New Renault Austral SUV finally breaks cover

Renault’s newest family SUV inherits styling from Megane E-Tech and a range of electrified powertrains

  • Mild and self-charging hybrid powertrains
  • Sporty ‘Esprit Alpine’ model available
  • Available to order late 2022

After months of waiting and several teasers, the new Renault Austral has finally been revealed. This all-new family SUV replaces the ageing Renault Kadjar in the lineup and benefits from a stylish exterior design, more advanced technology and a range of electrified powertrains.

Renault Megane: old vs new

When order books open later this year the new car will be available in two forms: the standard Renault Austral and the sporty Renault Austral Esprit Alpine. Both models can be specified in either ‘Techna’ or ‘Iconic’ guise, with entry-level Equilibre trim reserved for the standard car.

Expected to arrive in showrooms before the end of 2022, the Austral will enter a competitive market alongside the likes of the Peugeot 3008, the Nissan Qashqai and Carbuyer’s 2021 Car of the Year: the Hyundai Tucson.

2022 Renault Austral SUV - design

As expected, the Austral borrows several of its design cues from the new Renault Megane E-Tech Electric. At the front, the Austral gets Renault’s signature ‘C’-shaped headlights which flank an enlarged version of the brand’s recently updated diamond logo. These are available with LED Matrix technology and connected by a long, chrome strip and a wide, chequered grille which gives the Austral an imposing road presence.

Renault has attempted to emphasise the SUV nature of the Austral by adding skid plate-style trim pieces at the front and rear, as well as plenty of 4x4-inspired body cladding along the sides of the car. At the rear, the Austral’s LED tail lights span almost the entire width of the bootlid. When the car is unlocked, these perform an animated display - similar to that on the Audi A7.

Buyers can customise their new car with seven different paint colours and wheel sizes ranging from 17 to 20 inches in diameter. Top-spec models also boast a bi-tone finish with a gloss black roof - though this can be specified on entry-level cars for an additional cost.

Interior, technology and practicality 

One of the biggest drawbacks of the outgoing Renault Kadjar was its relatively dated cabin; thankfully, the Austral rectifies this with a similar concept car-esque design to the Megane E-Tech. The interior is dominated by a large dual-screen infotainment setup which consists of a 12-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12-inch portrait-oriented central touchscreen. These are powered by Google software and are covered in extra-strong Gorilla Glass to avoid scratches.

Entry-level examples of the Austral get an environmentally-friendly interior constructed using recycled grey fabrics on the seats, dashboard and door cards. Higher-spec models get a more luxurious interior with quilted leather upholstery featuring grey piping available as an option. 

The Austral has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Kadjar, which should bring an improvement to its relatively tight rear seats; it should also supplement the Kadjar’s spacious 472-litre boot, though exact measurements are yet to be revealed.

Engines and fuel economy 

The Austral sits on the same CMF-C/D underpinnings as the latest Nissan Qashqai, thanks to a partnership between the two brands. This has allowed Renault to electrify the Austral’s entire engine range: with both 12-volt mild hybrid and self-charging hybrid powertrains available. However, there is no plug-in hybrid model at launch.

The mild-hybrid models kick off the range and utilise a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. These are available in 138bhp and 158bhp outputs, with the latter coming as standard with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Here, drivers can expect fuel economy of up-to 45.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 136g/km.

For even greater efficiency, the Austral is also available with two new self-charging E-Hybrid powertrains which produce 158bhp and 197bhp respectively. These use a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, mated to a 1.6kW battery and can return up to 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 105g/km. Both versions come as standard with an automatic gearbox, with Renault claiming that 80% of what it deems ‘city driving’ can be achieved through electric power alone.

Speaking of city driving, the Austral will come into its own around town thanks to its rear-wheel-steering system. Available on higher-end models, this allows the rear wheels to turn a few degrees opposite to the direction of the front wheels, allowing for a much tighter turning circle than standard cars. This system can also be used at high speeds to aid stability by turning in the same direction as the front axle.

Renault Austral Esprit Alpine

Headlining the Austral range is the new ‘Esprit Alpine’ model which pays homage to Renault’s performance brand Alpine; similar to BMW’s M-Sport and Mercedes’ AMG-Line trims. These cars can be identified by their exclusive Satin Shale Gray paintwork, larger 20-inch ‘Daytona’ alloy wheels and plethora of model-specific ‘Alpine’ badging.

On the inside, Esprit Alpine cars get figure-hugging Alcantara sport seats with Alpine blue stitching and embroidery; these are electronically adjustable and benefit from a lumbar massage function. Other interior improvements include a heated, nappa leather steering wheel and exclusive Alpine infotainment screen graphics when you start the engine. 

At this stage, it is unknown whether the Renault Austral Esprit Alpine will share its engine range with the standard Austral model. 

What does this mean for car buyers?

The family SUV segment is perhaps the UK’s hottest right now, with the majority of mainstream manufacturers already offering a strong competitor to the Austral. Though it is still yet to be confirmed for the UK market, it is highly likely that we will see the Austral on British roads by the end of the year.

Renault has not yet revealed pricing, but we expect the Austral to start from around £26,000 - in-line with its sibling, the Nissan Qashqai. The Austral is likely to be a hit with families thanks to its cutting-edge tech and spacious interior. Be sure to look out for finance deals when the Austral goes on sale as these will almost certainly be competitive to snare away potential buyers from rival brands.

Eagle-eyed readers may note the severe absence of a fully-electric model; that space in the lineup will eventually be filled by the upcoming Renault Scenic. This new car is set to ditch its MPV heritage in favour of becoming a more-fashionable electric SUV - you can read all about it here

Want a car that won’t cost the earth to run? Check out our list of the top 10 best hybrid cars

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