Renault Austral hybrid test: the new best enemy of the Peugeot 3008!

Renault Austral hybrid test: the new best enemy of the Peugeot 3008!

Austral: reboot required

We are not going to beat around the bush, the Kadjar (2015) did not have the success expected by Renault. Aside from the second-generation Peugeot 3008 that took center stage in 2016, the diamond family SUV wasn’t flawless, especially in terms of on-board presentation. So at Renault, we decided to draw a line under the past and roll up our sleeves from scratch. To mark this break, what better than to change, in addition to the technical platform, the name? If some will regret that it does not show enough on the side of the body with a design close to the current Renault, for the rest, the Austral turns the page and it does not lack good arguments to seduce.

A Peugeot 3008 effect on board…

Interior of the new Renault Austral.
Interior of the new Renault Austral.©Renault

Love at first sight when the door opens: this is one of the great strengths that contributed to the success of the Peugeot 3008. If Renault has not gone as far as its tricolor rival in the layout of the dashboard of its Austral with a steering wheel that is certainly square but not miniaturized, your SUV should still cause the expected “wow” effect. In fact, the Austral adopts the “Open-R” dashboard inaugurated by the recent electric Mégane that seduces both for its modernity and for its simplicity of use with a totally Google interface.

Combining two digital screens “in L” of generous dimensions (12.3 inches for the counter and 9 or 12″ depending on the finish for the central touch screen), the set is original without neglecting ergonomics with the maintenance of real buttons as for the air conditioning controls. Another good point, you can count on an effective voice command to not take your eyes off the road. In short, as soon as it is installed on board, the Austral stands out against many competitors whose driving positions seem to come out of the same mold because of how similar they are. Another reason for satisfaction, the presentation of the whole is careful both in materials and in assemblies. (especially with our high-end Iconic Esprit Alpine tester clad in Alcantara), confirming that the lessons of the Kadjar flop have been learned.

practical mind

If SUVs have decimated the MPV category, not so many have robbed it of its sense of cunning. In fact, together with the Citroën C5 Aircross or the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Austral is an exception in the category with its sliding rear seat. If unfortunately it is not supplied as standard, the latter, which can be divided into two parts (2/3-1/3), slides 16 cm to improve the comfort of the rear passengers (also quite comfortable) or increase the volume of the trunk. Note that the size of the latter (from 430 minimum to 575 dm3 with the forward sliding seat, according to Renault) is not the same depending on the engine.

Your best asset: being a hybrid!

The Renault Austral is firm on the road in the Esprit Alpine finish.
The Renault Austral is firm on the road in the Esprit Alpine finish.©Renault

Certainly the absence of diesel will annoy the big rollers, but the Austral puts the package on the hybrid. Not only micro, technology at least exploited by some to make “genre” but also full-hybrid that often allows it to run on electricity and that already brings the good days of its little brother Arkana and its Asian rivals Toyota Rav4 and Hyundai Tucson to the head. . At the moment wireless, the E-Tech technology used is unprecedented here. Indeed, instead of the naturally aspirated 1.6 of the Clio E-Tech, Renault inaugurates a brand new 1.2 turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine associated with two electric motors, one for traction and another that notably fulfills the function of generator. Result, two versions of 160 or 200 channels are proposed as here in the test. Tonic and sober with an average consumption of 7.3 l/100 km during our journey (to check with our measurements), the Austral E-Tech 200 CV is immediately positioned as one of the most recommended hybrid SUVs.

At the wheel we find everything that makes the charm of this type of engine with a system that works perfectly and is silent in the city where electric driving is very common thanks to a battery that recharges quickly. Plus, we quickly get into the game of refueling electricity as quickly as possible while increasing engine braking feel by playing with regenerative braking via paddles on the steering wheel. The only drawback is that if the atypical gearbox used is soft most of the time, it is not perfect in two cases. The first is taking some light bumps that betray hesitation in sustained driving. The second is that it is slow to downshift and that this can get in the way when overtaking, a defect that, according to Renault, must be corrected by means of an update… which we will surely check.

The Esprit Alpine trim wheels go up to 20 inches.
The Esprit Alpine trim wheels go up to 20 inches.©Renault

Magic steering on the rear wheels

Renault didn’t invent rear-wheel steering technology, but it hasn’t stopped having it on its top-of-the-line models since the Laguna (2008). Here we find this technology in an advanced form called 4Control Advanced. Now capable of turning the front wheels in opposition by up to 5° (3.5 forward), they transform the Austral into a ballerina with incredible agility on winding roads while also being useful in everyday life. In fact, the rear steered wheels allow the turning radius to be reduced to 10.1 m, which is enough to make slots a joy. Thus equipped, the Austral is immediately placed among the most exciting SUVs to drive but… impossible to say that it is a reference. Indeed, in addition to this equipment being optional (€1,800) and reserved for high-end hybrid finishes and engines, it is associated with a specific multi-link rear axle. We will have to check if without these artifices, the Austral is also pleasant…

Finally, on the comfort side, note that our top-end tester with 20-inch wheels was not soft but “firmly bearable.” Consistent for a finish with a sporty connotation but not necessarily the best choice for fragile backs.

If obviously we are not going to say that the Austral is not expensive, Renault has nevertheless decided to decline the range with an attractive price/equipment ratio and that you can find in detail here. What helps to completely forget about the failure of Kadjar and attract customers in droves? The future will tell…

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