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In-depth reviews

Renault Grand Scenic review

The Grand Scenic is a practical people-carrier that has been given an added dose of style

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Distinctive styling, upmarket interior, good to drive
  • Unsettled ride, road noise, not the most practical MPV around

The Renault Scenic has had an illustrious history. It was the car that kick-started the small MPV class, but while the original arrived in 1996, the Grand Scenic seven seater was only introduced when the Mk2 model arrived in 2003. Since then, it's helped the Scenic keep its location at the top of the MPV class, taking over from the Espace in the UK as Renault's largest people carrer.

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The latest Grand Scenic Mk4 arrived in 2016, and it stuck to the same formula as previous models by offering seven seats in a slightly longer body and wheelbase, while still maintaining the same width as the five-seat Scenic. Like that model, the Grand Scenic gets a radical new look for 2016. There are design cues shared with models such as the latest Megane hatch and the Kadjar crossover, while a slightly raised ride height and large wheels across the range add to the crossover feel. Thankfully, this new style-led look hasn't compromised interior space, which is still among the best in the class.

There are five engine choices available: a 1.2 TCe turbo petrol in 110 or 130 guises, a 1.5 dCi 110 diesel and the 1.6 dCi diesel in 130 and 160 forms. You get a five or six-speed manual box as standard, while Renault's EDC twin-clutch auto is offered as an option on the 1.5 dCi, and is standard with the 1.6 dCi 160. In addition, Renault has a mld hybrid model available, too this Hybrid Assist model features a 48-volt battery that recoups braking energy to boost acceleration and economy. It's available with the 1.5 dCi diesel and six-speed manual gearbox, and it adds a premium of just under £1,000 to the Scenic.

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The Grand Scenic comes in four trim levels. The entry-level Expression+ has 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, hands-free key card unlocking, plus active emergency braking, hill start assist, cruise control and a seven-inch touchscreen system with DAB radio and Bluetooth. Dynamique Nav adds an 8.7-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, a drive mode selector, ambient lighting and tiredness alert. 

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Step up to Dynamique S Nav and you add a head-up display, rear parking camera, contrasting exterior roof colour and a panoramic glass sunroof, while top-spec Signature Nav versions include LED headlights, electric leather seats with memory function, picnic tables in the back and a leather trimmed steering wheel.

In terms of price, the Grand Scenic commands a premium of around £2,000 over the five-seat model, with prices ranging from about £23,500 to £33,000, but then you do get additional boot space as well as the extra seats.

If you can justify shelling out extra for the back seats, then you need to weigh up the Grand Scenic's rivals. There are MPV regulars such as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Ford S-MAX and Galaxy and the SEAT Alhambra, while the Volkswagen Touran and Kia Carens are slightly smaller if you only need occasional sixth and seventh seats. The rise of the seven-seat SUV, with models like the Skoda Kodiaq and Nissan X-Trail, mean the Grand Scenic has even more rivals to fight.

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The 2017 Renault Grand Scenic goes to show that the modern MPV doesn’t have to sacrifice style and desirability in the name of practicality. While the sector is losing sales to SUVs, the seven-seat Scenic’s shapely body and crossover design influences give it the potential to rekindle interest in the people carrier.

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The appeal isn’t just skin-deep, either. The Grand Scenic gets the same upmarket interior as other recent Renault models like the Megane and Kadjar, while it has the space and practical touches needed to suit a large family. There’s plenty of kit, and the engines are both strong and economical. Renault has prioritised handling with the latest Scenic, but those big wheels mean style is favoured over comfort, so the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is both smoother over bumps and more refined on the road.  

Engines, performance and drive

The Grand Scenic handles well for an MPV and the engine range is decent, but ride comfort and refinement are lacking

Renault isn’t going to stop buyers migrating to SUVs with good looks alone – so the Grand Scenic’s driving experience has to be up to scratch. The design has crossover influences, but the ride height is still low, meaning Renault doesn’t have to fit stiff suspension to keep body roll in check.

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It’s based on the same platform as the latest Megane, which bodes well for the Grand Scenic’s ride and handling. However, Renault has elected to fit the MPV with 20-inch wheels in the name of style – and not just on top-spec models, but across the range. There’s no option to fit anything smaller, either. Engineers claim that the tyre’s sidewalls are specially designed to compensate for the large wheels.

Despite this, the ride just isn’t as comfortable as the best in the seven-seat MPV class – particularly the super-soft Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. It’s far from hard, but it rarely settles on anything but smooth roads, and a series of big bumps can crash and thud into the cabin more than they would in the best rivals. Worse still is the amount of road and suspension noise over the kind of rough or broken surfaces it’s all too easy to find in Britain. 

