Renault Scenic 2006 review

With the Scenic's glass roof and versatile seating arrangement, Renault is promising a room with a view

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

With a better, classier interior and subtly revised bodywork, the new Scenic is certainly a step forward. Cabin quality is matched by extra storage space front and rear. The fresh five-seat Grand is sure to be a hit, and the punchy 2.0-litre diesel makes the car feel more grown up than ever. Renault has improved what was already a class-leading package.

The upgraded range distinguishes itself from its predecessor with new headlamps, revised bumpers and a fresh set of cabin options, with the focus on comfort and luxury. Changes affect both the Scenic and Grand Scenic variants, which for the first time will be available with a choice of five or seven seats.

On paper, the alterations make dramatic reading, particularly as the five-seat Grand is being touted as a special budget version of the MPV.

But do the upgrades really go far enough to ensure the car has what it takes to fight off the challenge from the likes of Citroen’s new C4 Picasso? Auto Express took to the road in a Grand Scenic to find out. At first sight, it appears little is actually any different. Bosses at Renault defend this by pointing out that, in their view, the latest car remains one of the best-looking people carriers on the market.

Inside, however, there’s more to get excited about. In addition to a general improvement in cabin quality – which is brought about by revised materials and new-look trim – there’s greater practicality, thanks to an even larger number of small storage cubbies and, in five-seat trim, a huge boot.

On top of that, the low-down positioning of the Scenic’s seats and enormous windows combine to provide an excellent view out. The squabs of the folding chairs feel a little firmer than before, improving comfort.

Suspension and steering are carried over largely the same, and while a new electric power-steering pump has been fitted, the upgrade hasn’t transformed the Renault’s road manners.

There are bigger changes under the bonnet, however, where two new engines have joined the range. The car we tried was powered by the 2.0-litre dCi 150, the flagship diesel powerplant that replaces the old 2.0-litre turbo.

It’s available with either a manual or automatic six-speed gearbox, and is fitted with a particulate filter to help reduce harmful emissions.

On the road, the four-cylinder unit feels smoother and is more responsive than the old 1.9-litre diesel. However, once fitted with a self-shifter, it’s slightly less economical than the manual version, recording a combined figure of 39mpg. Nevertheless, acceleration is strong, with the sprint from 0-60mph taking 10 seconds, while the six-speed auto swaps ratios smoothly.

There’s no doubt that when added together, the sum of these small changes makes a really big difference. And the addition of a five-seater Grand Scenic to the model line-up is sure to meet with approval from families who put luggage space and a competitive price tag ahead of maximum seating capacity. So the Renault is certain to remain a common sight on the roads of Britain – although it shouldn’t take its current position at the top of the class for granted. As our exclusive first drive reveals, the Citroen C4 Picasso promises to be a huge blot on the Scenic’s landscape.

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