Renault Arkana Fastback E-Tech Hybrid Bose Edition 1.6 (A) Review - A Segment Of Its Own

David Foo
23 Dec 2021

Renault Arkana Fastback E-Tech Hybrid Bose Edition 1.6 (A) Review - A Segment Of Its Own

For this reason, the Arkana trumps any CVT hybrid in terms of acceleration dynamics, and is infinitely more pleasant to put power through to, due to the absence of any rubberbanding.

Everybody seems to love a coupe or a fastback these days - to the extent that automakers have responded by applying those beautiful and sloping rooflines to just about anything they can get their hands on. In one of the more current car styling trends, even SUVs have started taking on coupe styling cues, with cars like the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and the BMW X4 leading this charge. The beauty of this styling trend is a subjective one - but one thing is for certain. These cars tend to come at a premium over their more conventionally shaped counterparts with less flamboyantly styled behinds. It is therefore refreshing that the Renault Arkana, the French automaker’s latest ground-up hybrid SUV, is built as a fastback, but doesn’t come with an eye-watering price tag. On that basis alone, the Arkana makes a compelling case for itself by being the most affordable continental coupe SUV consumers can buy today, and in doing so, the Arkana has carved out a nice little niche of its own, without any real or direct competitors. 


With the exception of the Kadjar, I feel that Renaults have always looked better from the back than the front, but the Arkana bucks this trend - it looks just as stylish from the front as it does from the back. It features the same distinctive rear headlamp pattern found on the megane sedan from before, and sports an equally distinctive set of claw-shaped LED headlamps up front (not to be confused with claw-marked headlamps - as seen on Peugeots). The general form of the car is bulbous, and from certain angles it can look a little too beetle-ish, but the rounded form of the car tapers down toward the bottom. When viewed directly from the front or the back, the Arkana’s stance feels study and planted, thanks to a fairly imposing set of step-up rails lining the door panels and a sort of front splitter, which help give the car some visual girth that takes the edge off the general roundedness of the car. Is the Arkana convincingly styled as a coupe SUV? Probably, but the sentiment isn’t resounding. There are moments where you wonder if the Arkana is just a bulbous looking SUV, or if it is indeed a coupe SUV. However, a quick glance at the C-pillars and the sloping roofline should instantly address any doubt of that. 

Although the Arkana is continental, and is a coupe SUV, it is also affordable (if you disregard the amount that the COE spike has added to cars across the board). This means that there were always going to be compromises in certain aspects of the interior to accommodate other more pricey elements. I’m glad that Renault has decided to allocate those resources toward a full digital driver’s display, which provides massive impact to the interior of the car. In today’s market, a full digital driver’s display can’t really be considered a point of parity yet, and should therefore still go some way in presenting a sense of good value - an important factor for a car like the Arkana. The digital driver’s display is clear, and the layout is clean, simple, and futuristic, which ties nicely into the character of a proper hybrid like the Arkana. I do wish the display was made just a smidge bigger though, as the current display does feel a little bit petite compared to the overall form of the dashboard. 

For a car that was newly designed hybrid from the ground-up, as opposed to a retrofitted hybrid, I was quite surprised that the rest of the interior wasn’t more deliberately styled to be in character with the car. The dashboard and centre console aren't objectively bad-looking, and are still unique and quite clearly continental, but the general feel of the cabin isn’t quite as futuristic or contemporary as one might expect to see from a ground-up hybrid. In that regard, the cabin does not really feel like it keeps in character with the rest of the car. The portrait styled infotainment unit does look the tiniest bit dated in my opinion, and I would have preferred a more contemporary or minimalist style for the Arkana - for example, the floating console from the Captur would have been a nice inclusion. That said, consumers buying the Arkana will be after its exterior styling and will probably not be too fussed about what goes on behind closed doors. 

Usability is good and proper in the Arkana though, and the infotainment unit does an adequate job of displaying information, and is easy enough to use. I particularly like that you can customise the tabs and icons on your infotainment unit, much like widgets on an Android phone. Buttons and controls were also pleasant to the touch, and the piano-key style buttons between the infotainment unit and the air-conditioning controls were ergonomically placed at the right height for the driver, and were easy to spot, identify, and press. Another nifty design feature that I particularly enjoyed was the audio control stick behind the steering wheel, which was nicely placed behind the 4 o’clock mark of the steering wheel, where my hands would naturally be in a leisure driving situation. It doesn’t exactly improve the user experience from having traditional buttons on the steering wheel - but because the control stick is hidden from the view of passengers, i did rather enjoy tricking my 4 year old into thinking that I could change the track and adjust the volume without touching any controls (I told her I was doing it with my mind).


Let’s start off by saying that buying a coupe style SUV for its practicality probably isn’t wise nor is it likely - and with that, let’s also say that the Arkana is a bit of a mixed bag here. In terms of quantitative practicality, the Arkana exceeds expectations, and has a competitive 480L of cargo space, which is super easily accessed through its fastback, ergo, liftback opening, and has a nice squarish shape, along with an adjustable boot floor that has the ability to neutralise any sort of loading lip. The use of run-flats as standard also means that there is no space-saver below the boot floor, which also means that you can get an additional bit or storage under the actual boot floor. 

