Renault’s MPV heritage stretches all the way back to 1984, and the manufacturer can be credited with inventing the compact people carrier sector with the original Scenic 12 years later in 1996. So it’s no surprise that the current model remains a strong contender, especially in seven-seat Grand guise.
The latest car bears a close resemblance to the smaller five-seater, and despite its focus on practicality, the Grand Scenic is attractive and bold. At the front the traditional Renault family nose merges with oversized headlamps and a huge windscreen. Neat alloys, metal-effect trim and vertically stacked tail-lights add more visual interest.
It’s the interior that impresses most, though. The dash is much more stylish and dramatic than the logical effort in the Touran, and the driving position is good, too. Renault’s sat-nav controller is reminiscent of BMW’s iDrive system, and is relatively easy to use with the in-built TomTom set-up – although unfortunately it doesn’t operate the rather confusing stereo.
Elsewhere, some of the other switches are haphazardly scattered and the plastics are of a lower quality than in the VW. Still, it’s flexibility and passenger space which really count. The Grand Scenic scores well here, as its middle row of seats is well proportioned and all three chairs slide for extra legroom.
They can even be removed and, to help carry long loads, the front passenger seat back can be folded forward. There’s slightly more legroom in the back, and the generous boot is wider and longer whether there are five or seven seats in use.
Against the clock, the more powerful Renault leaves the VW behind. It sprinted from 0-60mph in 9.8 seconds, and was similarly impressive during our in-gear assessments. The 2.0-litre dCi engine is a flexible performer thanks to a 60Nm torque advantage over its rival.
Ride comfort is good and the Grand Scenic is remarkably agile for such a big vehicle. However, body control is not as tight as in the Touran, and uneven roads can upset the suspension. Well weighted controls, precise steering and effective brakes complete its dynamic make-up.
This strong performance on the road does not bode well for the Grand Scenic’s green credentials, however, and they are perhaps its most disappointing aspect. Its CO2 emissions are a significant 33g/km higher than its competitor’s, which meansthat road tax costs an extra £70 a year. Inferior test economy of only 37.0mpg underlines the difference.
There’s no doubt that the Grand Scenic is a great car, packed with practical and innovative features, but the new Touran is cleaner and nearly as big. Can the French machine hold off the VW’s challenge?
Chart position: 2WHY: Renault invented the sector with the Scenic, so it knows how to make a successful MPV. The car has an unbeatable pedigree.