Renault Rafale E-Tech FHEV Iconic Esprit Alpine 5dr Auto 4C

  • Automatic
  • Petrol/Electric Hybrid
  • 60.1 mpg
  • 5 door suv
  • 107 g/km CO2
  • 107 g/km CO2 emissions
  • 60.1 mpg Fuel efficiency
  • 8.6 secs 0 to 62 mph
  • 200 bhp Engine power

Ten Second Review

The Rafale reinterprets what a larger Renault model should be. This D-segment Coupe-SUV brings style and ingenuity to the business of tempting customers away from premium badged alternatives. It's a tough brief, but this Gallic contender has some genuinely interesting touches.

Background

In automotive terms, there's not much that's more French than a large Renault. And traditionally, France has been just about the only place where you're likely to see such a thing. In this new electrified era though, the Gallic brand has been emboldened to try its hand at a larger-segment model once again - and here it is, the Rafale. Unlike some other recent Renault model rivals, it's not a full-EV - in fact most sales will be of a volume hybrid version you can't plug in. And it's actually not that large, a D-segment model based on the Austral crossover but styled (like the smaller Arkana) as a Coupe-SUV. It's certainly a sweeping, quite aerodynamic thing, hence the name which in French references wind-driven natural energy and aeronautics: the Caudron-Renault Rafale of 1934 was a plane Renault made which flew a record-breaking 277mph. Nearly a century on, this automotive successor to that design won't set any sales records but it's a key component in Group boss Luca de Meo's comprehensive 'Renaultution' model plan. And the first offering from new ex-Peugeot design chief Gilles Vidal - which means it'll set the styling theme for a whole new generation of Renaults.

Driving Experience

Most Rafales will be sold with a 200hp E-Tech full hybrid petrol powertrain linked to a clutch-less multimode automatic. This powertrain pairs a 1.2-litre three cylinder engine with a couple of electric motors, one acting as a generator developing 33.5hp. The other acts as a main propulsion motor. This develops 67hp, sits between the engine and the main gearbox and incorporates its own integral 2-speed 'dog box' transmission. There's a 2kWh battery beneath the driver seat that allows for very short range electric driving. With the engine chiming in, 62mph from rest takes 8.9s. If that's not quite enough for you, then your dealer can also offer the potential to order a higher performance E-Tech 4x4 300hp flagship plug-in hybrid variant. This pairs the same hybrid system at the front with an additional electric motor at the rear which creates the AWD system. There's also a larger 22kWh battery pack, so of course when fully charged, there's a much longer EV drive range - up to 62 miles. There's an 'EV Mode' available with three settings - 'Hybrid', 'Electric' and 'E-save'. With the engine chiming in, 62mph from rest takes 6.4s. With both variants, at the top of the range Renault is offering an improved version of its 4Control 4-wheel steering system. This adds 7kg to the kerb weight, but gives the Rafale a tight 10.4m turning circle at low speeds and is supposed to improve cornering stability at speeds of up to 30mph.

Design and Build

The Rafale, new Renault styling chief Gilles Vidal's first car, was a clean sheet design, eventually chosen to be a Coupe-SUV with some rather lovely detail touches. The first thing you'll probably notice is the unique front grille, fabricated from angled tiles shaped like the Renault badge, which usually seem to 'move' as you view them from differing angles. Almost equally eye-catching is the new headlamp signature, with its boomerang-shaped daytime running lights. Forget the really large Renault models you might have grown up with; this is a modestly proportioned segment contender based on a lengthier version of the brand's usual CMF-CD platform. The Rafale is 4,710mm long, 1,860mm wide and 1,610mm tall, though the curved roof line makes it look a little more compact than that and 17-degrees of windscreen rake adds a sporty touch. Inside, Renault still hasn't quite succeeded in creating a really premium-feeling cabin, but it's a step up from the Austral model interior it's based on, thanks to some extra soft-touch surfaces and the use of some quite surprising materials like slate and blackened cork. The enveloping seats are bespoke and quite unique with illuminated elements. And of course there's plenty of screen tech, with a 12.3-inch instrument display and a 12.0-inch central screen which runs Google-designed software. A cabin highlight on plusher models is the huge (1,470mm by 1,117mm) Solarbay panoramic glass roof. This actually increases cabin headroom (by 29mm in the front and 10mm in the rear) and uses 'AmpliSky' Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal tech to darken the glass through four settings. These can be voice-controlled and the glass darkens automatically when you step out of the car. Rear seat space is generous thanks to this model's quite lengthy 2.74m wheelbase; there's 302mm of rear seat knee radius and 890mm of headroom. Plus back seat occupants get an ingenious rear armrest with storage for tablets, USB outlets and fold-out screen stands. Boot space is rated at between 535 and 647-litres.

