Renault Scenic review
The Renault Scenic is a five-seat MPV that offers practicality, refinement and low running costs
The Scenic is Renault’s five-seat compact MPV that majors on comfort, refinement and a good level of standard equipment.
The diesel engines are economical and the 1.6-litre dCi unit is particularly smooth. There’s also a 1.2-litre TCe petrol available, which is better for low-mileage drivers.
Quiet on the move with a smooth ride and lots of space, the Renault Scenic ticks most of the boxes MPV buyers want. There’s plenty of legroom for rear-seat passengers and the boot is large, which is impressive given the Scenic’s compact proportions. It isn’t particularly inspiring to drive or sit in though, while insurance groups are a little high compared to those of rivals.
The original Renault Scenic was one of the first mini-MPVs on the market and its combination of a versatile people-carrier design and hatchback dimensions opened the doors for a succession of family-friendly models to follow suit.
The first Scenic was launched back in 1996 as a spin-off from the Megane hatchback, but these days it's a model in its own right. A practical, five-seat people carrier, the third-generation Scenic rivals the likes of the Ford C-MAX, Citroen C4 Picasso, Toyota Verso, Volkswagen Touran, Vauxhall Zafira Tourer and Kia Carens.
The Scenic range has also expanded to include two alternative versions. If you need seven seats there’s the Grand Scenic, while the Scenic XMOD is a five-seat model that has rugged SUV-style looks, all-weather tyres and an advanced traction control system that has three driving modes for light off-road work.
Engines comprise a range of efficient petrol and diesel units. The 128bhp 1.6-litre dCi is one of the cleanest engines of its kind on the market, cheap to run and also very smooth. There’s also a Scenic 1.5 dCi diesel with 109bhp, which is available with an automatic gearbox (a six-speed manual is standard) and has slightly better running costs than the 1.6.
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A single petrol engine, Renault's 1.2-litre Tce unit, is available with either 113bhp or 128bhp. Both versions are more expensive to run than the diesels but they’re comparatively cheaper to buy and make more sense for drivers who don’t cover big miles.
One of the Scenic’s strong points is the generous amount of equipment you get as standard. There are only two trim levels – Dynamique Nav and Limited Nav – each of which comes with sat-nav. Other kit you get with the entry-level model includes air conditioning, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers and cruise control.
Engines, performance and drive
The Renault Scenic isn’t exactly a riot to drive but it is very comfortable, as an MPV should be. Visibility is excellent thanks to its high driving position, and the XMOD versions have an even better view of the road thanks to a 30mm increase in ride height.
The Scenic is quite similar to the Renault Megane, in that it offers decent handling and a smooth ride, because both models share a lot of components under the skin. In corners, the Renault Scenic isn't as composed as rivals such as the Volkswagen Touran or the Ford C-MAX – there's a lot of grip but body control isn't great and it tends to lean quite heavily. Cornering is never going to be a key selling point for an MPV, so this isn't really a major concern.
The Renault is very refined though, particularly when it’s fitted with the 1.6-litre dCi diesel engine, which is exceptionally quiet.
XMOD models get Renault's Grip Xtend system, which allows you to tailor the traction control to better suit the surface you’re covering. There are three settings: Road, Loose Ground and Expert. Loose Ground only works at speeds below 25mph, after which the Road setting cuts back in.
All Scenics come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, though a six-speed automatic is available with the diesel engines.
The 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine sounds like a small unit for a sizeable MPV such as the Scenic, but it’s nippy and smoother than you might expect – ideal for low mileage or town drivers. It’s available with either 113bhp or 128bhp and will accelerate to 62mph in 11.7 and 11.4 seconds respectively.
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The diesel engines have more mid-range pull and, as usual, are better for higher mileage drivers. The most economical is the 109bhp 1.5-litre dCi model, but it's slowest Scenic of the lot, with 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds (13.4 seconds if you go for the automatic).
The 128bhp 1.6-litre dCi engine is the sweet spot of the range. It’s almost as cheap to run as the 1.5 and has a lot more power at 320Nm versus the 1.5’s 240Nm. It still isn’t a fast car but it is the quickest Scenic to 62mph at 10.3 seconds and it’s that much smoother than every other engine in the range.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The cheapest engine option is the 1.2-litre TCe 115. It isn’t the most frugal unit in the range but it returns an official 45.6mpg and 140g/km of CO2. The TCe 130 version has exactly the same economy and emissions figures, too.
The two diesels are much more economical. The 1.5-litre dCi 115 is the most efficient of the lot with 68.9mpg and 105g/km of CO2 – impressive figures for an MPV. The automatic version isn’t quite as good at 64.2mpg and 114g/km but you’re unlikely to notice a difference in everyday driving.
Those figures of 64.2mpg and 114g/km are exactly the same for the 1.6-litre dCi 130 engine too, so every diesel Scenic is very cheap to run – even the XMOD versions, for which the economy and emissions figures remain the same.
Insurance groups for the Scenic start at group 18 for the Dynamique Nav model with the 113bhp version of the 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine. The 128bhp variant is in group 20, while the diesels start at group 19 for the 1.5 and rise to 23 or 24 for the 128bhp 1.6 version, depending on the car's trim level.
