Renault Scenic review
The Renault Scenic is a stylish five-seat MPV that offers a degree of practicality and low running costs
All compact MPVs owe their existence to the Renault Scenic. The car was introduced in 1996 as an enlarged version of the Megane, and while subsequent models have used similar styling cues to the original, the Scenic has transformed from a pumped-up hatch to a hugely versatile people carrier.
The current model was introduced in 2009, but a recent facelift has given it a nose similar to the one on the new Clio. As well as standard and seven-seat Grand models, the Scenic is now offered in rugged XMOD form – all with a choice of efficient petrol and diesel engines.
The 130bhp 1.6 dCi with stop-start is one of the cleanest engines on the market, and is very cheap to run. All versions come very well equipped, with even entry-level models fitted with cruise control, air-conditioning and electric windows as standard. A facelift in 2012 saw improved styling and a simplified range, which included just two very well-equipped models.
Our choice: Scenic Dynamique TomTom 1.6 dCi 130 Start&Stop
The 2013 update to the Renault Scenic saw the boxy MPV ditch its smooth nose in favour of a conventional grille, with a large Renault badge taking pride of place up front. It’s a far sharper look than before, but it’s not as distinctive as the Citroen. XMOD models go a step further, riding 30mm higher and adding black plastic cladding to the wheelarches, doors and bumpers, plus silver skid plates front and rear. Giving the Scenic an SUV-style look is nothing new – Renault has sold the RX4 and Conquest models in the past – and it makes it appear more interesting than the dull VW Touran. Climb aboard, and you’ll find a centrally mounted instrument cluster with a clear TFT display, like the C4 Picasso, while TomTom models also include a sat-nav screen. There are more buttons than you’ll find in the Citroen, but the refresh has left the controls for the stereo and air-con alone, so they’re still a bit fiddly to use. The plastics feel hard and cheap compared with the Citroen’s, too. The centre console gets a gloss metallic grey finish, while the iDrive-style sat-nav control panel sits behind the gearlever. Overall, the Scenic’s cabin layout isn’t as stylish as the Citroen’s, and it favours function over form.
The entry-level engine – a 1.6-litre petrol with 109bhp – needs to be revved hard to provide adequate peformance, but the turbocharged 1.2-litre engine with 114bhp is much more flexible. There's a range of diesels but the pick of the bunch is the 1.6-litre engine with 130bhp and stop-start as it's incredibly smooth and quiet, with a good mix of pace and running costs. The 1.5 dCi diesel sounds quite rattly and you need to rev the 109bhp diesel hard to make decent progress. It only gets into its stride over 2,000rpm. As a result, overtaking is easier if you drop a gear or two. The gearshift feels a bit rubbery, but it's more positive than the gearbox in the C4 Picasso, for example. In corners, the Scenic can’t match its rivals such as the VW Touran for composure. There’s plenty of grip, but body roll is pronounced, which discourages you from pressing on. You don’t buy an MPV for its cornering ability, though, and the Scenic is quite comfortable most of the time. Another addition to XMOD models is Renault’s Grip Xtend system, which allows you to tailor the traction control to suit the terrain. However, it only has three settings: Road, Loose Ground (which only works at speeds up to 25mph) and Expert. The latter switches off the traction control, but overall the whole system seems to be a bit of a gimmick, and the front-wheel-drive Renault is no more of an off-roader than its rivals.
Renault Scenic owners were full of praise for the MPV in our most recent Driver Power survey, placing the model fourth overall and commending its practicality, ride and technology. Renault’s dealers also put in a positive performance, jumping up the rankings from 23rd in 2012 to ninth in 2013. The Scenic hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but the larger Grand Scenic earned a 91 per cent score for adult occupant protection – five per cent higher than the C4 Picasso. There are only two Isofix points in the back row compared to the Citroen C4 Picasso's three, though.
The Renault Scenic’s boot opening is narrower than the C4 Picasso’s, but there’s plenty of headroom under the open tailgate, as well as a flat load lip. Boot space of 470 litres is the smallest of the trio, while the maximum of 1,870 litres is available only if you remove the seats – in the Citroen, you simply fold them to get the 1,851-litre maximum. There’s plenty of storage space in the Renault, with underfloor compartments front and rear, deep door bins and storage trays beneath the front seats. However glovebox space is compromised by the presence of the fusebox.
The most efficient engine in the range is the 1.6 dCi diesel with stop-start, which returns 68.9mpg and emissions of just 104g/km making it very cheap to run indeed. All of the diesels are relatively frugal but both the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol and the 1.2-litre have high carbon emissions, with the former producing 174g/km and returning just 38.2mpg, which means a hefty road-tax bill. Alloy wheels are standard across the range, as is Bluetooth connectivity and parking sensors. Practical options like roof bars and tow hooks cost extra but are reasonably priced. Spare parts should be easy to get hold of due to the car's popularity, while other running costs like insurance and servicing should be cheap thanks to Renault's 4+ offer which includes a warranty, servicing and roadside assitance.