It’s no secret that Renault has been suffering for several years domination of rival Peugeot in the compact SUV segment. Fun to drive, practical, always very modern, the Peugeot 3008 crushed the competition. Facing him, the Kadjar did not lead off… So to raise the bar, he changed his name, and his ambition. Here is the Renault Austral: more statutory but still consensual look, great technological upheaval, only hybrid engines, the Losange bets big. For what success? First element of answer in our test, in video:
And we will say it right away, the prices requested are up to the stated ambitions. With 44 900 € as the starting price for our hybride 200 ch in the highest finish Iconic Esprit Alpine, our test model even exceeds €51,000 including options. A sum, which remains however at the height of the competitor 3008. But beware, at this price, the level of requirement is necessarily high.
Fortunately, the Renault Austral does more than just defend itself inside. We are immediately marked by the double “L” screen (12 and 12.3 inches for the screens), directly taken from the recent Mégane E-Tech. These screens are not only of excellent craftsmanship, but also perfectly intuitive and well thought out in use, thanks to the collaboration with Google (Android system). Each function is in its place, the GPS is managed directly by Google Maps, and everything is very responsive. One of the very best systems on the market.
Unlike the Mégane, this large slab is supplemented here by a head-up display. Well done, it does not include as much information as some competitors (no detailed map for example), but is very clear.
A technological content more than at the level therefore. And elsewhere, this good impression continues. The level of finish is quite flattering, especially in this Alpine Spirit finish which multiplies the winks (sometimes a little supported) to the Dieppe manufacturer (topstitching, logos, Alcantara, etc.). The furniture is rather well thought out and practical, and the assemblies are almost flawless. Hard plastics are limited to the lower parts.
At the back, we find this same flattering level of finish. To this, the Austral adds a reclining and sliding bench seat of 16 cm. The habitability, in remote mode, is also among the best in the segment. As for the trunk, it loses a little in volume on this full-hybrid version, with 430 L announced by Renault. This value can rise to 555 L if you push the bench seat forward as far as possible. Correct.
For the time being, this test therefore plays in favor of the Renault Austral, to which we do not find no big flaw in terms of life on board. But the results are a little more mixed on the road. Indeed, surprise: the amortization is relatively firm. Not prohibitive, but surprising from a Renault, a brand that is usually more comfortable. We feel that the Diamond, stung by the dynamism of the 3008, has tried to move on the ground of the Peugeot. But difficult to beat the latter at its own game. In dynamic driving, if the Austral remains very homogeneous, we don’t have the enthusiasm for Sochaux. On the other hand, the optional 4Control rear steering wheels make it possible to obtain very direct direction and a bend incisor inscription. And if the operation of the system is too confusing for you, good news: you can adjust the intensity on several levels, unique on the market.
Whatever your setting, the 4Control remains a strong ally in town. With a turn of up to 5° of the rear wheels, maneuverability is impressive : Renault announces a better turning circle than a Clio IV, although much smaller. Always in town, the engine-gearbox assembly is very soft, quiet, and thrifty since most of the time you drive electric alone.
This new generation of the E-Tech system, unique to the Renault group, still combines combustion and electricity via a claw gearbox and without a clutch. The atmospheric four-cylinder of the first version is here replaced by the 1.2 TCe 130 hp, three cylinder well known to the group. Everything is therefore very soft in the majority of cases, and with a very convincing operating silence. But the system breaks down when you put too much pressure on it. In the event of recovery or a “cannon” start, the 200 hp are not all on call. Firstly because, under 35 km/h, impossible to combine electric and thermal, even in sports mode. You therefore only have less than 100 hp to tow the more than 1,500 kg of the Austral. Sufficient in absolute terms, but disappointing on reading the technical data sheet and the price requested: even if it means paying for 200 hp, we would like to have access to it on request… In the event of a dry recovery, another problem: the box hesitates, and takes time to downshift. Renault assures us that it is only a question here ofa calibration problem on our pre-series versions, but for lack of anything better, it’s hard not to fault the whole thing.
The consumption chapter will therefore be a judge of the peace. Renault announces 4.6 L/100 km, which seems very optimistic to us. During our certainly mountainous test, it was difficult to go below the 7 L/100 km mark. A figure which would remain correct on the whole for a 200 hp, but which make the sacrifices made in dynamism sometimes difficult to understand. To be confirmed therefore when passing through the hands of the Lab Auto Plus. However, let’s qualify our criticisms: in town and in wiser use, this engine is quite convincing.
What results for this first test of the Renault Austral? The SUV has serious arguments to assert. Its technological content is, for the time being, the best in the segment, semi-autonomous driving and rear-wheel steering included. On a daily basis, if we put aside the firmness of the damping, the Austral is a good companion. But in dynamic driving, it is somewhat disunited, betrayed by an engine-gearbox unit not quite developed when it is pushed to its limits. This leaves the way open to the other engines of the model: in particular, the 160 hp micro-hybrid could be the winning compromise. See you in a few weeks to take stock, with the measures of Labo Auto Plus as a justice of the peace.
Read also :
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Version : E-Tech full hybrid 200 ch
Finish: Iconic Alpine Spirit
Prix : 44 900 €
Price with options: €51,750
CO2 : 104 g/km
Malus : 0 €
Dimensions and weight:
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