Market and Model

From launch, Renault is pricing this Rafale from just over £38,000 in its base E-Tech full hybrid form. That's for base 'techno' trim. Another £4,000 gets you the much sportier-looking mid-range 'techno esprit Alpine' version, while you'll need a £45,000 budget for top 'iconic esprit Alpine'-spec. Think in terms of needing nearly £50,000 for the top E-Tech 4x4 300 PHEV variant. At least you get plenty of kit across the range. Even base 'techno' trim gives you 'Sonic' 20-inch black diamond-cut alloy wheels, a shark fin antenna, automatic headlights with automatic high/low beam, LED front signature lighting, 'moire'-effect rear LED lights and automatic windscreen wipers. The interior is marked out by a 12.3-inch driver information display and a 12-inch 'OpenR' link screen with an Arkamys 6-speaker audio system and Google services built-in, plus a wireless phone charger. The base equipment list continues with a frameless auto-dimming rear view mirror, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, front and rear one-touch electric windows, a sliding centre console armrest, heated electric folding wing mirrors, paddle shift levers for regenerative braking, front & rear park assist and a rear-view camera. Plus, as you'd expect, there's a wide portfolio of advanced driver assistance systems. The 'techno esprit Alpine' brings Castellet 20-inch black diamond-cut alloy wheels with smoked varnish, alloy boot kick plate, esprit Alpine exterior styling, matrix LED vision headlights, and 4Control Advanced four-wheel steering. Its interior gains esprit Alpine interior styling with Alcantara TEP upholstery, quilted and perforated with blue background and illuminated Alpine logo. You'll need the top 'iconic esprit Alpine' version if you want the desirable huge Solarbay panoramic sunroof, plus this variant also adds a 12-speaker premium Harman Kardon audio system, hands-free parking and a 360-degree around view 3D camera.

Cost of Ownership

Obviously, not being able to plug the mainstream E-Tech full hybrid version of this Rafale in means it's not going to go very far on battery power. The 2kWh pack in question is, like most full-Hybrids, there to cut in and out at low-to-medium speeds and obviously does a pretty good job because the combined fuel cycle figure - as with the Austral, up to 60.1mpg - is pretty noteworthy, allowing for up to 683 miles of driving range. The CO2 reading - up to 105g/km - is even better, class-leading in fact. We should probably have expected this. Renault were good at this technology when it was based around the ancient 1.6-litre four cylinder engine used in Hybrid versions of the Clio, the Captur and the Arkana. Using the same tech with a more modern 1.2-litre unit, as the Rafale does, was only ever going to yield a good result. Of course, official figures are one thing; actual day-to-day returns are another and mindful of this, Renault has provided a variety of e-driving tools to enable Rafale E-Tech full hybrid drivers to get as close as possible to the stated readings. As you drive, you'll need to keep a close eye on the central dial, keeping its needle as often as possible in the 'Charge' rather than the 'Power' section. You'll also want to make use of the provided EV drive mode. This is for slow town traffic and when activated, it prioritises battery-electric drive up to about 27mph, providing there's sufficient charge. Renault reckons that it should be possible for a Rafale E-Tech full hybrid owner to drive around town at low speeds in all-electric mode for 80% of the time. On the open road, remember to switch the auto gear lever to its 'B' position so that you can maximise regenerative brake energy harvesting and so preserve battery charge. If you're looking at the E-Tech 4x4 300hp PHEV version, then up to 62 miles of EV range is possible after charging the 22kWh battery, which from a typical 7.4kW garage wallbox takes 2 hours 55 minutes for a full charge. CO2 returns are rated at up to 15g/km when the full battery range is used (but it's 132g/km with an empty battery).

Summary

You can't imagine that too many premium brand segment customers are going to throw away their enamel-badged key fob is to own a Rafale. The few though, that take a look at what this bigger Renault has to offer might find lots to like here. It'll get the neighbours talking, the cabin materials are lovely and the rear seat ambiance is far nicer (and more spacious) than the premium brand norm. There are also things here you can't get on competitors, like 4-wheel steering and the vast Solarbay panoramic roof. Previously, none of this would have been enough to overcome customer badge snobbery, but in this more enlightened electrified era, things might be different. Renault is hoping so.

