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Cheap EVs, electric SUVs and vans galore: Renault Australia's new strategy includes rivals to Kia Seltos, Tesla Model 3 and maybe even Suzuki Jimny and Ford Maverick

The Megane E-Tech (pictured) and R5 EV will prepare Renault for changing consumer tastes and future emissions regs.

Renault has charted a course to growth in Australia, with four distinct product streams that will give the French brand its broadest and boldest market coverage ever in this market.

All will build on the existing line-up that currently consists of three SUVs (Captur II, new Arkana and Koleos II) and vans apiece (Kangoo, Trafic and Master), as well as the Megane RS hot hatch.

Kicking things off later in 2022 will be the all-new, third-generation Kangoo van, which will again include an electric vehicle (EV) version, known as E-Tech in Renault-speak. Rolling out in Europe now, it should continue to give the sales-leading Volkswagen Caddy very strong competition, catching up on most fronts including safety, comfort and refinement.

Renault’s EV strategy then steps up with the long-awaited Megane E-Tech, unveiled in September and slated for an Australian launch sometime during 2023. As part of Renault’s ‘Renovation’ phase, it’s a high-riding hatch/crossover with an all-electric powertrain shared with the closely related Nissan Ariya EV, with only the name carrying over from before.

Much is riding on the Megane E-Tech in Europe, giving the brand a formidable weapon against the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Tesla Model 3/Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Toyota bZ4X and VW ID.4, among a wave of other similar EV competitors.

Still on electrification, 2023 should see the exciting R5 E-Tech, a small hatch debut internationally – and at least one year later in Australia – melding 70s retro chic with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s vaunted high-tech CMF-BEV common modular family EV architecture.

Among other notable features, it’s claimed to slash the cost of EVs – to the tune of 33 per cent compared to the old Zoe EV that retailed in Australia from $50,000. The latter, by the way, has been Europe’s bestselling EV for years now, so R5 has massive shoes to fill. It should also partly make up for the profound disappointment of killing one of our favourite superminis in Australia, the Clio.

The R5 E-Tech hype is all about the democratisation of pure-electric motoring, joined by other head-turners in short order, including the production version of the R4ever retro-crossover EV, as well as a collaboration with Lotus Cars that will spawn an overtly sporty SUV/hatch EV grand tourer under the now-electrified Alpine badge.

All these new-wave Renault EVs are under the watchful eye of Laurens Van Den Acker, who has amassed an armada of talented designers, including Peugeot-renaissance architect Gilles Vidal.

Speaking to CarsGuide last month, Renault Australia managing director Glen Sealey said that while not everything will and locally, there are plenty of choices that should suit Australian consumer tastes.

“There’s a whole raft of Renault vehicles, including the R5 E-Tech, that we have put our hand up for,” he revealed. 

But the 122-year-old brand from Boulogne-Billancourt isn’t abandoning the internal-combustion engine just yet.

On one hand the will be the advanced, low-emissions and probably electric-hybrid-assisted downsized turbo-petrol-engined models that will power the evolution and/or replacements for the Western Europe-focused models like the Captur and closely related Arkana SUVs, as well as the Koleos – with the latter two arriving via its Renault Samsung subsidiary in South Korea. All are likely to continue as premium competitors to the likes of Volkswagen, Mazda, Honda and Toyota.

However, Renault’s own in-house budget brand, Dacia from Romania, is preparing a bevy of new-generation models with streamlined engineering to help keep prices down. Some of these Eastern European models are earmarked for Australia – including the Duster small SUV, Bigster medium/large SUV and rumoured Oroch car-based dual-cab ute.

Crucially, they will wear the Renault rather than the Dacia logo when imports start from 2024, and will rely on European flair and value positioning, to bother MG, Haval, Kia and Skoda at ‘value’ end of the market.

As we’ve outlined previously, Dacias like the Kia Seltos-sized Duster and (not for Oz for now) Sandero have earned their maker a massive following in Europe, Africa and South America. To help keep that ball bouncing along, Van Den Acker has recruited ex-Seat and Cupra designer Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos to really ramp up the aesthetic vibe.

The torrent of fresh metal from Romania should also include the Bigster-based, Ford Maverick-style Oroch II dual-cab pick-up – a car-based ute that’s expected in 2025 if Renault Australia’s wishlist is fulfilled.

Finally, Renault has recently paired Dacia up with Lada (yep, of Soviet-era Niva fame and Brock Samara notoriety) through its majority ownership of Russia’s Avtovaz conglomerate; a new-gen Niva is in the pipeline and one of its targets will be the roaringly successful Suzuki Jimny. Surely that would be a shoe-in for Australia.

With such frenetic activity on multiple levels, Renault reckons it is serious about keeping its century-plus long presence in Australia prospering heading into the middle of this decade.

We’ve heard this sort of talk before, particularly regarding this brand, but the plan is bang in the middle of where the market seems to be heading, meaning Renault will be one to watch.