First Drive: Renault Scenic and Grand Scenic
Renault’s pioneering MPV is back among the best in its class, reckons Alex Grant.
SECTOR Compact MPV PRICE £19,000-£29,000 (TBC) FUEL 46.3-80.7mpg CO2 92-136g/km
It’s 20 years since Renault created its own niche with the Megane Scenic, a competitive segment which swelled over the following decade before the Nissan Qashqai burst its bubble and drivers moved on to crossovers. The pioneer was left looking a little unloved.
Renault took almost another decade to catch up, not that lateness has harmed Kadjar sales, but its MPV legacy hasn’t been forgotten. With the fourth-generation Scenic, it wants to show that you can continue the human race without leaving your self-image at the door.
It’s certainly bold. Lower, wider and longer, available with bright and optionally two-tone paintwork and perched, SUV-like, over a set of unusually large 20-inch wheels, it has the styling to take on Citroën’s futuristic C4 Picasso.
But this is a balancing act. An MPV is a rational choice, and the Scenic needs Kadjar-beating flexibility to have an ongoing role. It delivers. The cabin is spacious and heavily glazed to avoid carsick kids, there are cubby holes in all four footwells to conceal small toys, stray Mini Cheddars and sand, and the sliding centre armrest box and drawer-like glovebox are cavernous.
For large loads, the rear seats fold completely flat using buttons inside the tailgate, or via the touchscreen on some models. Being picky, it’s a shame they don’t also lift electrically as they’re quite heavy to move with one hand, it’s tricky getting the load cover into the under-floor compartment, and the third row of the Grand Scenic is really just for kids.
Up front, visibility through the three-piece windscreen is impressive, and the wide, supportive seats offer ache-free long-distance travel. The all-digital displays are shared with the new Megane – they offer plenty of information clearly, and de-clutter the dashboard without removing the physical controls for the air conditioning. It works well.
The UK will get a simple range structure, with a £1,400 premium for the Grand Scenic and each successive trim level adding £1,500. Renault expects most volume to come from the Dynamique Nav and Dynamique S Nav versions, both of which have all-round parking sensors, the one-touch seat folding and rear tray tables, but the excellent portrait-orientated infotainment screen is amongst the equipment saved for the latter.
For fleets, Renault’s familiar dCi 110 diesel engine will be the likely choice, emitting 100g/km or 104g/km respectively with five or seven seats. A mild hybrid system – which can collect and store energy, then use this to assist the engine via a small motor while pulling away – takes CO2 emissions down to 92g/km for both versions. Cheaper than a full hybrid system and barely noticeable from the driver’s seat, it’s a benefit which doesn’t require instructions.
That’s also true of the unusually large 20-inch wheels fitted across the range. They’re a way to offer the styling drivers want without the headache of developing suspension to suit multiple sizes, so the ride quality is surprisingly compliant with only a slight tendency to thump over rough surfaces. Although they’re big enough to fill supercar arches, they’re also no wider than the old Scenic’s 17-inch wheels, which minimises the fuel economy sacrifice. Tyres will be no more expensive than on the outgoing car, and available across the network from launch – the potential for kerb damage is the only real concern.
This might be a sector defined by needs rather than desires, but the Scenic does an impressive job catering for both. Renault appears to have rediscovered the love for MPVs; the manufacturer that once defined a segment has come full circle to redefine it.
Concept car styling with genuine flexibility underneath, the Scenic is another reminder that Renault really has got its mojo back. Ironically, its toughest rival might be the more fashionable and almost as practical Kadjar.