After the initial launch at the new Goffs Hotel earlier this year it was great to get offered a week long test drive in the all-new Renault Austral. This is is a vehicle that merges together traits of the SUV with a modern car like appearance that will sit in the C-Segment alongside the Arkana and Megane E-Tech. This is a busy category of cars that forms the largest global automotive sales so having three vehicles can only help bolster Renaults market share ambitions. The first thing to note is no doubt the exterior design, which like most Renault products right now, is stylish, sophisticated and purposeful. The body sits proudly atop of the diamond cut alloy wheels which are available from 17-inch to 20-inch. Seven body colours are on offer but our Esprit Alpine version in exclusive Satin Shale Grey looked menacing with a bi-tone black finish to the lower section of the car. The black finish continues to the roof rails and there is a plethora of Alpine badging and design tweaks no doubt inspired from the sporting DNA of Renault Group’s flagship brand.
Inside it feels premium, as in really premium! The high-tech dash is built around the large OpenR screen that combines the 12.3-inch dashboard instrument display with a 12-inch vertical multimedia screen. A new 9.3-inch Head Up Display, projected through the windscreen adds to the total number of screens on board. Depending on your chosen specification, the interior incorporates real wood, leather, Alcantara, padded textiles and other form-fitted materials that are soft to the touch and paired with lacquered highlights in Deep Glossy Black and Satin Chrome. It’s a blend of quality materials that bring a feeling of comfort and prestige to the car’s interior. There is a clever divider between driver and passenger, which houses a slide-able hand rest for greater comfort while using the multimedia screen. This unit also includes a phone slot with wireless charging capabilities and decent storage space. Rear leg room is generous also with 27.4 cm of travel putting the Austral up there with the best in this class. There is a generous 555 litre boot that comes fitted with a hands-free power tailgate and there are various options to split and drop the rear seats with quick release pull handles.
During our time a lot of people assumed the Renault Austral might be fully electric but in fact buyers will have a choice from a number of powertrains with a selection of electrified motors to cover all uses in time. Right now you can only opt for the full hybrid E-Tech self-charging engine powered by 1.2 L 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor paired with an electric motor, a 1.7 kWh lithium-ion 400V battery and a smart multi-mode clutch-less dog box. This has a combined power of nearly 200 HP and could see you travel up to 1100km on a single tank of juice! The other rumoured engines to be on the way include a 130 HP 48V Mild Hybrid Advanced and a 140 HP or 160 HP 12V Mild Hybrid all of which are petrol. All Austral’s will start in full-electric mode before bringing in their petrol engines.
In the safety department Renault are happy enough to guarantee the best level in protection for passengers and other road users thanks to a range of improved passive safety equipment. Expect the now standard, Blind Spot Warning and Lane Departure Prevention when overtaking; Rear Automatic Emergency Braking; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Matrix LED Vision smart lighting and Occupant Safe Exit features. We have seen this tech on other Renaults but the Austral also gets a new air bag added between the driver and front passenger to avoid crashing heads in the event of a side-on collision. It also features a special battery compartment access and QR code to help rescue teams provide fast and effective assistance to passengers. Very clever!
Pricing for the all new Austral kicks off at €45,295 for the Techno Trim. The next price walk puts you into a Techno Esprit Alpine for €47,795 or you can take the top of the range Iconic Esprit Alpine which starts at €52,295. Our Iconic test car with extras, was coming in at €56,470 which we know isn’t cheap but it is a whole lot of car! All have various PCP and finance options available through the trusted Renault dealer network.
Honestly the Austral was one of our favourite cars to spend time with in 2023. We enjoyed a week of motorway, city and a cruise over Sally Gap to see how this C-segment SUV handled. It was sure footed, nippy when you engage Sport from the Muti-sense drive selector and super comfortable regardless of the terrain. In the city it makes short work of tight corners thanks to Renault’s third generation of four-wheel steering that has been steadily improved over the years. We were able to average close to the claimed 4.7 L/100 km over the course of a week and this can easily be monitored using ECO mode to make it as frugal as possible. Renault reckons 80% of driving on urban roads is possible in full-electric mode, which translates into a 40% reduction in fuel consumption overall. The screen tech and ease of use made even more convenient with the voice command Google Assistant is super slick. Few cars offer screens that relay vitals to the driver without distraction or glare. The Austral is just a quality machine to spend time with and we have no doubt we will soon see plenty roaming Irish roads.
Get’s a little expensive with options.