People carriers have got it tough. Despite their impressive practicality, the versatility and space they offer is being matched by estates, SUVs and even van-based family cars.
But now, Renault is fighting back with a rugged-looking MPV which thinks it’s a 4x4. Called the Scenic Conquest, it’s loosely described as a successor to the RX4 – a beefed-up version of the old Scenic, complete with four-wheel drive. That car hardly set the sales charts alight, so will the new offering fare any better?
While the MPV doesn’t feature all-wheel drive, you are unlikely to mistake it for a run-of-the-mill Renault. At the front, black bumpers and a chrome-finished skid plate provide an off-road look, and there’s matching underbody protection at the rear.
Inside, the changes include some natty graphics on the centre console, as well as a leather steering wheel and gearlever. To give the Scenic some off-road ability, the revised suspension raises ground clearance by 20mm. However, the MPV is likely to spend most of its time on the road, and with the top-of-the-range 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, it delivers strong performance. There’s 128bhp and 300Nm of torque at 2,000rpm which, combined with the six-speed box, gives the Renault serious pace; it covers 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds.
Fuel economy is also impressive, at 47.1mpg, and it’s backed up by CO2 emissions of 160g/km. The MPV is also available with a 2.0-litre petrol unit, priced at £17,945; the diesel variant driven here will set you back a hefty £19,135. But unless you really need the Conquest’s extra ground clearance or want the rugged styling, the Ford S-MAX 2.0 TDCi is better value – and it comes with an extra pair of seats.
Rival: Skoda Octavia Scout
Off-road looks and a raised ride height aren’t just for show on the Ocatvia, as this 4WD estate is a practical, go-anywhere family car. And at £19,675, it’s only slightly more expensive than the Renault.
* Price: £19,135
* Engine: 1.9-litre 4cyl, 128bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
* Economy: 47.1mpg
* CO2: 160g/km
* Service intervals: 9,000 miles/1yr
* Standard equipment: Traction control, rear parking sensors, roof bars, 16in alloys, air-con, leather steering wheel and gearlever
* On sale: Now