Renault’s latest concept is a small, rugged-looking unibody ute called the Niagara that previews what’s possible with the brand’s new modular platform.
The company says the Niagara features “E-Tech Hybrid 4WD technology” that partners an unspecified internal combustion engine that drives the front wheels, bolstered by a 48V mild-hybrid system, with an additional electric motor driving the rear wheels.
Renault says the Niagara can run exclusively on electric power, while it has long-travel suspension and underbody protection to help it off the beaten track.
With its chiselled bodywork, Renault claims the Niagara embodies its new design language which is “emotional as well as technological”.
Underneath the tough exterior and retro-inspired digital Renault badge up front, the Niagara boasts a number of off-road enhancements.
Although the press release doesn’t specify this, upon inspection of the images, a winch is visible under the protruding front bumper. Under the bumper sits a large skid plate.
In addition, the company claims the Niagara has “ample” clearance angles.
The concept houses a spare wheel on a roof rack, with two more spare wheels, a shovel and a traction board situated in the tub of the ute.
The Niagara’s new modular platform is a key part of Renault’s strategy to grow its market share – and its profits – in global markets.
Initially, the platform will support five new models, all of which will be small to medium-sized passenger cars and crossovers. Vehicles will be assembled in a number of regions, including Morocco, India, Türkiye and Latin America.
To increase efficiency and reduce emissions, this new platform will support traditional internal-combustion engines that can run on ethanol or LPG, and both 48V mild- and full-hybrid powertrains.
It also supports both front- and all-wheel drive configurations.
At this stage, the Niagara is strictly a concept. However, if production were to be greenlit, it’s likely the ute would find success in the Latin American market, where car-based utes are already popular.
Whereas larger dual-cab utes dominate Aussie roads, in markets like Latin America, small unibody utes are common with brands like Fiat, Chevrolet and Ram all offering such vehicles.
Renault currently fields two utes that it sells in various South American and African markets.
The first is the Oroch, sold in other markets under Renault’s budget Dacia brand and based on the popular Duster crossover.
The Oroch is available with a choice of two four-cylinder engines: a turbocharged 1.3-litre and a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre. It boasts a payload of 680kg.
The second ute that Renault sells is a rebadged Nissan Navara called the Alaskan, which shares its twin’s 3500kg braked towing capacity and 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine.