Renault Rafale Alpine E-Tech 200 spirit test: Renault does Peugeot, better than Peugeot

The Renault range is now made up of more than two thirds of SUVs. It is therefore logically with this bodywork that the brand is trying a new approach on the higher segments, which it is struggling to conquer. Alongside the Espace, which is now a family SUV, Renault therefore offers the Rafale, a “coupe SUV” that is much less consensual than what the brand has accustomed us to.

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All Rafales are equipped with 20″ rims.

At 4.71 m long, the Rafale is barely longer than the Koleos, whose place it somehow takes over in the Renault range. Its style, however, is much more assertive and signed Gilles Vidal, known for his work at Peugeot. Since he was poached by Renault, the latest productions of the lion brand are no longer as unanimous. This Rafale therefore has an obvious opportunity to play.

At its launch, the Rafale range only leaves the choice between two finishing levels: techno and Alpine spirit. It’s this latest pseudo-sporty finish that we have to test. A single engine powers these two versions: a 200 hp hybrid unit (HEV). A 300 hp plug-in hybrid version (PHEV) is also on the program, with four-wheel drive, but it will not be marketed until fall 2024.

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The name Rafale refers to a Caudron Renault aircraft; another activity of Louis Renault.

Prices excluding options for the 200 hp Rafale E-Tech are between €45,000 and €49,000, respectively in techno finish and in Alpine spirit version. Thanks to its hybridization, the Rafale avoids the CO2 penalty. However, it is affected by the weight penalty, up to €1,360 in Alpine style finish (1,735 kg), excluding options which can increase the mass of the vehicle. It is produced in Spain, in Palencia.

Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

Ergonomics and design

Gilles Vidal’s touch is obvious, so much so that we could imagine this Rafale sporting a Peugeot logo. The work on the grille is reminiscent of the lion’s latest productions. It is here made up of many small diamonds, as a reminder to anyone who might be mistaken about the identity of the Rafale.

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The Rafale’s wheelbase of 2.74 m is identical to that of the Espace.

The rear part sports a receding roof line, like the latest generation of the more compact Peugeot 3008. The Rafale, however, does not break any aerodynamic records, with an SCx of 0.812.

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The Rafale measures 1.86 m wide, excluding mirrors.

The interior is more classic, for those who have already boarded the Austral or the new Espace. The Rafale actually shares its dashboard with these two other SUVs.

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A slate insert is integrated on the right of the dashboard of the Alpine spirit versions, but its appearance is not very flattering.

The finishes are satisfactory, although certain plastics at the bottom of the dashboard may be more disturbing on board this Rafale than a “simple” Austral.

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The Rafale decorates its door bins with blue felt.

The Rafale is simply distinguished by a specific welcome animation, interfaces with a slightly revised design and more enveloping seats.

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The Alpine arrow “A” on the seats is illuminated.

If the ergonomics are generally good, thanks in particular to the presence of physical controls under the central screen, we regret that it is easy to get confused between the three controls to the right of the steering wheel. In addition to the windshield wipers, Renault has integrated the gearbox control and the famous control satellite to manage the radio. If the latter retains its aficionados, it is clear that buttons on the steering wheel would have made it possible to further clear the switch area.

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Ergonomics suffer from too many controls behind the steering wheel.

Despite its streamlined silhouette, the Rafale offers sufficient headroom for tall people at the rear. Legroom is very generous, but the central seat is not the most welcoming.

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The head restraints slightly hinder rearward visibility.

As an option at €1,500, the Solarbay panoramic glass roof uses polymer dispersed liquid crystals (PDLC) to become opaque on demand.

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It is possible to make the optional Solarbay panoramic roof opaque via a button, or by asking Google Assistant.

The cube trunk has 532 l of loading volume, as much as some models in the lower segment. This is much less than the 777 l of the Espace, more welcoming for passengers and their luggage.

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With the bench seat folded, the loading volume reaches 1604 l.

We regret the absence of zippers to lower the backs of the 40-20-40 bench seat from the trunk. In addition, in the absence of a modular trunk floor, a significant step is formed when the bench seat is folded down.

Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

Comfort and equipment

The Rafale uses the interfaces based on Android Automotive OS from the latest Renault models. The 12.3″ instrumentation screen is very readable. It can be overlooked as an option for €800 with a head-up display projected onto the windshield.

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Different displays are offered and it is possible to display navigation in the center of the counters.

Above all, the 12″ vertical central screen is one of the most responsive and modern on the market. Its interface is quite easy to use and we find Google services such as Maps or Google Assistant, in addition to many others applications accessible from the Play Store To take full advantage of the system, however, you will need to log in to a Google account.

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Google Maps is used as a native GPS system.

Replication of your smartphone remains possible via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wired or wireless.

For the rest, the equipment is relatively well stocked in Alpine spirit finish, but with some shortcomings all the same. If the induction charger at the center console, the electric tailgate or the heated front seats are delivered as standard, their electrical adjustments, the 360° cameras or the level 2 autonomous driving system are provided as options.

Editor's rating: 4 out of 5

Handling and performance

The Rafale uses the same CMF-CD platform as the Austral and Espace, slightly reworked. The tracks and tires have been widened, the 4Control four-wheel steering system has been tweaked, the steering is more direct and the suspensions are slightly firmer.

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Although it is not the sporty SUV that one might imagine, the Rafale nevertheless benefits from a successful chassis.

Road behavior is not completely transformed, but rather improved. The handling is good, the steering is pleasant and the four-wheel steering, standard in Alpine style finish, provides a certain liveliness. Above all, they allow the turning circle to be reduced to just 10.4 m, which is as much as a Clio.

We simply regret that the controlled suspensions are reserved for the 300 hp plug-in hybrid model in the Atelier Alpine version. Indeed, comfort could be improved on our trial version. Rolling noises are also a little too present in the cabin.

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The dog gearbox prefers not to be abrupt.

Be careful, however, not to be misunderstood, the Rafale remains an SUV without great sporting pretensions. Its engine-gearbox couple reminds its driver of this quite often. It consists of a 1.2 TCe turbo three-cylinder Miller cycle engine with 130 hp and 205 Nm of torque, associated with an electric motor of 50 kW (70 hp) and 205 Nm of torque and a 25 kW HSG starter-alternator. and 50 Nm of torque.

While performance is good, with a time of 8.9 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, the clutch gearbox of Renault’s hybrid models is particularly slow. It causes fairly significant dips during heavy acceleration, which, however, will not bother less-hurried drivers in any way.

The dosage of crawling and energy recovery still leaves a little to be desired. On the other hand, we appreciate the possibility of easily modulating energy recovery when lifting the foot, via paddles behind the steering wheel, which nevertheless cannot be used to control the gearbox.

In accordance with the new GSR 2 standard, the Renault Rafale is equipped with numerous driving aids that are automatically activated each time it restarts. Renault has, however, integrated a button to the left of the steering wheel, allowing you to find your personalized settings with a double press. No need, therefore, to dig through the touch screen menus every four mornings, for those who would like to deactivate the lane keeping assistance or the overspeed alert.

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A double click on a button to the left of the steering wheel is enough to find your driving assistance settings.

A Level 2 autonomous driving system is available as an option. It allows you to center the car in its lane when using adaptive cruise control.

Strong points

  • Fast and modern interfaces.

  • Low consumption.

  • Good road behavior.

  • Very short turning circle.

  • Easily configurable driving aids.

Weak points

  • Not the most practical trunk.

  • Slowness of the gearbox.

  • Perfectible suspension comfort.

  • Rolling noises too present.

  • Management of energy recovery and crawling can be improved.

Conclusion

we tried it we liked it
Global mark
Editor's rating: 4 out of 5

How does the rating work?

Effective on pragmatic criteria, with the exception of its impractical trunk, the Renault Rafale also takes care of its appearance and its road behavior. A recipe borrowed from Peugeot, but with much more modern on-board technologies than the lion brand. The consumption of this hybrid engine is also impressive. Only the dog gearbox, which is quite slow, can really discourage fans of driving pleasure.

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