. Their prices start at 30,900 euros for an Equilibre access version, with the 140 hp 1.3 Mild Hybrid engine, also available in a 160 hp version. If we look for a hybrid version we will have to pay at least 39,600 euros. The version that we have tested, top of the range, with the Iconic Esprit Alpine finish and the 200 hp hybrid engine, is priced at 43,600 euros.

Renault’s commercial launch offer presents us with a hybrid version in a Techno finish, well equipped, with multi-option financing for 299 euros per month.

In a nutshell

The Renault Austral is a tremendous leap forward with respect to the Kadjar. After having tried it, we feel that it is a refined car, built with care, with one of the best infotainment equipment on the market and very interesting hybrid mechanics. And yes, a great leap forward in positioning is perceived. It is not perfect, but we can say that it is a product above the market averagebut this leap forward is at the cost of creating a more exclusive and more expensive product, and therefore, more exclusive.

However, this is a transition product between internal combustion and electrification. Today the Austral lacks a plug-in or EV version: if we want a 100% electric compact SUV we will have to wait for the future electric Scénic. And since perfection does not exist, we have to tell you that we miss the Austral both with all-wheel drive systems and diesel mechanics, something that almost all of its rivals can boast of.

About Alicia Peters

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