Renault Austral review

Category: Family SUV

The Austral delivers impressive efficiency but rival family SUVs are better in other areas

Renault Austral front cornering
  • Renault Austral front cornering
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  • Renault Austral interior dashboard
  • Renault Austral boot open
  • Renault Austral interior infotainment
  • Renault Austral right driving
  • Renault Austral front cornering
  • Renault Austral rear cornering
  • Renault Austral left static boot open
  • Renault Austral headlights detail
  • Renault Austral alloy wheel detail
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  • Renault Austral interior front seats
  • Renault Austral back seats
  • Renault Austral interior seat detail
  • Renault Austral interior steering wheel detail
  • Renault Austral interior detail
  • Renault Austral boot
  • Renault Austral front cornering
  • Renault Austral rear cornering
  • Renault Austral interior dashboard
  • Renault Austral boot open
  • Renault Austral interior infotainment
  • Renault Austral right driving
  • Renault Austral front cornering
  • Renault Austral rear cornering
  • Renault Austral left static boot open
  • Renault Austral headlights detail
  • Renault Austral alloy wheel detail
  • Renault Austral badge detail
  • Renault Austral interior front seats
  • Renault Austral back seats
  • Renault Austral interior seat detail
  • Renault Austral interior steering wheel detail
  • Renault Austral interior detail
  • Renault Austral boot
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Introduction

What Car? says...

You might not think it from its sleeker design and taller stature, but the Renault Austral fills the family SUV-shaped hole left by the discontinuation of the Kadjar. It's more than just a new face and a new name though.

Indeed, on top of lots of new tech, the Austral – or Renault Austral E-Tech to give it its full name – ditches traditional engines in favour of a hybrid set-up. So, its petrol engine works with a motor that allows you to drive short distances on electric power alone.

The Austral is not the only family SUV that comes as a regular hybrid, of course. For example, you might also consider the Honda ZR-V and Kia Sportage. Plus, there are some plug-in hybrid (PHEV) rivals to look at too – including versions of the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Niro, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota C-HR.

So, is the Renault Austral good enough to rank among the best family SUVs available in the UK right now? Read on to find out...

Overview

Even by hybrid family SUV standards, the Renault Austral impresses when it comes to fuel economy and CO2 output. However, it's beaten in almost every other key family SUV metric by the Kia Sportage, including refinement, comfort, interior quality and boot space. If you do buy an Austral, we recommend sticking with entry-level Techno trim.

  • Strong fuel economy
  • Lower company car tax than rivals
  • Comes with sliding rear seats
  • Punishing ride in top spec
  • A bit noisy at speed
  • Some rivals have more practical boots
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Renault Austral E-Tech Full Hybrid Techno 5dr Auto review
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The Renault Austral sits in the middle of the hybrid family SUV landscape when it comes to performance. Its petrol engine and electric motor combination delivers a total output of 197bhp for an official 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds (we managed 8.8 on a test track).

That's a bit slower than the Honda ZR-V, Kia Sportage HEV and Nissan Qashqai e-Power, but enough to show a clean pair of heels to the equivalent Kia Niro and the 1.8-litre version of the Toyota C-HR.

The Austral will always set off from stationary under electric power and can (in theory) get up to motorway speeds without using the petrol engine at all. In reality, whether it does or not depends on the amount of charge in the battery and whether you are gentle enough with the accelerator pedal.

However, the Austral can go slightly further on electric power than some hybrids because its 1.7kWh battery – while tiny by electric car standards – is bigger than the batteries in direct rivals, including the 1.05kWh battery in the ZR-V.

The Austral’s turbocharged 1.2-litre engine packs sufficient punch, but if you need a sudden burst of pace (to overtake, for example) there’s a noticeable pause before the car gains speed as the hybrid system calculates the best form of propulsion to use. The Sportage HEV and the ZR-V are far more immediate in such situations.

The Austral’s steering is responsive enough, plus there are three levels of weighting available. You can select from Low, Medium and High, although the Low setting is best avoided because it's so light and vague that you can lose track of where the front wheels are pointing.

