Renault’s family-focused Austral resets automaker’s compact SUV offerings – Automotive News Europe

PARIS — The Austral is Renault’s second launch in the crucial compact SUV segment in the past year, after CEO Luca de Meo prioritized a shift away from small vehicles to larger, more profitable cars.

The Austral, which goes on sale in September, will replace the slow-selling Kadjar as a family-oriented SUV in Renault’s lineup. It will complement the coupe-styled Arkana — a profitable success since its launch last spring aimed at “lifestyle” buyers.

Like the Arkana, the Austral will be offered only with gasoline engines coupled with mild- and full-hybrid systems, but there will not be a full-electric variant. 

Renault will launch a full-electric compact crossover next year to follow the Megane E-Tech Electric compact hatchback this year.

The Austral is the first Renault vehicle built on the third generation of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CMF-CD platform. It will be built in Renault’s factory in Palencia, Spain, which has produced the Kadjar since its 2015 launch.

A sibling model from Nissan, the third-generation Qashqai, was launched in early 2021.

Renault says the compact SUV segment represents about 25 percent of all vehicles sold in Europe. Many automakers now have at least two models in the segment.

Last year, Kadjar sales fell by 48 percent to 32,948 units in a segment dominated by the VW Tiguan (161,308 units), followed by the Hyundai Tucson (149,786) and the Peugeot 3008 (140,568), figures from Dataforce show. 

In its first year of sales in Europe, the South Korean-built Arkana found 41,362 buyers – and de Meo says it is already one of Renault’s most-profitable models.

To win customers to the Austral, Renault points to its “athletic” design, almost a square meter of displays, optional four-wheel steering and interior space flexibility.

“We wanted to give a dynamic look to the Austral, both outside and inside, but also transmit a sense of safety and robustness, crucial for a family car,” said Agneta Dahlgren, the head of design for compact models at Renault.

Inside, the Austral uses Renault’s OpenR screen arrangement, which features a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and an optional 12-inch central touch screen in an upside-down L-shape, separated only by a thin, vertical air vent. A 9.3-inch head-up display makes its debut on the Austral, creating what Renault says is nearly one square meter of display areas.

The OpenR screens use tempered glass that is highly resistant to scratches, bumps and harsh cleaning. They also have anti-fingerprint and anti-glare coatings.

The Austral comes standard with Google services and applications, based on the Android Automotive operating system first used on the Megane E-Tech Electric. 

To increase interior flexibility, the Austral can be equipped with a 2/3–1/3 split-folding rear seat, with each section able to slide back and forth more than 16 cm (6.3 inches) to maximize legroom or cargo capacity. 

Full-hybrid versions of the Austral are available with Renault’s third generation of four-wheel steering, which it calls 4Control Advanced, an Aisin-built system that increases stability and agility. 

At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, with a maximum steering angle of 5 degrees compared with 3.5 degrees from earlier versions. The creates a turning circle of 10.1 meters, similar to that of minicars, Renault says.

At speeds over 50 kph (31 mph), the rear wheels can also turn up to 1 degree in the same direction as the front wheels to increase stability.

The Austral offers only electrified gasoline engines.

Base models have a 1.3 liter four-cylinder engine with a 12-volt mild hybrid system, available with 140 or 160 hp, with CO2 emissions on the WLTP cycle starting at 126 grams per km. The same engine is available in the Nissan Qashqai.

A new 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine – basically a long-stroke version of Renault’s 1.0 liter engine used in smaller vehicles – is offered with a 48-volt mild-hybrid lithium-ion battery and starter, with emissions from 123 g/km. Renault says this option is a replacement for diesel models.

The same engine is the basis of a full-hybrid E-Tech version, with 160 or 200 hp, with emissions starting at 106 g/km.

In the future, de Meo said, the 1.2 liter engine will form the basis of most of Renault’s non-EV offerings, with hybrid power levels of up to 300 hp.

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