The Renault Austral, which is set to replace the Kadjar small SUV, has entered the final stages of development and has been previewed in a series of official images released by the French firm.
The car, which will get a new look, an overhauled interior and revamped powertrains, was pictured in an eye-catching livery with line-distorting shapes, colours and the newly updated Renault logo.
The model will now undergo several confirmation runs as part of its testing, involving a 100-strong fleet of cars that, Renault says, will travel two million kilometres (around 1,242,000 miles).
Tests will take place in France, Spain, Germany and Romania, where 900 drivers will cover 600,000km (372,822 miles) on open roads and 1,400,000km (869,919 miles) on track to scout for adjustments to the model’s new CMF-CD3 platform. Sound-proofing and suspension comfort will also be tested, as will the model’s improved powertrain.
Due to be fully unwrapped in spring, the Toyota RAV4 rival will be called the Renault Austral - a name that, Renault says, "conjures up the vibrancy and heat of the south, the tranquil pleasure of nature, as well as wide open spaces, evoking limitless opportunities".
Previous sightings of camouflaged prototypes have confirmed that the flagship SUV has undergone a substantial styling overhaul, following the lead of the new Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric, which sets the tone for Renault's new-era design ethos.
Even on the heavily camouflaged cars, we can see slim LED headlights (which could meet in the middle, as on the electric Mégane), a concave grille design and completely reshaped and relocated air intakes.
As well as the new look, headline changes for the new model will include the roll-out of quality and technology boosts found on Renault’s latest cars as well as a greater than ever choice of powertrains.
Having been on sale since 2015 and receiving the mildest of facelifts in 2019, the Kadjar remains one of Europe’s best-selling family SUVs. Renault will seek to maintain a similar level of appeal in this successor by revamping the cabin in line with an ongoing “interior revolution” under design boss Laurens van den Acker.
Set to be dominated by a touchscreen (large and portrait-oriented in top-end models) no longer sitting flush with the centre stack, the Austral’s interior will strive for class-leading material quality and clean design – traits that were key in pushing the Renault Clio to near the top of the supermini tree. Expect classy features such as ambient lighting and posher trim options to help create an upmarket air.
The Austral will bear the fruits of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. It will make use of the updated version of the modular CMF-C platform that underpins the new Nissan Qashqai and is compatible with all forms of hybrid powertrain. This means there will be mild-hybrid options for the regular engine range alongside plug-in hybrid powertrains,
The Qashqai's unique new E-Power hybrid offering is likely to be restricted to Nissan models, however, with the Austral instead using a variant of the Captur's more conventional E-Tech system, which mates a 1.6-litre petrol engine to an electric motor and 9.8kWh battery for around 160bhp and a claimed 188mpg.
Renault could also use the Clio E-Tech’s parallel hybrid powertrain, plus it has choices in a toolbox of Alliance set-ups.
It remains to be seen whether Renault will follow Nissan in ditching diesel for its C-segment SUV. No Renault model is currently offered with a diesel powertrain in the UK, and the brand has been vocal on its commitments to electrification across its entire line-up.
Further details will be made public nearer to the Austral's launch, but we expect a price increase over the Kadjar – which starts at £25,595 – to account for the enhanced technology and powertrains.