If any manufacturer is going to stay loyal to the idea of a Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) instead of yet another Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) then it’s bound to be Renault as they produced the first one way back in 1996 with the Megane Scenic. Since then MPVs have gotten progressively uglier and less-desirable – until now.
The new Renault Scenic and its longer, 7-seater sibling the Renault Grand Scenic are far from ugly yet keep that MPV look with large glass areas and swooping windscreens. Style is no longer sacrificed over function with both cars looking very curvaceous and with 20in alloy wheels being standard across the range Renault have announced loud and clear that the new Scenic is aimed squarely at younger families who not only require practicality from their vehicle but also want something that looks great on the driveway too.
Okay, Citroen have given it a pretty good shot with the C4 Picasso which is very family-friendly but still look a little bus-like and of course there is the VW Touran which is considerably more expensive and considerably duller to look at.
Still based on the Megane platform but no longer sharing its name, the new Renault Scenic comes in four flavours: Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav with even the £21,065 basic model being well equipped and including front fog lights, heated door mirrors, dual-zone climate control, R-Link2 7in touchscreen, electronic parking brake, Forward Collision Warning and Brake Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Active Emergency Braking System with pedestrian detection, Auto High/Low Beam, Traffic Sign Recognition and Cruise Control.
The Dynamique Nav (£23,105) adds Fatigue Alert, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, MULTI-SENSE Ambient Lighting and Driving Mode selector as well as Tom Tom Live Sat Nav services while Dynamique S Nav (£25,105) adds a colour Head Up Display, Rear Parking Camera, Contrasting roof and door mirrors, Panoramic fixed glass Sunroof with power blind and a larger 8.7in touchscreen.
Range-topping Signature Nav (£26,605) also gets full LED headlights, Nappa Leather Steering Wheel, electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar support and a memory function on the driver seat. There is also a different style “Quartz” alloy wheel design.
Engines consist of a 1.2 petrol tCE with either 115 or 130 bhp and 2 diesel engines: the tried and trusted 110 bhp 1.5 dCi and a 1.6 dCi that outputs 130 bhp – or 160 bhp in the range-topping auto model.
I’ve been driving a Scenic Dynamique S Nav fitted with the 1.5 dCi engine and for the most part it’s been an enjoyable experience marred only by an unexpected firm-ish ride that didn’t quite suit the Scenic’s persona.
While the outside of the new Scenic is a joy to behold, the interior doesn’t quite measure up when it comes to pushing the boundaries. It’s certainly a step up from what has gone before but it just doesn’t have the wow-factor that the exterior manages.
The main problem is the sea of grey and black in the cabin. It may be quite nicely stitched in a contrasting thread but there aren’t enough variations in tone to lift it beyond “quite nice”.
The central console looks a little like an afterthought stuck to the dash with the gearstick sticking through. However, the 8.7in portrait touchscreen above saves the day by looking rather smart – and it works very well, being simple to use with large icons and very responsive with no lag. While multimedia, sat nav, phone and heating functions are available from the screen, Renault have helpfully placed four small buttons just below the screen for easy access to the main heating functions.
The main dials are a colourful TFT affair with the primary dial being configurable and very easy to read. My car also had the head-up-display which rises from the top of the dash on start-up. Always reminds me of Top Gun for some reason . . .
There are many cubby holes around the vehicle – even hidden ones beneath the rear floor mats which the kids will love “hiding” things in – but I can’t quite figure out the reasoning behind the slide-able central console which can be pushed back, protruding into the rear passenger space.
While up-front feels spacious and light, the rear felt surprisingly cramped. The seats themselves feel very comfortable – even the third centre seat – but there isn’t enough leg room for your average adult. The seats themselves slide forward and backwards to give more boot space but even set fully back longer journeys could become tiresome – although the panoramic sunroof lets in plenty of light and so the rear doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
However, it will probably be kids using those rear seats so there shouldn’t be any complaints. They even get a couple of USB charging points for their phones/tablets in the rear of the sliding console and a 12v charger too. There are also a couple of aero-style drop down tables which have elasticated chords to hold tablets in place while viewing.
Boot space is best in class with 572 litres and 1554 litres with seats folded down. Just like in previous models, the seats fold completely flat making loading and unloading very easy. I also like the way the seats can all be folded electronically from a single button in the boot – or if you wish to impress you can use the touschscreen to fold them too.
Driving the Renault Scenic won’t thrill you but it will get you and your family to your destination comfortably if the roads are relatively smooth. However, on rougher tarmac the Scenic does thump and jump a little more than expected which I can only put down to the enormous 20in wheels.
Steering is nice and light and the gear-change is just as good as the excellent new Renault Megane but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed that the Scenic doesn’t drive as well. There is very little body-roll around corners but I think I would have sacrificed some of this stiffness for a bit more ride comfort – the Citroen C4 Picasso is a more relaxed drive, for example.
However, I think most families would be happy to travel even long distances in the new Renault Scenic as it’s a genuinely pleasing place to sit and provides enough family-friendly features to keep the little ones quiet. For a while anyway . . .
Renault Scenic Dynamique S Nav 1.5 dCi 110
OTR Price: £25,105
Engine: 1.5 dCi diesel
Power: 110 bhp
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62mph: 12.4 secs
Top Speed: 114 mph
Combined Economy: 72.4 mpg
Photos by Tony Whittle Photography