Renault has released its all-new full hybrid SUV, the Austral E-Tech, as it aims to “re-conquer” the medium-size C-segment car market and at the same time enhance its already strong focus on electric cars.
The company is looking to usher in a new wave — ‘nouvelle vague’ in French that aims to turn the brand into an industry benchmark for technology, electrification, and connected services as outlined in its ‘Renaulution’ strategy.
But French phrasings aside, the Austral E-Tech does have another key French branding — it is the first Renault to feature the esprit Alpine label and is available in three trims: techno, techno esprit Alpine and iconic esprit Alpine.
Order for the car opened in May 2023 in the UK, with first customer deliveries due from July 2023. Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault, said: “Featuring one of the best infotainment systems on the market and the world’s most efficient hybrid powertrain, the all-new Austral E-Tech full hybrid is renewing Renault’s range in the C segment with a product that befits its ambitions and targets our core [European inc. UK] market.”
All models are powered by a new hybrid self-charging engine 200hp, or 146kW petrol hybrid powertrain with a 400V 1.7kWh lithium-ion battery, perfected to run a superior segment car. An electric-only mode offers quiet and zero emissions city driving, while the battery recharges when decelerating and braking to offer a truly electric experience with no need to plug in.
Renault claims its engine has the best consumption-to-performance ratio on the market, to increase driving pleasure while limiting CO2 emissions. But being a hybrid, the Austral E-Tech is also equipped with a new 1.2 litre 96 kW 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 205 Nm of torque. It is paired with an electric motor boasting more power and more torque (50 kW and 205 Nm), and a gearbox combining two speeds in electric mode and four for the combustion engine.
The energy regeneration mechanism, however, means it can spend 80 per cent of the time on city roads in full-electric mode, which equates to 40 per cent fuel savings compared to a petrol engine, all without comprising on the driving style.
On the combined WLTP cycle, the all-new Austral E-Tech full hybrid achieves up to 60.1mpg, making it one of the most fuel-efficient hybrid cars in the Renault line-up, keeping emissions as low as 105g/km of CO2. The impressive figures highlight its status as an exceptionally efficient hybrid electric vehicle.
The chassis, according to Renault, offers unparalleled comfort and driving pleasure. “The finely engineered, rigid chassis on the all-new Austral E-Tech full hybrid strikes a perfect balance between behaviour, comfort, and handling for true driving pleasure,” said the company.
There are two versions available for the chassis: a flexible axle with a torsion beam for two-wheel steering models, standard on techno and techno esprit Alpine versions, and a multi-link rear axle with 4CONTROL Advanced for four-wheel steering, which will be standard on iconic esprit Alpine versions.
On the outside, the Austral E-Tech combines the hallmarks of an SUV with Renault’s new design language — elegant and sporty, with the esprit Alpine trims boasting a high-end, almost athletic aesthetic.
The esprit trims will see a new, specially designed, exclusive, ‘soft to touch’ matte shadow grey body colour in a two-tone finish, highlighting the vehicle’s muscular and dynamic silhouette. It also features 20-inch ‘Daytona’ alloy wheels with ‘Alpine’ markings.
Gilles Vidal, Renault’s Director of Design, said: “The all-new Renault Austral E-Tech hybrid brings together bold stylistic features for a dynamic and elegant design. Engineered volumes, precisely drawn lines, and sophisticated details imbue the design with an overall sense of readily visible quality. Gaps in the body are extra slim and all flush lines have been drawn in a way to give off an immediate feeling of quality.”
On the inside, the high-tech cockpit with distinctive materials and sleek finishes boasts generous spaciousness. The 12-inch OpenR HD touch screen, one of the largest in any vehicle, turns on with a welcome display (with an Alpine touch for esprit Alpine versions). Besides, there’s a 12.3-inch driver information display and a 9.3-inch head-up display as standard too.
Ambient lighting highlights the driver’s instrument panel while the interior speakers play Renault’s signature welcoming sound. There’s also LED mood lighting via light strips housed in the dashboard and doors for a heightened feeling of well-being for driver and passenger, which Renault is calling ‘Living Lights’.
In the techno version, the strip extends into the door panels with a C-shaped curve that makes the interior space appear bigger. It is mirrored by the handrest on the cruising console and metal highlights on the leather steering wheel, giving the interior a splash of ‘tech’ highlights. This feeling is enhanced by the sleek sophisticated finish on the surfaces in gloss black that tie in with the glossy finish of the OpenR screen. This is particularly the case for the door handles, overhead console, and cruising console.
The squared shape of the steering wheel makes it easy to get in and out of the vehicle and grants an optimal view of the instrument panel. There’s also a wireless phone charger and two USB-C ports with a 12V socket.
Depending on the trim and chosen extras, the interior of the all-new Austral E-Tech full hybrid incorporates Alcantara (for esprit Alpine), man-made leather, padded textiles, and other form-fitted materials that are soft to the touch and paired with lacquered highlights in gloss black and matte chrome.
And finally, if you’re wondering about storage, Renault claims it’s got enough for the entire family. Cup holders, a storage compartment for sunglasses, hidden 2-litre storage and a 3.6-litre closed storage under the console, door bins, glovebox — a total of 35 litres of storage, just name it (although it doesn’t have the shoe storage like Ford’s E-Tourneo, but we’ll give it a pass).
The bench seats slide along rails when triggered by simply pulling a user-friendly handle located under the seat, and with the sliding rear bench, the boot capacity can reach up to 555-litres, and up to 1,455-litres when the rear seats are folded down.
The Austral E-Tech also uses innovative tech to better serve the driver and passengers and marks the beginning of a new service for proactive maintenance as well as a range of remote services to meet new expectations of consumers and fleet operators.
Using cloud-based map data and artificial intelligence, it includes Active Driver Assist, Over Speed Prevention, Adaptive Cruise Control, Predictive Eco-Driving Assistant, and Predictive Hybrid driving.
All these little things make up what Renault calls the nouvelle vague. With deliveries due in just a month, we’ll soon be able to see if it does herald a new wave in EVs or not.