Seville in sunny Spain was to be the chosen location for Renault to reveal the all-new Rafale for first drive opportunities this month. What is the Rafale we hear you ask? Well, for those not familiar, Renault are particularly proud of their history in aviation and the Caudron-Renault Rafale, which flew at a record-breaking 277 mph in 1934, is just one example of the brands success powering planes in times past. Indeed the name Rafale is a French word that derives from natural energy: wind, and is also an aeronautical reference, which makes it fitting for this brand new D-segment SUV.

On arrival to Seville airport we were greeted with the sight of a fastback coupe styled Renault with a sleek and futuristic design. With bold lines and aerodynamic contours running from nose to tale complimented by tasteful black cladding, it has to be one of the best looking vehicles to come from the French manufacturer. It’s a vehicle of decent proportions also sitting 4.71 metres long and 1.86 metres wide rolling on stunning 20-inch diamond cut alloys. Bound for Irish shores in the coming weeks, this vehicle will no doubt have a commanding road presence on arrival.

The Rafale is the first Renault brand model to feature in Alpine Blue. Not exactly the same as that of the Alpine A 110 but just a single shade deeper. The three other colours available will be Flame Red, Diamond Black and gloss Ceramic Grey. Opening the driver’s door reveals a blend of futuristic design and cutting-edge technology. The cabin features a minimalist and driver-focused layout, with high-quality materials and advanced connectivity options via two OpenR screens. The system comes with Google Maps, Google Assistant and many other apps from the Google Play catalogue. In many ways it will be exactly like using your smartphone on a larger scale. The interface is also fully customisable connecting by wire or wirelessly. As expected it is fully compatible with smartphones running Android Auto or Apple Carplay. There are also some cleverly positioned hot keys for the likes of the heating controls directly below the central tablet.

Our test vehicle featured the esprit Alpine trim which has Alcantara on the seats perforated so you can see the blue fabric lining within. Further up on the back part of the seat, the Alpine logo is proudly positioned and glows like a beating heart on entry. Placing your hands on the steering wheel will feel familiar to those who have been in the new Megane E-Tech or Austral only again the trim and stitching are taken to more luxurious level. It’s spacious too offering ample legroom and headroom, making it comfortable for both drivers and passengers of all sizes including all 6-foot of me sitting in the back! Boot space you would think suffers with that slope back angle of 17-degrees but in fact, 647-litres of your favourite French wine can be accommodated in the new Rafale. One other thing of note is the brand-new Solarbay darkening glass panoramic roof. We have seen this technology in vehicles of a significantly higher price point but at the flick of a switch or voice command, you can go from opaque to see through or somewhere in between to meet your preference.

Powering our test car was a familiar power plant in the form of the 3-cylinder 1.2 litre turbocharged 130 hp petrol engine from the current Arkana. Delivering 205 Nm of torque and aided further by two electric motors, the horsepower now sits at a healthy 200. This is a capable little engine and can also be found powering the new Austral. We were informed that a high-performance E-Tech 4×4 300hp version is also due here in Autumn. Other things to come from the presentation were that Renault have also gone to great lengths to ensure that this SUV will be as safe as possible with a suite of advanced driver assistance features, including lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. These features will no doubt work together to help keep you and your passengers safe on the road.

Our test drive took hours southwest of Seville and not too far from the Portuguese border. I’m not sure if I have ever driven roads so good! Sweeping switch back turns over scenic mountain passes and down through valleys that certainly left a lasting impression. It is here I began to think of the some, 100 employees that test drove the Rafale for over 2 million kilometers in all sorts of conditions. Suspension was tweaked, driving characteristics fine tuned and driving modes calibrated into what can only be described as a ‘well sorted drive’. Honestly it was a pleasure to do mileage in! Whether you’re commuting to work, running errands, or going on a road trip, the new Renault Rafale SUV makes for a very capable vehicle. Right now two E-Tech full hybrid 200 hp versions are available from €51,495 for the Techno model with the top trim Esprit Alpine coming in at €55,695. Pricing for the 300 hp E-Tech 4×4 Esprit Alpine and Atelier Alpine trim levels will be released soon. If you are in the market for a large Coupe styled SUV, then book your test-drive today!