  • 4Control - 4 wheel steering technology
  • Active driver assist
  • Electric power boot opening
  • Wireless phone charger
  • 12" openR link screen with DAB and built-in Google
  • 2 front and 2 rear USB-C ports
  • Harman Kardon sound system
  • Esprit alpine exterior styling
  • Kick plate
  • Rear side wing doors
  • Shark fin antenna
  • Solarbay panoramic sunroof
  • 3 colour blue-white-red stitching on the steering wheel and door trim
  • Alcantara TEP upholstery
  • Alpine synthetic leather steering wheel
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Ingenious rear armrest with swivelling arms/foldout stands for devices and USB-C charging ports
  • Paddle shift levers for regenerative braking
  • Sliding centre console handrest
  • Synthetic leather steering wheel
  • 2x Isofix child seat fitting on outer rear seats
  • 3 point seatbelts on all rear seats
  • Driver and passenger airbags
  • Driver knee airbag
  • Front far side airbag
  • Front thorax airbags
  • Manual rear child locks
  • Occupant safe exit
  • Passenger airbag deactivation system
  • Passenger knee airbag
  • Row 1 and 2 curtain airbags
  • Seatbelt load limiter
  • Seatbelt pretensioners
  • Seatbelt reminder
  • Sound for pedestrian (1 to 30 kph)
  • Super locking system
  • Tyre pressure warning light
  • Alarm
  • Hands free key card with Keyless access and start
  • Battery Capacity in kWh: 1.7
  • Battery Type: Lithium-ion
  • Standard Euro Emissions: EURO 6
  • WLTP - CO2 (g/km) - Comb: 107
  • WLTP - CO2 (g/km) - Comb - TEH: 107
  • WLTP - CO2 (g/km) - Comb - TEL: 107
  • Camshaft: DOHC
  • Catalytic Convertor: True
  • CC: 1199
  • Cylinder Layout: IN-LINE
  • Fuel Delivery: TURBO DIRECT INJECTION
  • Gears: 6 SPEED
  • Transmission: SEMI-AUTO
  • EC Directive 1999/100/EC Applies: False
  • WLTP - FC (l/100km) - Comb: 4.7
  • WLTP - FC (l/100km) - Comb - TEH: 4.9
  • WLTP - FC (l/100km) - Comb - TEL: 4.7
  • WLTP - MPG - Comb: 60.1
  • WLTP - MPG - Comb - TEH: 57.6
  • WLTP - MPG - Comb - TEL: 60.1
  • Alternative Fuel Qualifying: True
  • Badge Engine CC: 1.2
  • Badge Power: 200
  • Based On ID: N
  • Coin Description: E-Tech full hybrid
  • Coin Series: Iconic Esprit Alpine
  • Generation Mark: 1
  • Insurance Group 1 - 50 Effective January 07: 30E
  • Service Interval Frequency - Months: 24
  • Service Interval Mileage: 18000
  • Special Edition: False
  • Special Order: False
  • Standard manufacturers warranty - Mileage: 100000
  • Standard manufacturers warranty - Years: 5
  • Vehicle Homologation Class: M1
  • 0 to 62 mph (secs): 8.6
  • Engine Power - BHP: 200
  • Engine Power - KW: 147
  • Engine Power - PS: True
  • Engine Power - RPM: 4500
  • Engine Torque - LBS.FT: 151
  • Engine Torque - MKG: 21
  • Engine Torque - NM: 205
  • Engine Torque - RPM: 1750
  • Top Speed: 111
  • Emissions Test Cycle: WLTP
  • RDE Certification Level: RDE 2
  • Alloys: True
  • Space Saver: False
  • Tyre Size Front: 235/45 R20
  • Tyre Size Rear: 235/45 R20
  • Tyre Size Spare: TYRE REPAIR KIT
  • Wheel Style: Esprit Alpine
  • Wheel Type: 20" ALLOY
  • Height: 1613
  • Length: 4710
  • Wheelbase: 2738
  • Width: 1866
  • Width (including mirrors): 2085
  • Fuel Tank Capacity (Litres): 55
  • Gross Vehicle Weight: 2180
  • Luggage Capacity (Seats Down): 1709
  • Luggage Capacity (Seats Up): 535
  • Max. Loading Weight: 466
  • Max. Towing Weight - Braked: 1500
  • Minimum Kerbweight: 1714
  • No. of Seats: 5
  • Turning Circle - Kerb to Kerb: 10.4