On the road: The new Renault Arkana
On the road: The new Renault Arkana

Ian Lamming drives Renault’s latest SUV, the Arkana

MANY modern car names are spat randomly from a computer with little input from human or language.

Renault has opted for Latin, with a hint of Indonesian thrown in, if my research has that right, and with its latest SUV is letting us into a “secret”. That’s the derivation of Arkana, apparently, so what’s the mystery?

Well it could be that Arkana helps solve the conundrum of motion without damaging our planet. It’s not full electric but there is a smidgen of perpetual motion involved by linking a lean burning 1.6 petrol engine with two self-charging electric motors.

So no range anxiety to give you sleepless days driving, but, instead, lower levels of ozone-killing CO2 and higher miles per gallon to minimise your carbon footprint.

I love hybrids and until the world sorts out its infrastructure and gives us all charging points at work and at home, oh, and also the means to provide the increased levels of electricity required to charge them, they are the best compromise yet.

In terms of ownership, Arkana is like any other car. There are no cables, no need to find chargers, no requirement to plug-in at all and you still have to visit the fuel pumps. Just fill the large petrol tank and in return the trip computer will offer a very welcome figure – that of 575 miles to empty. That’s because this thing averages close to 60mpg.

Around town, Arkana is more than likely to be running on electric, cutting emissions to nothing and certainly benefitting those children over there walking to school, inhalers at the ready.

When it’s cruising at speed it might also kick over from petrol to electric making cabin noise sublimely quiet and barely sipping the unleaded. When Arkana wants to let rip then the petrol and electric motors work together, the symbiosis resulting in impressive performance, especially in the sportiest of the three driving modes.

It is all very clever, it is all virtually imperceptible, leaving driver and passengers oblivious to what is happening under the skin. Stick the gearshift in ‘B’ rather than ‘D’ and the Arkana increases the level of regeneration and sends even more power back to the hybrid system. It also gives you stronger engine braking and makes the Renault a one pedal drive.

It is a good drive too. Ride, steering, handling and grip all combine to make Arkana a driver’s car. It feels sprightly and sporty but never at the expense of comfort. It is accurate and involving but at the same time cosseting and comfortable, a great blend for the average driver on mixed roads and a boon for those with a long commute.

Its modern lines blend sports saloon with hatchback and then add a soupçon of coupe. So it looks the part but comes with the practical nature, space and capacity for family needs. It’s especially impressive at night thanks to C-shaped running lights and LED headlamps, not to mention eye-catching, sweeping LEDs across the back.

Inside, there is peerless design that caters for all generations. There’s the obligatory touch screen and virtual dash, 4G, Bluetooth infotainment and device ports for the youngsters but the primary controls, such as those for the climate control, are on large meaty knobs that are easily located and a cinch to operate.

The load bay is generous and a good shape and asymmetrically split folding seats makes it even more versatile and capacious.

Up to 14 driver’s aids keep you on the straight and narrow and warn of impending doom should the need require them, while parking is easy with reverse camera, beepy radar gubbins and the hands off self-park gizmo that I always forget to use.

I can’t help thinking that full electric vehicles are on the brink, but the range and infrastructure just isn’t quite there yet. I hummed and hahed about whether to get a BEV but in the end opted for a hybrid to take me safely through the next three years of motoring – and, to share a secret, the Arkana is well worth a serious look.

Fact File

S-Edition E-TECH Hybrid 145 Auto

Engine: 1.6 petrol hybrid

Power: 142HP

0-62mph: 10.8 secs

Top speed: 107mph

Combined MPG: 58.9

Transmission: six-speed automatic

CO2 g/km: 109

Price: £29,800.00