Thanks to a 2,720mm wheelbase, the Arkana offers a competitive amount of legroom for its segment, and the rear air-conditioning vent cuts inward as it tapers toward the floor, which means that normal sized rear passengers who need to pass their foot through the middle actually have a chance do so naturally like a normal human being, as opposed to a contortionist from Cirque Du Soleil. It’s not a remarkable feature by any measure, and if you have size 12 feet, this difference won’t matter much to you, but it's nice to know that somebody thought of it. 

On the flip side, the Arkana does pose a few ergonomic challenges when it comes to the less tangible aspects of its user experience. For example, the side step rail on the car is at its thickest where you’d normally try and get out of the car, which makes the motion of doing so rather awkward and unnatural. Step past the rails, and you’d have splayed your legs a little too widely to be dignified if you’re a lady wearing a dress or skirt. Step naturally, and your calves are sure to touch the side of the step rail, potentially leaving a mark if you’ve been driving through dirtier or wet conditions. The only real way to avoid this dilemma is to actually step on the rails to get in and out of the car, which works, but will require some practice and could be tricky if you are wearing heels or if you are athletically challenged and cannot balance very well. 

The Drive

Hybrids have always been known to accelerate well, and the Arkana keeps to that trend. Moving off the line, the Arkana feels swift and effortless, and feels much quicker than its advertised 0-100km/h time of 10.8 seconds. Renault has fitted a dog box transmission on the Arkana, which is supposedly a form of trickle down technology from Renault’s F1 team, and does not fall under any of the usual transmission categories that we are used to. In essence though, the dog box is a clutchless automatic transmission, and under heavier acceleration, the electrical whirring of the motors combined quite nicely with the engine note of the ICE, providing a pleasing and positive acceleration dynamic where the engine revs seemed to match the engine pull of the car. For this reason, the Arkana trumps any CVT hybrid in terms of acceleration dynamics, and is infinitely more pleasant to put power through to, due to the absence of any rubberbanding. Weirdly though, the transmission seems to hold onto the revs for a tad too long after acceleration, which does create a little bit of unnecessary droning. From my test drive, I’ve deduced that the dog box works well if you are either driving in a manner that is decidedly leisurely, or decidedly aggressive. Mixing both in quick succession tends to send the dog box into a state of limbo where it isn’t really primed properly for acceleration, or it holds its revs for too long after acceleration. The dog box as a transmission is still relatively new in terms of its use in the mass market, and I’m not certain if this characteristic is inherent to the transmission, or if it's simply an issue of programming and configuration - but every transmission has its own set of pros and cons, and overall, I think the transmission works well for this car. I wasn’t able to get a definitive economy reading on the car, but Renault says the Arkana should do around 20km/l, which seems about right. 

Around the bends, the Arkana handles itself with poise, and for a tall car, sits very level when chucked into a corner with very little body roll. This is in part due to the fact that the suspension setup is on the firm side, which bodes well for handling - but comfort does suffer slightly as a result. The car sits pretty firm and level across the road surface, but you do feel the little bumps along the way. The Bose edition test car that we had on hand was equipped with 18 inch run-flats, which may not have done the car any favours, but swap these out of regular 18 inch wheels and you should gain 30% - 40% more comfort for day-to-day use. With the lighter tires, you might also expect to see a slight performance gain as regular tires are quite a bit lighter than run-flats. 

Our Thoughts

There are some who might question if Renault’s brand standing in Singapore differentiates it enough from Japanese offerings for it to count as a true continental ownership experience. Personally, I think it does. Simply put, the car feels continental to drive, by virtue of two very continental traits - Positive acceleration dynamics and positive handling dynamics. Unlike Japanese rides, the absence of a CVT means that the Arkana accelerates purposefully without the pointless droning, and the firmness of the suspension means that the Arkana sits level through corners. The car isn’t necessarily perfect, but I do get the impression that the car’s designers have put a lot of thought into packing as much value into the Arkana as possible, and in doing so, have created a fairly niche segment for the car. Objectively speaking, if you want a continental ownership experience, coupe SUV exterior styling, a proper hybrid drivetrain, and an affordable price tag all at once, you might be hard pressed to even find another option other than the Arkana, let alone a better one at the same price.


In Summary

We Like

Positive acceleration dynamics & pleasant engine note. Practical for a coupe-styled SUV.

We Don't

Some minor ergonomic flaws. Dog box transmission is pleasant when revving up, but could be tuned to handle downshifts a little better.


Overall, the Arkana is a comprehensively packaged product that offers consumers a little bit of the best things we like in cars. It's continental, it's a hybrid (and therefore fuel efficient), it's an SUV with coupe-styling, and it's relatively affordable. A strong marketing push for this car might just see it pull some customers away from Japanese and Korean offerings.

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