New Renault Scenic MPV debuts with bold design direction

4 Mar, 2016 10:30am Richard Ingram

Renault's fresh challenge to the dwindling people-carrier market needs to sell or "MPVs deserve to die" bosses cay

Renault made its mark at the Geneva Motor Show - not with a showy supercar, but with the new Scenic MPV. The production model made its world debut in Switzerland ahead of its release towards the end of the year.

The original Renault Scenic was a notable trend-setter, but rivals like the Citroen C4 Picasso have knocked the current car down the pecking order. Alongside that, MPV sales are slowly dwindling as buyers favour crossovers and SUVs.

Step forward this bold new crossover-inspired design, for a car that chief designer Laurens van den Acker hopes will make parents “fall in love again” - as they did with the ground-breaking original all the way back in 1996.

Talking to Auto Express at Geneva, van den Acker even went as far as saying "If this doesn't sell, then the sector deserves to die".

"If a car can breathe some life into the MPV sector, then this is it. If it doesn't sell what else can we do? We cannot do the same as our competitors. In some big countries in Europe, we just aren’t on people’s radar. We have a deficit to make up.”

Renault is continuing its latest family car revolution - started with the Kadjar SUV, new Megane hatch and forthcoming large SUV - with a thoroughly re-thought take on the people carrier. The brand has clearly taken inspiration from its Kadjar  giving the car a crossover look thanks to bigger wheels and an elevated stance.

But it’s all an illusion. The standard-fit 20-inch wheels trick your mind into thinking Renault has pumped up the suspension and given the Scenic a raised ride height. But the roof is actually lower than before, while the windscreen has been raked forward by 100mm to give a sleeker, more desirable design. It’s a technique used on the not-for-UK Renault Espace, and one that has seen strong sales in mainland Europe.

It will of course continue to be one of the safest cars on sale, with the Scenic marking introducing three new safety systems to the Renault range. Lane Keeping Assist, Active Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and Tiredness Detection all feature on the MPV-cum-crossover.

New Renault Scenic design

The now-familiar oversized badge gives the car the latest Renault family face, while there’s also a lower roofline, longer wheelbase and shorter rear overhang than on the previous model. The wheels have been pushed right into the corners of the car, too, for a sportier appearance.

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This all adds up to a car that’s less MPV and more family-focused SUV-crossover. Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker said: “It is a sexier and more modern take on the MPV, which carries over the outstanding modularity that has been paramount to the success of the model’s three previous generations.

Van den Acker has also revealed that there will be more external differences between the five-seat Scenic and seven-seat Grand Scenic due for reveal later in the year. The Scenic, which is based on the same platform as the new Megane, will sit between Renault’s Captur and Kadjar SUVs in terms of overall size and pricing, with the Grand Scenic positioned alongside the company’s upcoming seven-seat flagship SUV.

New Renault Scenic interior

Inside, the new Scenic mirrors the new Megane, which we drove late last year. There are three dashboard screen setups, with the most lavishly-equipped cars utilising an 8.7-inch portrait display with R-Link 2 technology. It’s beautifully finished inside, too, with programme director Delphine de Andria telling Auto Express: “I want top-spec versions to compete with BMW and Mercedes”.

Owners will be able to “personalise their driving experience”, with a drive mode selector on the dash. This dial adjusts the throttle response, steering weight and even the interior ambient lighting, as the driver flicks through Neutral, Sport, Comfort, Perso and Eco modes.

A full-colour heads-up display takes the new car further upmarket, while Renault’s tie-up with premium stereo maker Bose continues in the 2016 Scenic.

New Renault Scenic practicality

The wider body has allowed for a roomier and more flexible seating layout, while the Grand Scenic will offer more head and legroom in the third row. Boot space is also up on the previous version, boasting 572 litres with the rear seats in place (versus 555 litres in the outgoing car).

Renault also claims an additional 63 litres of stowage dotted around elsewhere in the car – including an 11.5-litre electric glovebox. There’s a sliding centre console, too, with a 13-litre pocket for assorted odds and ends.

There’s loads of room inside the cabin, and despite removing the three individual rear seats from the old car, there’s enough space to fit three adults across the back. The reason behind Renault’s apparent oversight is that the chairs can now be folded flat into the floor, rather than necessitating the cumbersome removal as seen on current cars. You can still slide the rear seats for and aft, but only in a 60:40 arrangement.

New Renault Scenic engines

Powertrains will be shared pretty much wholesale with the Megane, so we will see a range of four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines from launch. The dCi 95 and dCi 130 models will both come with a manual gearbox, while the mid-range dCi 110 will also be available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. A dCi 160 flagship will come solely with the auto. Two petrols - a TCe 115 and TCe 130, will both be manual only.

However, Renault has also confirmed a diesel-electric hybrid option will debut on the dCi 110 engine before the end of the year. The car will - unusually for a hybrid - use a six-speed manual.

What do you think of the all-new Renault Scenic? Let us know in the comments section below...