Renault Grand Scenic 1.4 TCe

New look for MPV pioneer

Few firms can rival Renault’s rich MPV history. It was one of the class’s pioneers, launching its innovative Espace seven-seater nearly 30 years ago.

But the smaller Scenic and Grand Scenic have made even more of an impact. By serving up five or seven-seat versatility in a package the size of a family hatchback, these models have proved enormously popular.

Now, there’s an all-new version that bosses claim is bigger and more practical than ever. So, does it have what it takes to secure class honours? Initial impressions aren’t promising as the seven-seat Grand Scenic lacks visual appeal. Despite a bold nose and distinctive upright tail-lamps, its exterior is plain – there’s not a lot of flair to the shape.

Most MPV buyers will be more concerned about practicality than style, though – and when you climb aboard, the firm’s designers have clearly been busy. A lot of thought has gone into the Grand Scenic’s cabin and there’s plenty of space – particularly for occupants in the middle row, where the three individual seats slide backwards and forwards, or can be taken out.

Open the large tailgate and you’ll find the two rearmost seats, which fold into and out of the floor in one easy movement. When these are in place, passengers have more head and legroom than in the other two cars here, although anything other than short journeys will be a challenge for most adults.

With all seven seats in position, you can squeeze 208 litres of luggage in the back – which is nearly 100 litres more than the Mazda. Drop all the chairs flat and you get a van-like maximum capacity of 2,063 litres.

Stowage space isn’t solely restricted to the boot, though. Hidden away in the floor, for example, are four lidded compartments. Renault claims there are 40 separate storage cubbies in total, while adding to the family friendly feel are the aircraft-style fold-out trays in the seatbacks. Buyers also get a second rear view mirror to keep an eye on children in the rear.

Only the dash disappoints. Although it’s well built using decent materials, and has an attractive swooping shape, the digital dials in our Dynamique test car look at odds with the user-friendly interior. You do get plenty of kit, however, including a Bluetooth phone connection, cruise control and Renault’s keyless entry system.

From behind the wheel, the newcomer is competent rather than exciting. There is plenty of grip and the handling is safe and predictable, but there’s very little driver involvement. The latest Scenic is better suited to relaxed long-distance cruising, thanks to its supple ride, low wind noise and standard six-speed manual gearbox.

The highlight of the package is the new 128bhp 1.4-litre petrol turbo. Even though it’s the smallest engine on test, it gave the strongest real-world performance.

Peak torque of 191Nm comes in at only 2,250rpm, and the smooth unit hauled the Renault from 50-70mph in sixth gear in 11.6 seconds – a full 3.3 seconds faster than the 1.8-litre Toyota. So, look past the styling and the Scenic is clearly back on form. Has it done enough to beat its rivals?

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Original Scenic invented the compact MPV sector – and the third generation promises to be the most versatile yet.

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