Compact SUV: Renault Austral with Full Hybrid follows the Kadjar

With the compact SUV Austral, Renault brings the successor to its previous model Kadjar.

Compact SUV: Renault Austral with Full Hybrid follows the Kadjar

With the compact SUV Austral, Renault brings the successor to its previous model Kadjar. The new one dispenses with diesel engines and also does a number of other things differently than its predecessor. It's said to be the ideal car for skeptics with electrophobia or range anxiety.

Another new name from Renault. A company usually decides on a different name if an existing model does not go down well with customers as hoped. A fate that now also befalls the SUV model Kadjar, which, to the chagrin of the French, could not close the gap to the bestseller VW Tiguan. The new Austral is now supposed to do that, whose top model with the consumption advantage of a full hybrid drive is primarily aimed at previous diesel drivers. The 4.51 meter long five-door is based on the design and interior of the electric model Mégane E-Tech. The diesel engines have been deleted, but the petrol engines get electric support as a full or mild hybrid.

The name has nothing to do with Australia, the word used to stand for "southern", so it should evoke thoughts of warmth, sun and beach. A completely redesigned car in the coveted compact SUV class. It starts off the current trend towards purely electric cars, in which Renault is diligently involved with the Mégane E-Tech. In the most elegant version, the Austral is entering the race with a full hybrid, which is at the same price level as the electric Mégane at at least 40,400 euros.

In addition to a 1.2-liter turbo petrol engine with three cylinders, the Austral also has a battery on board that contributes to the drive with a capacity of almost 2 kWh and 400 volts via a 50 kW/68 hp electric motor. Since this technology ensures amazingly moderate consumption, at least in city traffic, previous diesel drivers in particular should be convinced, a drive that the Austral no longer has to offer.

While the jump to electric is only half-hearted, its builders reckon the newcomer is the ideal car for skeptics with electrophobia or range anxiety. Because the Austral does not have to go to a charging station, its battery is constantly being recharged by the combustion engine and the energy generated when braking or rolling. According to Renault, for example, three hard stops are enough to fill the small battery up to 80 percent again. In typical city traffic, according to Renault, the Austral can be driven 80 percent electrically due to the constant supply of electrical energy and the electric motor that is supplied with it.

Spain is not a country for a heavy foot on the accelerator. Maximum 120 on the highway, 90 on country roads. In the Test-Austral in the Madrid area, the on-board computer reports an average consumption of 6.4 liters per 100 kilometers after 50 kilometers at a relaxed but not lazy pace. A good value for an SUV that comes with at least 200 hp in total. Even when briskly climbing the steep serpentine route to a ski area at 1800 meters, the thirst of the 1.5-ton Renault leveled off at eight liters. Since you have to take your foot off the gas when braking or cornering, the three-cylinder combustion engine automatically goes into a microsleep. And a motor that isn't running doesn't consume anything either.

As with the hybrid pioneer Toyota, the interaction between the two very different engines, which takes place in fractions of a second, is fascinating. The person behind the wheel is more onlooker than captain. With all the credit for convincing brakes and chassis, the Austral always remains a car with an exhaust pipe, blows CO2 into the air, is not allowed in future zero-emission environmental zones and does not earn any state money. There is no need to discuss whether customers also diligently recharge, as is necessary with a plug-in for long electric driving. The Austral can't even get to the socket.

Aside from the driving forces, Renault has put a lot of heart and soul into design, more noble materials than before or into the use of a total of 32 assistance systems. A technical highlight that is only reserved for the top model with full hybrid is the all-wheel steering. Since the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front colleagues when maneuvering by up to five percent, the turning circle drops to just over 10 meters. There is an extra charge of 1800 euros for this.

Investments can also be made in directly connecting the car to the world of Google. In addition to navigation, there are voice commands for various functions that would otherwise be performed at the push of a button. The two monitors in front of the driver and in the center of the dashboard, already known from the Megane E-Tech, help here. Including the head-up display, it offers around one square meter of display space.

Important for families who often occupy the back seats: Almost 28 centimeters of knee room ensure comfort. The rear seats are also adjustable in length. The trunk can be increased from 430 to up to 555 liters. A maximum of 1455 liters is possible.

All in all, an interesting newcomer to the densely populated SUV world. Also because it makes the customer responsible for the decision. Should the new family SUV be a pure electric car like the Mégane E-Tech, which costs between 47,000 and 50,100 euros with some equipment and a 60 kWh battery. Or maybe the new Austral, which is around 6000 euros cheaper in total. Pure coincidence that this corresponds exactly to the subsidy that is currently available for an electric car in this price range.

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