Renault’s new Austral E-Tech full hybrid is a bold and chunky SUV aimed at busy families on the move. The five-seater replaces the previous Kadjar and is a rival to the Peugeot 3008, Skoda Kodiaq, Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Qashqai.
‘Full hybrid’ (or ‘self-charging hybrid’) means it has a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and two electric motors which together deliver 200 hp via a ‘smart’ gearbox.
When not directly driving the wheels, the engine can act as a range-extending generator to power the 2kWh battery and main motor.
So the Austral can drive seamlessly between: all-electric; dynamic hybrid (engine and electric motor working together); E-drive (electric motor moving the wheels and the petrol engine charging the battery); petrol engine only drive and/or charging the battery; and regenerating (where the wheels charge the battery).
There are three trim levels. Prices are from £34,695 for the entry level Techno trim with 19-inch wheels and eight-speaker stereo. In between is Techno Esprit.
Hybrid reimagined: The Austral E-Tech can operate in many driving modes
I drove the top-range Iconic Esprit Alpine full hybrid 200p model riding on 20 -inch Daytona alloy wheels, priced at £39,495 with a panoramic glass roof, wireless phone charging, Harman Kardon stereo and ‘4Control’ four-wheel rear-axle steering. This allows the Austral to turn on a sixpence.
It accelerates from rest to 62 mph in 8.4 seconds up to 108 mph. Claimed economy is 57.7 mpg with lowish CO2 emissions of 110g/m.
Love it or loathe it, a built-in ‘eco nanny’, monitors your driving and gives you coaching tips to drive more efficiently and cheaply — as well as helping the environment.
Officially it’s called an eco score. It even gives you a percentage score by rating your acceleration, deceleration and anticipation, and tells you how many miles you have driven in pure EV mode. But it might also irritate you and drive you slowly mad.
Renault reckons that in urban driving the car can drive on zero-emissions electric mode alone for up to 80 per cent of the time.
It accelerates from rest to 62 mph in 8.4 seconds up to 108 mph
Inside, an industrial sized handle up front allows the centre console hand-rest to slide back and forth
Renault reckons that in urban driving the car can drive on zero-emissions electric mode alone for up to 80 per cent of the time
The three rear bench seats – also 60:40 split rear folding – can also slide back and forth to increase leg-room at the cost of space in the boot
Inside, an industrial sized handle up front allows the centre console hand-rest to slide back and forth, and the three rear bench seats – also 60:40 split rear folding – can also slide back and forth to increase leg-room at the cost of space in the boot.
The main driving modes are colour co-ordinated – with the dashboard and surrounding trim lines changing shade accordingly. So ‘comfort’ – a surprisingly good default setting – is blue; ‘eco’ is green; and ‘sport’ a racier red to accompany the car tensing up its muscles for a sportier ride. There’s also normal, and a bespoke set-up option called ‘perso’.
Overall it’s a well-stocked package including: flush-roof bars; LED lights; rear tinted windows; an air purifier; electric adjustable and heated front driver and passenger seats with lumbar support.
The relatively large 9.3 inch head-up display – in addition to the 12.3-inch driver information display and 12-inch multi-media screen – is a really handy and practical addition.
There are up to 30 advanced driver assistance systems including: front and rear active emergency brake assist; autonomous level 2 adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, lane centering, and ‘hands-off’ detection; blind spot and lane-departure warning.
Will it fit in my garage? Renault Austral E-Tech
Trim level tested: Iconic Esprit Alpine Type: full hybrid Price as driven: £41,395 (£39,495 plus £1,900 metallic paint) Range price: from £34,695 (for entry level Techno trim)
Length: 4,510mm Width (mirrors folded): 1,843mm Width (mirrors unfolded): 2,083mm Total height (with roof bars and antenna): 1,644mm Height with tailgate open: 2,100mm Wheelbase: 2,667mm Drivetrain: 1.2 litre, 3-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine plus two electric motors Total power: 200horse-power Wheels: 20-inch Daytona alloy wheels
Driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Perso (for personlised)
Three trim levels: Techno, Techno Esprit Alpine ,Iconic Esprit Alpine.
Boot volume (with fixed rear bench): 430 litres Boot volume (with sliding rear bench): up to 555 litres Maximum boot volume (with rear bench folded): up to 1,455 litres
Five standard colours: Arctic white, diamond black, flame red, iron blue and shadow grey.
New option: matte shadow grey colour (on esprit Alpine versions)
Kit includes: panoramic glass roof; wireless phone charging; 360-degree camera; upgraded Harman Kardon stereo system
Tight turning aid: ‘4Control’ 4-wheel rear-axle steering – allows rear wheels turn in opposite direction Turning circle: 10.1 metres
Power modes: All-electric (only the electric motor drives the wheels); Dynamic hybrid (combustion engine and electric motor combine to drive wheels); E-drive (electric motor drives wheels, combustion engine charges battery); ICE (only the internal combustion engine – ‘ICE’- drives the wheels and/or charges the battery); Regenerating (wheels drive electric motor to charge the battery)
Price key barrier to buying electric car
More than six in ten (62 per cent) customers say price is the key barrier to buying an electric car, a poll by Britain’s car dealers has revealed.
But four in ten (42 per cent) would buy one because of lower running costs, with more than a third (36 per cent) swayed by environmental benefits, says the consumer attitudes report by the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA).
Cheaper: Four in ten would buy an electric car because of lower running costs
Lack of interest was significantly higher for older motorists, while seven in ten 18 to 24-year-olds are interested in buying one.
The report also showed a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents are driving less to beat the cost of living crisis. It noted: ‘We are at an EV tipping point where price and the environment are balancing each other in the consumer’s mind.’
NFDA chief executive Sue Robinson said the report provides ‘a unique insight into consumer behaviour and industry as the car evolves from internal combustion engine to the electric vehicle’.
Failing to park properly is costly
British motorists could be liable for up to £18 million in penalty charge notices for failing to fit their cars inside designated parking bays, according to research by Citroën UK.
A total of 137,000 fines were issued to motorists for failing to park fully within the lines of parking bays since 2019, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests issued to the local authorities in the ten largest cities in the country, including all 32 boroughs in London.