Renault Scenic review
The Renault Scenic is a stylish five-seat MPV that offers tonnes of practicality and low running costs
When the Renault Scenic first arrived in 1996, the French manufacturer said it had invented an all-new segment. More than a decade later, the third-generation Scenic is still top of the now established mini-MPV class. Available in both five and seven-seat bodystyles, the clever seating system means it's hugely practical and the range of refined and smooth diesel engines make it a comfortable and classy mode of family transport. 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. The Scenic based-RX4 SUV was ditched in 2003 but a new 4x4 has recently been spied testing and is expected to go on sale some time next year.
Our choice: Scenic Dynamique TomTom 1.6 dCi 130 Start&Stop
The Scenic proves that family cars don't need to look dull and the smart, well-proportioned design does an excellent job of concealing its relative bulk. Nice details like the contrasting inserts on the grille and chunky side sills give it a dose of attitude, too. All models come with alloy wheels and are very well-equipped. The cabin feels solidly put together, with an attractive dashboard and centrally mounted screen. It's not quite as contemporary as newer rivals like the Ford C-MAX, but the simple layout is easy to use and visibility is superb - an important factor when parking in a busy car park or narrow street.
The Scenic shares much of its suspension setup with the Renault Megane, which makes it very agile and ensures it handles surprisingly well, with lots of grip and good body control. 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 ride is very comfortable but this does mean that it can roll through corners if you push it too hard. It's better suited to relaxed motorway cruising.
Renault has a patchy history for reliability, but no major problems have been reported with the current model and the interior quality is vastly improved compared to previous generations. That said, it finished 94th in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey, which implies that Scenic owners aren't as happy with their cars as they could be. It is also one of the safest family cars on the market, though, with six airbags, ESP and ISOFIX childseat mounting points as standard. The current model hasn't been rated by Euro NCAP but has performed well in independent crash tests. As the last model received a full-five stars, this version should be no different.
The Renault Scenic is designed to handle anything a busy family can throw at it, so the load space is very flexible. The rearmost row of seats slide back and forth, so you can switch between legroom or extra boot space. This clever arrangement means a maximum boot size of 522 litres. The boot lip is mounted low and is more than a metre wide, which makes loading larger items easy. The back seats can also be removed entirely and - although you'll need somewhere to store them - this frees up a van-like 1,837 litres of room for those load-lugging emergencies.
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.