Renault Austral: Comfortable and spacious

The rebirth of the French group, proclaimed by the managing director Luca di Meo, begins in small steps. One of these is the Kadjar successor named Austral. It comes with four hybrid drive variants, a comfortable chassis and optional all-wheel steering.

Revolutions are often accompanied by name changes, as in this case: Kadjar becomes Austral, the artificial two-syllable word becomes the Latin word for “southern”. It should sound more emotional and authentic, and the name is internationally understandable and easy to pronounce. Fans of well-curated alliteration should also be pleased that Kadjar’s successor can share the first letter with model sister Arkana. Despite very similar proportions, the Austral is based on the larger CMD-CD platform it shares with the Nissan Qashqai.


Enough with the preamble, get in the car. The top version E-Tech Full Hybrid 200 (starting at 40,400 euros) is available for a first sniff, the other mild hybrid engine variants will be delivered later, they say. The top version alone is pretty cool. A 131 hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder works together with two electric motors, which together generate 50 kW (68 hp). This is how the power of the 147 kW or 200 hp system comes together. So Renault makes its own way when it comes to power transmission: the so-called multimode transmission is also used here. One could probably write full theses in mechanical engineering on its function and subtleties, so just this one here: it offers a total of 15 gear ratios, which result from two gears for the electric drives and four gears for the combustion engine . The transmission does not require a clutch because the vehicle is always electrically operated. And it doesn’t need any synchronization for gear changes, because the starter generator (the smaller of the two electric motors) uses 400-volt technology to set the right flywheel and sprocket speeds to lightning speed. The whole is packed compactly like a spur gear with the electric drive machine and starter generator. Electricity is stored in a 1.7 kWh lithium-ion battery.


The three-cylinder retains acoustically

But how does the new unit drive? Largely inconspicuous, hence the impression on the first kilometers. The three-cylinder is acoustically restrained, the engagement and disengagement of the combustion engine is very smooth, as is the change of gear ratios, similar to other Renault units with multimode transmission. In addition, the unit locks well on the gas, gets a little more emphatic and louder when switching to sports mode, but the exaggerated sportiness is not for it. The driving process cannot be influenced manually, the gear lever offers the usual driving phases D and B (maximum automatic recovery) and the recovery can also be adjusted in four phases using the two paddles on the steering wheel.



One of the peculiarities of the Renault engine is that it allows both serial and parallel hybrid operation. Five driving modes are available, ranging from pure electric driving through various combinations of electric and combustion motor to pure recovery mode. The best thing is that the occupants hardly notice it at all. Even the howl of the high-load gasoline engine, so evident in some other hybrid systems, is only recorded here in a very weak form. Only when things get hectic and the accelerator pedal is pressed firmly does the transmission get tangled briefly before it has properly ordered its cylindrical gear ratios, including the three engines, and continues smoothly. So it fits. Although the promised 200hp isn’t exactly the exuberant variety.


All steering wheels on board

Another novelty in the Austral is the further developed all-wheel steering. The rear wheels can now steer in opposite directions up to five degrees, which gives the Austral an almost unrivaled small turning radius of 10.1 meters. With a car just 4.5 meters long this may not be the top priority, but the 4Control Advanced (1,500 euros more, only for the most sophisticated equipment) can do more: from 50 km / h the rear wheels can, depending on driving conditions and mode, steer up to a maximum of one degree with the front wheels, which is beneficial for agility and driving stability. The Austral seems willing to take corners even when driving fast, steers cleanly, understeers little and remains very stable. Safe driving behavior was not acquired by excessively tight tuning of the suspension elements – quite the contrary. The Austral shows itself to be flexible, skilfully digesting even coarser suggestions and does not even allow the desire for adaptive chassis elements to be born.


Renault

The turning radius of the Renault Austral is only 10.1 meters.

Chic cockpit

Well-being is also the order of the day in the very high quality furnished interiors. Everywhere the effort to achieve a high quality of workmanship and material is recognizable, so Austral makes a very tidy impression at first sight. The space looks lush, the rear seat can be folded in two parts and moved 16 centimeters, so the new Renault is also suitable as a family SUV. Operation is essentially the same as the Elektro-Mégane. 0.07 square meters of screen extends in front of the front occupants, but there are also a few hotkeys that can be used to quickly request frequently used functions.


The massive handle on the center console, modeled on the thrust levers of airplanes, causes some irritation. It is not used in any way to activate the gearshift functions, but only to open and close the glove box and as a palm rest when you touch the big screen. The shift lever is hidden on the steering column between the wiper lever and the volume control.



What else is there to say about Austral? It is equipped with 32 different driver assistance systems, some of which are standard on board, LED units light up in the front and rear and the price list starts at 29,900 euros (Mild Hybrid 140). So it can definitely be something with the revolution in Renault.


poll

Very well done. It embodies the desire to travel and is therefore a good match for an SUV.

failed. How do you pronounce it, with or without the “s”?



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Conclusion

With a smooth ride, a comfortable and agile chassis, reserved prices and good space, the new Renault satisfies the first test drive. We are already awaiting the first comparative tests with the competition of compact SUVs.

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