That’s a shame, because the Grand Scenic is more capable than you might expect in the bends. The steering is accurate and well-weighted, there’s not a lot of body roll, and it feels reasonably agile. Only a notchy manual gearshift lets it down. Once on the motorway, the Grand Scenic’s ride smooths out and is less of a concern, although wind noise from the thin windscreen pillars is noticeable. 

Engines

You can choose from one petrol engine in two states of tune and one diesel in three states of tune at launch.  All are lifted virtually unchanged from other models in the Renault range.

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The cheapest available engine is a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit. You can have that in Expression+ trim with 114bhp, although we’d recommend stepping up to the 128bhp unit, which is a reasonable performer thanks to 205Nm of torque. However, if you regularly carry lots of passengers and luggage it won’t be the most energetic on the road. 

Like in the Grand Scenic’s seven-seat rivals, the diesels are more suitable choices.  Kicking off the oil-burning range is the venerable 1.5-litre unit Renault has used for years. Producing a mere 109bhp but a useful 260Nm of torque, it’s a decent unit in cars like the Megane, although it could struggle with the bulk of a seven-seat MPV. It’s available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed EDC automatic gearbox.

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The 1.6-litre 128bhp diesel is likely to be the biggest seller, and it’s the one we’d opt for. With 320Nm of torque, it offers more than enough performance for most, while it’s also more refined than the 1.5. It’s a shame it’s not available with an automatic gearbox.

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If you must have an auto, it’s best to opt for the most powerful 158bhp 1.6-litre diesel. It produces 360Nm of torque and can spring from 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds.  As such it isn’t going to win any drag races, but it provides plenty of pulling power for a fully-laden people carrier. 

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

The Grand Scenic is more frugal than many seven-seat SUVs, although it's not the cheapest to run of its type

One reason to opt for a Grand Scenic over a seven-seat SUV is the improvements in fuel economy. Its more aerodynamic shape, plus the lower weight and lack of a four-wheel drive system, mean it should prove cheaper to run.

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Both variants of the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine claim an identical combined fuel economy figure of 46.3mpg. Although that’s more frugal than a base petrol Skoda Kodiaq, other MPVs like the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso are much better on paper.  CO2 emissions of 136g/km are about average for the class.

The figures for diesel variants are more competitive. The base dCi 110 manages a decent combined figure of 70.6mpg, and the auto version is no worse than the manual in this regard. CO2 emissions of 104g/km are good.

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The dCi 130 drops claimed economy down to 61.4mpg, with CO2 emissions rising to 119g/km. By comparison, the auto-only dCi 160 looks good, as economy only drops to 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions rise to 122g/km.

Insurance groups

The Grand Scenic should prove reasonably cheap to insure. It starts from just group 12, which is low for a seven-seater, rising to group 24 for top-spec models. Those figures are primarily helped by the car’s multitude of safety systems and five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.

Depreciation

Traditionally, large Renaults don’t hold on to their value very well, and the MPV sector is suffering at the moment too. Unfortunately, the Scenic’s sharp looks haven't helped its residuals, which are in the 30 per cent range, but behind the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.

Interior, design and technology

The Grand Scenic's distinctive exterior helps it stand out among dull family cars, while the interior is upmarket and decently versatile

What was previously a passing observation has become the main talking point about the Scenic and seven-seat Grand Scenic. Design head Laurens Van Den Acker has plenty to say about how the bold, angular new design is potentially the last hurrah of the traditional people carrier as we know it. In fact, he’s gone on record as saying that the new model’s design should “make people fall in love” with the MPV again, and if it doesn’t sell the sector “deserves to die”.

The bulbous front-end is a bigger version of the family face found on the Kadjar and Megane. The windscreen is also steeply raked, while there are loads of curves and creases giving it really distinctive shape. At the back, the shape is much less curvy than the five-seat Scenic, with the sharp angle of the roofline and bulkier overhang necessary for the two additional seats. The look hasn’t suffered much as a result, though.

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There are some crossover influences in the raised ride height and lower body cladding, but the wider stance and those huge 20-inch wheels are a big part of what makes the Grand Scenic so stylish. They’re the same size as the ones you get in the Bentley Mulsanne, and have several designs and inserts that can be popped off and replaced.

Inside, the design isn’t as revolutionary as the exterior – in fact, it’s largely similar to the Megane, with a few practical MPV touches. Most of the plastics are dark, but the design is smart and it feels considerably better built than the previous model. Top Grand Scenic models are also very well-equipped, with things like electric memory leather seats, a Bose sound system, head-up display and a panoramic glass roof. 

