Life with the: Renault Austral E-Tech iconic esprit Alpine

In Alpine, Car Reviews, Renault by Matthew Macconnell

Originally, Alpine cars were lower to the ground than a snake’s stomach and were triumphant in Monte Carlo rallies


Car Reviewed: Renault Austral E-Tech iconic esprit Alpine


Even today’s Alpine A110 is a sublime machine. I was a tad shocked when I first heard about a modern Renault SUV wearing an Alpine badge. Sure, every manufacturer with a history of sporting pedigree is jumping on the bandwagon to make a fast SUV nowadays, and with its name ‘esprit Alpine’, you’d think it could compete.

Sadly, this isn’t the case. The Alpine moniker is just a way of saying ‘range-topper’: you still get the same 1.2-litre 200bhp powertrain mated to an automatic ‘box, found in cheaper Austral models, but the car is now covered in Alpine badging. I’ll admit, though, that it does look great.

Spending a week with the Austral was interesting. I first noticed the interior had plenty of soft-touch plastics, nice Alcantara touches with blue piping and a large 12” portrait dashboard display. In some modern cars, faffing about with a large touch screen to turn on the window demister gets tiring, but the Austral has nine physical buttons, which keeps dilly-dallying to a minimum. The Google infotainment system is superb: there’s no delay, you shouldn’t find yourself savagely screaming at the voice assistant, and if you don’t get on with it for whatever reason, you can use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

My house resides in a small estate, and people often mistake the passing place across from my abode as a parking space. This means I’m often left with a dilemma: drive over my grass to get out of my driveway or go around the estate to the exit, the latter being tedious. Luckily, the adjustable four-wheel steer 4Control system on the Austral meant that this was a doddle — no grass was damaged and no cars were tarnished with a red streak up their side.

Our Scottish Car of the Year Awards were during the same week I had the Austral. This resulted in a round trip of roughly 65 miles with a mixture of motorway and back roads. On said back roads, the Austral handled surprisingly well, and at no stage did I feel like it would come out of a corner on its roof. Before setting off, the car had a full tank of fuel and a full battery, and the readout showed 480 miles. On the motorway, the ride sometimes felt wooden and jittery over uneven surfaces, and the driving seat started to become uncomfortable.

Arriving at the award ceremony car park, the screen showed a return of 43mpg after thorough use of the ‘eco’ setting – a mode that was easily switched on from a steering wheel button. Seven miles were covered using electricity and my average speed was 38.4mph. Returning home gave a nearly identical economic return. Renault claims 57.7mpg, which could be achievable in less bitter conditions, but I was doing well getting around 40mpg.

Renault has done a fine job of making the range-topping Austral look like a car that’s more deserving than the £39,495 price tag suggests. The raised center console feels nice and the airplane-thruster-esque central handle just looks cool. The ambient lighting also changes depending on which mode you’re in.

One night, we drove to a local Tesco to pick up some quick must-haves. I’ll admit, rather than joining my partner in a sea of flapping pre-Christmas shoppers, I opted to sit in the Austral. The ambient lighting was soon switched to a soothing violet, my phone was mirrored onto the central screen, my chair was reclined, the massager was switched on, and I watched some car videos on YouTube – utter bliss.

I like the Austral; it has a clever four-wheel steering system and snazzy lights, but I feel it lacks the pizzazz the Kia Sportage offers. It does have a user-friendly high-tech interior and a frugal drivetrain, though — that’ll be why it was crowned ‘Best Family SUV’ at the Scottish Car of the Year awards.

Car reviewed: Renault Austral E-Tech iconic esprit Alpine

on the road price £39,195

  • 0-62mph 8.4secs
  • Top speed 108mph
  • Mechanical E-tech Full Hybrid / Lithium iON Battery
  • Fuel Economy WLTP Combined 60.1mpg
  • Max Power 200hp
  • Torque 205Nm
  • Dimensions MM 4510 L/1843 W/1644 H
  • CO2 emissions 105g/km WLTP combined
  • Transmission 6 gears (4 gears with two additional motors)
  • Bootspace 487 / 1525 1itres (seats folded)

Matthew MacConnell

Journalist

A motoring journalist from Central Scotland with a Diploma in Freelance and Feature Writing from the London School of Journalism, contributing to various online and print automotive publications. Matthew covers features, news and car reviews and enjoys the fast-paced environment of the motoring world with a strong coffee in hand. From a Honda Jazz to a Lamborghini Reventón there’s nothing off limits.

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