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Renault Rafale review

2024 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 3.3 out of 53.3

At a glance

Price new £38,195 - £52,140
Used prices £29,432 - £35,420
Road tax cost £180 - £590
Get an insurance quote with Mustard logo
Fuel economy 57.6 - 60.1 mpg
Miles per pound 8.4 - 8.8
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types

Hybrid

Alternative fuel

Pros & cons

PROS
  • Spacious rear seats
  • Attractive interior
  • Stonking finance deals
CONS
  • Stiff ride
  • Sluggish performance
  • Nervous four-wheel steer

Written by Alan Taylor-Jones Published: 5 June 2024 Updated: 7 June 2024

Overview

Think of the Renault Rafale as the brand’s flagship; 4.7 metres of coupe-inspired SUV with an eye on driving enjoyment. Power is provided by an all-hybrid powertrain lineup, with either a 200hp self-charging front-driver or a 300hp plug-in with four-wheel drive.

Despite its length, the Rafale is strictly a five-seater unlike key rivals such as the seven-seat Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq. However, the Rafale’s sleek roofline brings to mind premium options like the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. Both are a similar length but cost a five-figure sum more, with the smaller BMW X2 more in the Rafale’s price bracket.

The success of the compact Arkana has shown there’s a real appetite for slinkily-shaped SUVs with appealing monthly costs. Given the cracking finance deals Renault already have on the Rafale, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a hit for Renault. That price is likely to come down further with the introduction of a non-Alpine entry-level model further down the line.

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The Rafale has an inviting and spacious interior.

What’s it like inside?

Renault has been on form with its interiors of late, and the Rafale is no exception. You’ll find plenty of soft touch plastics, classy trims and switches that work pleasingly, with harder plastics mainly well hidden. While the 12.0-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen controls most functions, there are physical heater controls and buttons on the steering wheel.

The infotainment screen is angled towards the driver and has quick responses and crisp graphics. Some of the menus could be easier to fathom on the move, although overall it’s a good system that pairs well with the similarly hi-res 12.3-inch driver’s display. The four stalks (lights, wipers, gears and stereo) on the steering column look busy at first yet work well with familiarity.

The Rafale’s large footprint helps provide plentiful interior space, with enough room for those in the front to stretch out. Move to the rear, and both leg and headroom impress, even with a panoramic roof fitted. Four six-foot plus adults will be comfortable, and a fifth won’t be too badly catered for, either. Although the central rear seat is a bit flat, there’s only a low hump to contend with in the middle of the floor.

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Renault Rafale rear armrest
Anything that’s able to calm children on a long journey is worth praise in our book.

The central rear armrest is worthy of note, with two USB-C ports, a pair of cupholders, carpeted trays and swivelling smartphone mounts that can hold a phone each or a larger device paired together. Hopefully this should keep kids of all ages occupied on longer journeys.

Practicality impresses on paper, too. There’s a 40/20/40 split fold to the rear seat and Renault quotes a boot volume of 647-litres. We’d take this with a pinch of salt, as this figure includes underfloor storage that gets gobbled up by the optional spare wheel. Still, 535-litres above the boot floor isn’t bad, although we wish there was a variable height boot floor. As it stands, there’s a big loading lip and a step up from the boot floor to the backs of the folded rear seats.

Comfort

The electrically adjustable seats prove comfortable on longer drives and have a decent range of adjustment. That said, only the driver gets adjustable lumbar support which is a little mean. Renault are going big on recycling, with reused Alcantara and other more sustainable materials elsewhere inside.

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Renault Rafale rear seats
Despite the coupe roofline, rear headroom is good.

Safety

Euro NCAP are yet to get their hands on the Rafale, although results for the related Austral provide some clues to what to expect. The Austral gets five stars if not the highest scores in the class, making it a pretty safe bet.

All versions of the Rafale get plenty of safety kit including adaptive cruise with lane assist, adaptive LED headlights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.

What’s it like to drive?

Renault makes a big noise about how this is a more dynamic alternative to other big SUVs, and in part it’s right. All but entry-level models get four-wheel steering badged 4Control that boosts agility at low speeds and stability at high speeds. It works well in the less extreme modes, helping the Rafale feel smaller than it is, but ramp it up and there’s a nervousness to the system that dents your confidence.

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Renault Rafale front cornering
Four-wheel steering give the Rafale the same turning circle as a Clio.

It’s not like you get a great sense of connection to the front tyres either, so while there’s plenty of grip, it’s not something you relish driving quickly. The hybrid powertrain doesn’t help here, feeling lazy when you stamp on the throttle and giving performance that’s adequate, but not sporting. The 300hp plug-in hybrid should help here.

Efficiency is impressive, though. CO2 emissions are just 105-107g/km and according to official figures it’ll do up to 60.1mpg. I nearly matched that figure on slower, urban roads, with the figure dropping to the low 40s when pushing on in the countryside.

The engine doesn’t always behave how you think it will, though. Sometimes a tiny squeeze of the throttle will loudly fire the engine, whereas other times it’ll take a while to get going despite a flattened pedal. You’re best to drive it smoothly and efficiently where its low noise levels and generally smooth operation impress.

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Renault Rafale rear driving
Renault Rafale rear driving

It’s therefore a shame that the Rafale doesn’t ride better. While the plug-in gets adaptive dampers that should help, regular hybrids get conventional fixed dampers and a firm suspension setup. Pockmarked roads cause the car to fidget and larger bumps and dips generate plenty of thuds and thumps. A bit more compliance would certainly make it a better long distance companion.

What models and trims are available?

The Rafale launches with the E-Tech full hybrid system and a choice of high-end Techno Esprit Alpine or Iconic Esprit Alpine trims. A cheaper, less sporty Techno trim and the plug-in hybrid powertrain will follow later. Techno Esprit Alpine comes with loads of standard equipment including a head-up display, 20-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and those part Alcantara seats.

Jumping up to Iconic Esprit Alpine gets you a panoramic sunroof with an electronically controlled tint, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, 360-degree camera system and self parking. In other words, stuff that’s nice to have but by no means essential.

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