Renault has also elected to ditch the old centrally-mounted speedo and use digital instruments in the conventional place behind the wheel. This is meant to improve the driver’s control of the car, but it does mean storage in the lower dash is lost.  The overall design is a definite improvement, but lacks some of the airiness of the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso’s interior.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All versions of the Grand Scenic feature a portrait-angled touchscreen infotainment system as standard. Expression+ trim uses a simple seven-inch system with DAB and Bluetooth, while Dynamique Nav models and above feature a more advanced R-Link 2 multimedia system.

The R-Link system not only features a bigger screen (8.7-inches) but also 3D sat-nav with with TomTom Live traffic and weather services, voice control and a variety of vehicle applications. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity won’t be available until later in the year. Nevertheless, it’s a feature-packed display, which is reasonably responsive – although it can suffer frustrating lag between menus.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Not quite the most practical MPV in this class, but big boot and good storage beats many SUVs

Forget styling and handling for a minute – to be a true MPV the Renault Grand Scenic still needs to excel as a proper people carrier. It largely delivers, too. For starters, it’s longer and wider than the previous model, boosting passenger space and giving the seven-seater a commendably large boot.

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The front of the Grand Scenic is very accommodating.  Much like the regular model, there’s plenty of head and legroom, while the decent glass area means good visibility. The Renault has quite an SUV-like driving position, too, which will appeal to those who can’t decide between the two classes. It does mean, however, that it’s not as bright an airy as a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and there’s no electric footrest either.

In the back, space is decent but not class-leading. There’s a wealth of storage though, with a clever centre console that houses 13-litres of space and slides fore and aft to boost legroom or reveal extra stowage and USB slots. There are also compartments under the front and rear seats, plus a glovebox that slides outwards like a filing cabinet. Further neat touches include little secondary sun-visors that slide out to block the small bit of window that usually lets the sun in.

The folding mechanism for the two rearmost rows of seats is easy to use, and as an option the Grand Scenic’s five rear chairs can be folded electrically, either with buttons in the boot or via a menu on the central touchscreen.

Size

The Grand Scenic is 4.63m long, 2.12m wide, just over 1.65m tall and has a 2.8m wheelbase. Those numbers might mean nothing to you, but they do mean that the Grand Scenic is bigger in every way than the car it replaces. It’s also 228mm longer than the five-seat Scenic to accommodate the extra row of chairs. It’s only very slightly taller, though, looking more muscular and SUV-like as a result of this and the wider track. 

Legroom, headroom and passenger space

The Grand Scenic offers a good amount of head and legroom for passengers, despite top models receiving a panoramic glass sunroof. It feels more spacious for long legs in the middle row of chairs than the five-seat Scenic, although it’s not the most accommodating seven-seater around. At least there are three proper seats giving decent shoulder-room for passengers and proper ISOFIX mounting points for child seats. The rearmost chairs, as with most MPVs, are primarily for children – adults could fit back there, but only for short journeys. 

Boot

Whereas the five-seat Scenic offers a class-leading boot size, the Grand Scenic isn’t the most commodious seven-seater on the market. Nevertheless, 765-litres with the rearmost seats folded is plenty for most families, while there’s even 233-litre with all seven seats up – better than the boots on some city cars. Fold all of the two rows of rear seats down and you’ll find a huge space – though Renault doesn’t quote a full boot volume.

Reliability and Safety

The Grand Scenic scores highly in Euro NCAP safety ratings, and a four-year warranty is useful cover to have

As we’ve come to expect from Renault, the Grand Scenic is one of the safest people carriers around. There’s a new reinforced steel structure underneath the skin that can withstand a huge amount of pressure. Alongside that, every Grand Scenic has seven airbags as standard, contributing to a 90 per cent Euro NCAP score for adult occupant protection.

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As we’re used to now, there’s a plethora of active safety systems that play a part in the Scenic’s five-star rating. Renault claims it is the only people carrier on sale in the segment offering Active Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Protection as standard. There are also familiar systems such as lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and fatigue detection.

While safety is a measurable plus point, reliability is a bit of an unknown with an all-new model. Renault’s historic reputation isn’t great in this area, but the French company has made great strides in the quality and reliability stakes over the last few years. In fact, the brand secured a very strong eighth place overall in our 2016 Driver Power survey.

Warranty

Renault is giving buyers increased confidence by offering its 4+ scheme, which covers servicing costs and offers four years of warranty protection for four years and 100,000 miles. It also includes breakdown cover for that period.

The overall package isn’t as strong as that offered by manufacturers such as Hyundai or Kia, but it looks like a pretty good inclusive offer against the three-year protection offered by a number of other manufacturers.

Servicing

Every Grand Scenic requires a main service every 18,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes soonest. A four-year, 40,000-mile service plan costs from £499, while a three-year deal is from £299. 

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