Read Caroline’s Renault Austral E-Tech Hybrid review for everything you need to know about buying Renault’s new compact SUV in Ireland.

The Austral is Renault’s newest SUV. It replaces the Kadjar and slots into the range just above the Renault Arkana, with pricing starting from about €45,000, rising all the way to €52,000.

It’s classed as a ‘C-segment’ SUV so goes up against familiar rivals like the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Peugeot 3008.

The Austral goes on sale in Ireland exclusively as a hybrid – there’s no pure petrol or diesel options in the range. But it’s a powerful hybrid with 200hp that offers some excellent efficiency in real world driving.

The new Renault Austral E-Tech Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes
The new Renault Austral E-Tech Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes

What’s so special about the Renault Austral?

We’ve had to wait a while for the Austral to arrive. Alongside the newly launched Megane E-Tech and the popular Arkana SUV coupé, the new Austral signals something of a renaissance at Renault.

With these three models, Renault hopes to gain more ground in the C-segment, Europe’s most popular segment for new car buyers.

While the Megane E-Tech is electric only and the Arkana offers some petrol and hybrid options, the new Austral is a flagship of sorts, boasting Renault’s newest hybrid technology.

There’s also bold new styling that complements the Megane, including Renault’s new logo and brand identity. The Austral also sees the introduction of new ‘Esprit Alpine’ models, with design inspiration from Renault’s Alpine brand of sports cars.

19-inch alloys come as standard on the entry Techno model, while the Techno Esprit Alpine and Iconic Esprit Alpine both get 20-inch alloy wheel, as well as an exclusive matte grey paint option.

While the Austral is a much more expensive car to buy new than the Kadjar it replaces, it is absolutely loaded with equipment and technology so marks a step up for the brand among family SUVs. Does it have what it takes to take on the mighty Qashqai, Sportage and Tucson? It certainly looks the part.

The Austral is Renault's new hybrid SUV
The Austral is Renault’s new hybrid SUV

Inside the Renault Austral

The Austral’s interior is another highlight. The level of standard equipment is truly astounding. All versions come with a head-up display, full digital driver display and portrait-style touchscreen.

The digital tech is very stylish and glossy. Like the Renault Megane E-Tech, the touchscreen uses a Google operating system with useful integration of Google Maps, Google Assistant and much more. But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be used if you prefer.

Esprit Alpine models dial up the style with unique Alcantara and fabric seats with blue stitching and headrests embossed with the Alpine logo in blue. There is also more Alcantara fabric in the dashboard, with elegant ambient lighting. The new Renault steering wheel features French Tricolour stitching and more Alcantara.

Other standard features include heated steering wheel and heated front seats with massage function and power adjustment.

There’s lots of legroom and headroom in the back for a compact family SUV, as well as amenities like an armrest, cupholders, air vents and USB-C ports.

The rear bench split folds 60:40 and can be moved forward to create more boot space. In their normal setting, the boot offers 430 litres. That’s a bit off the best in class but with the rear bench moved forward, up to 555 litres is possible. A powered tailgate also comes as standard.

Iconic Esprit Alpine models also come with a full panoramic glass roof with blind, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, 360-degree camera and wireless phone charging.

Inside the Renault Austral
Inside the Renault Austral

Driving the Austral E-Tech Hybrid

In Ireland, the Renault Austral will be available exclusively as a petrol electric hybrid that does not require charging to get the best efficiency from it.

It’s got 200hp so it’s competitive in power terms to other hybrid SUVs in this class like the Qashqai E-Power and the Tucson Hybrid. It differs to the Arkana E-Tech Hybrid with a 1.2-litre three petrol engine at its heart, two electric motors, a small capacity battery and an improved automatic gearbox.

The result is a hybrid that is even smoother and more refined. Most of the time, it switches between EV drive and hybrid drive with very little fuss. Occasionally you can hear the engine working, but it never thrashes around.

The power delivery is strong and responsive, with a number of different driving modes to enhance the drive including Comfort, Eco, Sport and Perso to fine tune things like the engine responsiveness, steering effort and the agility of the chassis.

It proves to be very efficient, averaging about 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres during my time with the car across a variety of road types – from motorway to town and rural roads.

Rear seating in the Austral
Rear seating in the Austral

Top of the range Iconic Esprit Alpine models come with four wheel steering as standard. This allows the rear wheels to turn a little, which boosts the agility and manoeuvrability of the Austral in low speed town driving and parking. Out on the open road, it creates more stability and makes the Austral nice and secure to drive quickly.

Versions with four wheel steering get a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, while those without use a torsion beam.

The only real downside is that the Austral rides quite firmly over less than perfect road surfaces and there is audible road noise.

Did you like it?

Renault is upping its game with its latest cars and SUVs to go on sale. There has been a notable step up in price but also quality, while the digital tech on board is truly impressive for a compact SUV.

On the road, the Austral offers a powerful and refined driving experience, while also delivering on efficiency. It’s not completely perfect though on Irish roads and some rival SUVs offer more comfort over less than smooth tarmac.

But on a whole the Austral is a welcome return for Renault to the family SUV market with style and practicality in abundance. It can take on the best in class with a touch of class.

The Austral is a stylish, practical and efficient SUV
The Austral is a stylish, practical and efficient SUV

Model tested: Renault Austral E-Tech Hybrid Iconic Esprit Alpine
1.2-litre petrol-electric hybrid
Power: 200hp
Torque: 410Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.4 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€180 per year


Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year