Renault AUSTRAL image
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More positively, the top-spec Iconic Esprit Alpine model comes with a rear-wheel steering system called 4Control, which drastically reduces the turning circle to 10.1m (even the much smaller Renault Clio needs 10.4m).

That doesn't make this tall car fun to hurl into corners though. The Austral leans far more than a Cupra Formentor or Seat Ateca and when you're driving spiritedly, 4Control and the quick steering make it feel nervous and hard to place on the road (although it does help when parking and manoeuvring).

In the Iconic Esprit Alpine form we tried, it also thumps harshly over bumps and almost constantly jostles occupants around. It remains to be seen whether the entry-level Techno model, which features a different rear suspension set-up and smaller wheels (19in rather than 20in) is more comfortable.

In terms of road noise, the Austral is on a par with the Sportage. You get a bit of wind noise around the windscreen pillars, along with some road noise generated by the 20in wheels, but it's far quieter than the noisy ZR-V.

And while there is a bit of suspension clunk at low speeds – as there is in the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq – engine noise is subdued. The unit is far quieter than it is in a Renault Arkana or Renault Captur.

The power delivery can be a little jerky when the engine fires up to help boost acceleration (feeling a little like a rough gear shift) but progress is smooth in electric mode. The brake-pedal response lacks a bit of initial bite, but it's still easy to stop without any jerkiness – something that's not always the case in hybrids that try to blend regenerative braking with conventional braking.

Speaking of which, the driver can adjust the strength of the regen effect by using paddles on the steering wheel.

Driving overview

Strengths Relatively hushed; decent electric range for a non-plug-in hybrid

Weaknesses Inconsistent power delivery; hyperactive steering; brittle ride

Renault Austral rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

The driver’s seat in the Renault Austral has plenty of adjustment, including for lumbar support, while mid-spec Techno Esprit Alpine models and above come with electric adjustment and a massage function to boost long-distance comfort (with Lumbar, Relaxing and Dynamic modes).

While the driving position is slightly more commanding than in a Honda ZR-V or Kia Niro, it’s not quite as elevated as in the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. The forward view out of the Austral is still great though, thanks to a low dashboard.

The windscreen pillars are chunky, but they’re not too obstructive in terms of angle and positioning. And while the rear window is rather small, all models come with all-round parking sensors and a camera to compensate.

Adaptive LED headlights that allow you to use high beams without dazzling other road users are standard, which is a big help when driving on unlit roads at night.

Meanwhile, the dashboard is dominated by large screens: a 12.3in digital driver's display and a 12.0in portrait-oriented touchscreen through which you operate the infotainment system.

Some people will find the driver's display is partially obstructed by the steering wheel if it’s set low, but it’s otherwise easy to see, with crisp graphics and a good range of information. It can show a full-width sat-nav map if you wish, and there's a head-up display that projects your speed and other info on to the windscreen.

The infotainment software itself is very impressive, but some of the icons on the touchscreen can be hard to read and hit when you’re driving. You get a moveable hand rest on the centre console to help steady your hand a bit, and there are proper physical controls to adjust the air-con and change the driving modes.

Higher-spec versions of the Austral come with plenty of soft-touch finishes and a greater range of materials on the surfaces at eye level, with cheaper plastics hidden lower down. That said, while it all looks appealing, the ZR-V, Tucson and Sportage feel more robust.

Interior overview

Strengths Good driving position; impressive infotainment system

Weaknesses Interior quality is not up there with the class best

Renault Austral interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Up front, the Renault Austral gives you plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for six-foot-plus occupants. There are also cubbies dotted around to hide things in, including a sunglasses holder in the roof that doubles as a convex rear passenger mirror for keeping an eye on back-seat passengers.

The door pockets are big enough to take decent-sized bottles of water, and there's a sizeable cupholder below the infotainment screen. The only trouble is, if you put a drinks can in that cupholder, you can't slide the hand rest forwards enough to get full access to the storage area underneath it.