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The Renault is actually more expensive to insure than the Citroen C4 Picasso, which starts in group 14 (though higher spec versions also reach group 24) and it’s the same for the Ford C-MAX – that starts in group 11 and goes no higher than group 20.
Renault’s residual values haven’t always been the best around, though they have improved in recent years. A non-premium MPV such as the Scenic is likely to suffer reasonably harsh depreciation, particularly when it’s fitted with a petrol engine, so the 1.5 and 1.6-litre diesel models are probably safer bets if you want a car that will better hold its value for when you come to sell it.
Interior, design and technology
It's very difficult to make an MPV visually appealing but a 2013 update saw the Scenic gain a new grille similar to that of the Clio, along with a large Renault badge in the centre of the bonnet. It's a far sharper look than before, but the Scenic remains something of an anonymous-looking car and it's still not as distinctive as a Citroen C4 Picasso or Ford C-MAX.
The new, rugged XMOD version of the Renault Scenic adds 30mm to the ride height, black plastic cladding to the wheel arches, doors and bumpers, plus silver skid plates to the front and rear. Visually, it offers more than the dull Volkswagen Touran and at least looks as though it could handle some off-roading, even if it’s still front-wheel drive under the skin and is unlikely to outdo your average 4x4 SUV on rough terrain.
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The interior is a bit of a mixed bag. There are classier materials at the top of the dashboard, such as soft-touch and piano-black plastics, but the lower half is made up of cheaper, harder stuff. Rivals such as the Citroen C4 Picasso – which has a rather futuristic cabin – are well ahead in terms of interior quality.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The availability of sat-nav with the Scenic is one of the car’s strong points, as every model has it. The clue is in the name, but both the Dynamique Nav and Limited Nav trim levels come with a TomTom navigation system as standard, which is impressive for the entry-level mode in particular.
Inside the Scenic, you'll find a centrally mounted instrument cluster with a clear TFT display and, being a TomTom system, the sat-nav itself is perfectly user-friendly. The rest of the equipment list is impressive too, as the Renault comes with the likes of Bluetooth, aux and USB sockets and keyless entry as standard.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
As you'd expect from an MPV, practicality and room is where the five-seat Renault Scenic excels. Visibility is good due to the high, upright driving position and there's a lot of handy storage space in the cabin including underfloor compartments in the front and rear, deep door bins and storage trays beneath the front seats. The only downside is the glovebox, which is a bit on the small side.
The Scenic is 4,366mm long, 1,845mm wide and 1,640mm long. It’s actually quite short for an MPV, as rivals such as the Citroen C4 Picasso, Ford C-MAX, Kia Carens and Toyota Verso are all longer, but that doesn’t stop the Renault from making the most of the available space.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Scenic’s rear seats slide back and forth to prioritise either passenger legroom or the amount of space on offer in the boot. You can even take the back seats out completely if you really need all that space. The floor in front of the rear passengers is flat, which means there’s plenty of room for legs and feet even for the passenger in the central seat.
Meanwhile, the larger, seven-seat Renault Grand Scenic is available for those wanting even greater practicality.
With all five seats in place, boot space is 555 litres but with the back seats removed this expands to a massive 1,837 litres.
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The Renault Scenic's boot opening isn't as wide as you'll find with the Citroen C4 Picasso, but there's still a flat load lip, which makes loading bulky items that little bit easier. However, the XMOD’s slightly taller ride height means the lip is 30mm higher than the standard car’s.
Every Scenic including the XMOD can tow 1,300kgs, regardless of its engine or gearbox.
Reliability and Safety
After an extremely impressive fourth-place finish in the 2013 Driver Power Survey, the Renault Scenic plummeted 49 places to 53rd in 2014 and dropped further to 78th in 2015. Owners were satisfied with its practicality, ride quality and comfort, but its build quality, performance and handling all took a pasting. However, it’s quite normal for cars to make their way down the list over time, while the Scenic was still the third-highest people carrier in the survey and well within the top half of the list of 200 cars.
Renault as a manufacturer climbed eight places to finish seventh out of 32 in our manufacturer Driver Power rankings, which is a very strong result. Meanwhile, there have been no major recalls or problems reported for the Scenic so far.
The latest Renault Scenic hasn't been tested by Euro NCAP but previous generations have fared well, so you can expect this car to be much the same. The seven-seat Renault Grand Scenic – which is just a bigger version of the same car – has been tested and it received the full five stars, with 91 per cent for adult occupant protection – that's another fine performance from Renault.
The Renault Scenic comes fitted with ESP (electronic stability control), ISOFIX child seat anchor points and six airbags as standard.
Renault’s warranty is one of the better ones on the market; with four years and 100,000 miles of cover. It’s a way ahead of the standard three-year/60,000-mile package offered by the likes of Ford, Citroen and Volkswagen. Only the Kia Carens and the Toyota Verso can really outdo the Scenic on this front, with their respective seven-year/100,00-mile and five-year/100,000-mile warranties.
Renault recommends a major service for the Scenic every 18,000 miles or annually for the petrols, and every two years for the diesels. The firm does have a fixed price service plan but the cost depends on your exact vehicle and mileage.
Renault’s interim services for cars under three years old start at £139, while a full service costs from £169 – but those figures can vary depending on the car.