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All-New Renault Austral E-Tech Full-Hybrid is Distinctively Different.

New Renault Austral Full-Hybrid is Distinctively Different.

The all-new Austral E-Tech self-charging hybrid is the latest SUV to join Renault’s passenger car range. The name is built around a harmonious balance of sounds that are easy to pronounce by people all around the world, giving it a truly international feel. Derived from the Latin word ‘australis’, the Austral forms part of the new range of dynamic SUVs developed by Renault, boasting innovative connected technology and providing the pleasure of eco-driving.

New Petrol/Electric Powertrain.

The E-Tech full-hybrid powertrain in the Austral is made up of a new 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with a new electric motor, a lithium-ion battery and a smart multi-modal transmission. This hybrid combination offers 200hp, combined fuel consumption as low as 4.7l/100km on a WLTP combined driving cycle, Co2 emissions of just 105g-110g and a range of up to 1100km on one tank – all without the need to ever plug-in. Drivers can enjoy a powerful start to every journey with the Austral’s innovative automatic electric drive function. Regenerative braking charges the battery as you drive, but drivers can also recover even more energy through four regeneration modes.

Three Trim Levels.

The new Renault Austral E-Tech Hybrid is available in three trim levels – Techno, Techno Esprit Alpine, and Iconic Esprit Alpine. Arising from the historic collaboration between Renault and Alpine design teams, Esprit Alpine versions assert their dynamic character, with standard features such as: 20” black diamond-cut alloy wheels, exclusive matte grey F1 blades at the front, gloss black roof and door mirrors, flush roof bars and distinctive badges. There is also an Alpine touch in the passenger compartment, with Alcantara™ fabric upholstery with blue top-stitching, headrests with exclusive embroidered motifs, and a stylish multi-function steering wheel with red, white and blue stitching, along with aluminium pedals for a sporty look and feel.

Modern, High-End SUV.

The Austral, which measures in at 4.51m in length, can comfortably carry up to five passengers, and it demonstrates Renault’s ambition to conquer the all-important C-segment of the new car market. In order to embrace the hallmarks of the current Renault line-up, the design teams have created a truly modern and refined high-end vehicle. The exterior design is sharp, athletic, and modern with remarkable proportions that make it feel robust as well as agile. In addition, the dynamic lines of the Austral directly reflect Renault’s new design language. The most striking technological features on the Austral are the front and rear lights. The two large C-shape rear lights merge into the car’s logo, and the front design offers similar eye-catching lamps and grille features. The surface of the car uses micro-optic technology made from plexiglass, featuring lines and patterns that are engraved directly into the surface and inside the glass. This means that when the surface is lit by LED lights, the engraved lines shine, creating an identifiable and lively look. The use of modern technology and the desire for excellence has been a common theme in the design of the new Austral.

Extensively Tested.

In the months prior to its official launch, the new Austral undertook a round of tests known as “Confirmation Runs”, in which a fleet of around 100 vehicles travelled 2 million kilometres across France, Spain, Germany, Romania and Ireland. These tests enabled the teams to approve the adjustments made to the new CMF-CD platform and driver assistance systems, as well as sound-proofing and comfort of the suspension system, so that customers can enjoy the best conditions, no matter where they are in the world. The Austral is available in two configurations: standard front-wheel drive in Techno and Techno Esprit Alpine trim variants, and multi-link rear axle with 4CONTROL four-wheel steering in Iconic Esprit Alpine trim.

Ultra-Modern Cabin.

The spacious cabin is dominated by a large portrait display in the middle of the superbly-constructed dashboard, and another landscape-oriented screen behind the steering wheel, as is pretty much the norm these days. The two screens are driven by Google’s automotive technology, which is already in use in the Megane E-Tech Electric, and this results in beautiful graphics, integrated internet tech and an instant response to inputs. The centre console design features a clever and distinctive sliding armrest that incorporates a phone holder with wireless charging functionality, a key holder, a large storage box underneath, and cup holders in front. When you slide the armrest forward you can’t help but get the feeling that you are extending the throttle levers of an aeroplane, and this covers the cupholders, allowing the driver to support their arm against the rest in order to comfortably use the touchscreen. Thankfully, Renault has refrained from putting everything on the touchscreen, so the climate control system employs manual switchgear beneath the display, and the multi-function steering wheel also provides access to some of the important controls. The overall feeling of comfort, durability and practicality within the Austral’s cabin is highly commendable, and the materials used throughout the cabin blend together in a seamless fashion. The back seats slide fore and aft, allowing owners to choose between enhanced rear legroom or maximum boot space. With the rear seatbacks in their upright position, a generous 555-litres of cargo space is available, but this increases to 1,525-litres when the rear seats are folded down.

Test Car.

My Iconic Esprit Alpine test car was finished in Flame Red metallic paint, with a Diamond Black roof and door mirrors. With 4CONTROL four-wheel steering as standard, the car benefits from a turning circle of just 10.1 metres (comparable with that of a city car), and this becomes obvious when driving in and out of parking spaces, or when making a U-turn on a narrow road. At speeds of up to 50km/h, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels to reduce the turning circle, and when driving above 50km/h, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels to improve road handling and safety.

The Multi-Sense button on the steering wheel enables drivers to access 4 driving modes (Sport, Eco, Perso and Comfort) for a unique driving experience. The petrol-electric powertrain delivers 200hp and 205Nm of torque, thereby enabling a 0-100km/h sprint to be completed in just 8.4-seconds, on its way to a top speed of 175km/h (where permitted). The 3-cylinder petrol engine is admirably refined, and it is often hard to determine which power source is being used. Harsh acceleration will result in a slight growl from the engine, but it is quieter than most hybrids in that respect. The Austral’s steering is surprisingly quick to respond to driver inputs, and there is plenty of grip through corners. Due to the lack of an all-wheel drive option at present, the front-wheel drive Austral has limited off-road capability, but with its 180mm ground clearance, it has the potential to wander further off the beaten track than some of its competitors. Driver and passenger safety is taken care of by up to 30 advanced and innovative driver-assistance systems such as: a 360-degree 3D camera, automated parking assist, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic warning, driver fatigue detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and LED Matrix Vision headlights with high-beam assistance.

Verdict, Pricing & Warranty.

The all-new Renault Austral E-Tech Full-Hybrid is a highly commendable mid-size SUV that is significantly more upmarket than the Kadjar it replaces. The hybrid system is smooth and punchy, and it offers drivers the potential for low running costs too. Pricing starts at €45,295 in entry-level Techno trim, with my range-topping test car priced from €52,295. A five-year/150,000km warranty comes as standard, as does a five-year roadside assistance package for worry-free motoring into the future.

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