People carriers have long been Renault’s strong suit, and the firm is sticking to what it knows best with the new Grand Scenic.
Seven seats, vast interior space and unrivalled versatility are the name of the game. But the firm does have a new trick up its sleeve. For our first UK drive of the family favourite, there’s a new engine – and it’s eager to prove that good things come in small packages.
The 128bhp 1.4-litre TCe unit (it stands for Turbo Control Efficiency) is based on a motor developed by Nissan, and continues the trend for smaller-capacity forced-induction engines (explored in our road test here).
Despite its size, the unit has similar power and torque to much larger naturally aspirated engines, while official economy of 39.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 170g/km are competitive.
Revving freely and giving plenty of mid-range punch, this powerplant makes the other new unit – the 2.0-litre dCi 160 diesel – seem heavy. Yet the 1.4’s fizz and sparkle isn’t transferred to the rest of the driving experience. While the Scenic is competent and comfortable, it’s not involving.
Still, what really matters in a car like this is the cabin, and families won’t be disappointed. The third row of seats folds flush into the boot floor, leaving a large flat load area, while all occupants benefit from first-class legroom. The vast array of cubbyholes – 40 in total – means there is always somewhere to store all your family’s bits and pieces, too.
Renault has teamed up with TomTom to produce the Carminat built-in sat-nav, and it’s superb, offering a familiar interface and user-friendly operation for an affordable price of £450.
The Grand Scenic range starts at £14,995, which looks good value given how well equipped the seven-seater is. This 1.4-litre TCe is a decent performer, too. And for those who want similar credentials in a five-seat package, the smaller, sportier new Scenic will appear in July.
Extended version of Nissan’s SUV-cum-hatch squeezes an extra pair of seats in the back, but is still surprisingly good to drive.
* Price: £18,595
* Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, turbo
* Power: 128bhp
* 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
* Economy: 39.8mpg
* CO2: 170g/km
* Equipment: Cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights and wipers, hands-free keycard, auto parking brake, MP3 connectivity
* On sale: Now