The back seats slide back and forth (a rare feature among hybrid family SUVs) allowing you to give rear-seat passengers more room than in a Kia Sportage. The seats recline too, but head room still isn’t as generous as in the Sportage, and neither is shoulder room. Indeed, three adults in the back will find it a squeeze. 

With the back seats slid back as far as they'll go, the Austral's 430-litre boot capacity gives it the edge over the Honda ZR-V and is about the same as the Kia Niro's. Slide them forwards and storage increases to 555 litres, edging ahead of the Nissan Qashqai (504 litres) and Seat Ateca (510 litres).

However, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage have much more space than all of those: we managed to fit eight suitcases in the Tucson and Sportage compared with six in the Austral.

You get some handy backrest release handles in the entrance to the boot to help you fold down the rear seats when loading longer loads. Unfortunately, they fold in a 60/40 split (rather than a more versatile 40/20/40 arrangement) and there’s an annoying step in the floor that you’ll need to lift items over. There’s no adjustable boot floor, but you do get a handy underfloor storage area.

Practicality overview

Strengths Rear bench slides and reclines; decent storage space

Weaknesses Rear bench folds 60/40 rather than 40/20/40

Renault Austral boot open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Renault Austral is priced broadly in line with key rivals, whether you go for the cheapest version or the most expensive. What's more, resale values are predicted to be slightly higher than for rival family SUVs, which is surprising given how poorly the Renault Kadjar (its immediate predecessor) held its value.

That’s potentially good news because it means you should get more of your money back when you sell your car, and also because it helps to keep PCP finance costs competitive. For the very best price, you’ll want to make sure you check out our Renault Austral deals.

The entry-level trim is Techno, and we think it has enough kit to keep most buyers happy, including a rear-view camera, keyless entry and start, adaptive LED headlights, touchscreen infotainment and an eight-speaker Arkamys stereo.

Mid-range Techno Esprit Alpine includes heated and massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, a powered tailgate and adaptive cruise control.

Range-topping Iconic Esprit Alpine has four-wheel steering, a panoramic glass sunroof, a 360-degree parking camera and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, but pushes the price pretty high.

The Austral's official CO2 output of 105-110g/km means company car drivers will pay less in BIK tax than for most regular hybrid family SUVs, but a plug-in hybrid or electric car will be even cheaper tax-wise.

The official fuel economy of 60.1mpg beats most rivals too, including the Honda ZR-V and Nissan Qashqai e-Power – although the slightly smaller Kia Niro hybrid pips it. On our fuel efficiency test route, we saw a figure of 49.4mpg, which is some way down on the official figure given by Renault but still better than the 45.2mpg we got from the ZR-V and the 43.8mpg from the Kia Sportage.

The safety testing experts at Euro NCAP gave the Austral a full five-star rating when it was tested in 2022, with it closely behind the Qashqai when you look more closely at the scores. All versions come with lane-keeping assist, front and rear automatic emergency braking (AEB), traffic-sign recognition and a system that alerts the driver if their attention has wandered from the road.

In terms of reliability, Renault came 23rd out of 32 car makers featured in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey – way below Toyota, Hyundai and Kia. The standard Renault warranty of five years or 100,000 miles is one of the longest out there, but you can get seven and 10 years respectively from Kia and Toyota.

Costs overview

Strengths Plenty of standard equipment; decent predicted resale values; low CO2 output

Weaknesses Renault's lacklustre reliability performance; no PHEV option


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Renault Austral interior infotainment

FAQs

  • No, the Austral is strictly a five-seater. If you need space for more passengers, see our run-down of the best seven-seaters.

  • Yes – the Austral is slightly longer than the Renault Kadjar (which it replaced in the Renault line-up) and also sits you higher up above the road.

  • With a full tank of petrol, the Austral should be able to cover more than 600 miles, but that's with the engine doing the work. The Austral is a regular hybrid rather than a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) so its electric-only range is fairly short.

At a glance
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RRP price range £34,695 - £39,195
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)1
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)hybrid
MPG range across all versions 60.1 - 60.1
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,654 / £1,948
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £3,308 / £3,896
Available colours