Used Renault Scenic review

What to look for, how much you should pay and what can go wrong with the trendsetting Renault Scenic

The Renault Scenic is a true landmark car. When it hit the showrooms in 1997, it immediately exposed the limitations of conventional family vehicles. Here was a motor that combined all the best qualities of a hatchback, estate and MPV - yet which drove like a car, and was affordable.

A mere 10mm longer than the Megane on which it's based, the taller Scenic gives amazing interior space and has a huge array of cubby holes and storage areas. Here we look at the compact MPV that started a revolution, offering lots of space for little cash.

Checklist

  • Electrics: problems with the electrics are common on all Scenic models, with wiring loom failures rife. Engine management faults are also a particular concern, so check for poor engine running and make sure everything works.
  • Bodywork: front wings are made of plastic. This is great for absorbing small knocks but, over time, constant heating up and cooling down can cause them to distort. Check for uneven gaps around the headlights.
  • Interior: due to the compact MPV's popularity with family buyers, any pre-owned Scenic interior is likely to have suffered at the hands of children! Ensure that the seat cloth isn't stained and that the trim hasn't been damaged.
  • Sunroof: facelifted post-April 2001 models can suffer from leaky sunroofs. This is because the drainage channels on these cars have a kink in them. The roof's electric motor can also be troublesome, so test it before you buy.
  • Brakes: mechanical faults tend to relate to either the steering or brakes. The rear brakes can bind, especially after the parking brake has been released, while power-assisted steering racks are a problem as they are known to leak.

Prices

High-mileage early Scenics start at £1,500, while a well specced 2003 1.9 dCi model with 30,000 miles on the clock will cost £7,500 from a dealer. In between you'll find 60,000-mile V-reg 2.0-litre cars at £4,300 or, for another £1,000, a 51-reg 1.8-litre. A breathless 1999 1.4-litre model costs from £2,500, while RX4s start at £4,500 for a privately advertised 2.0-litre 2000 example, rising to £10,000 for a low-mileage 53-plate 1.9 dCi. The Scenic shown here is a 1.8-litre 03 reg with 31,000 miles, worth around £6,450.

What to look for

Buy the youngest car you can afford, as early versions are less well equipped than later examples. Small engines also struggle. Facelifted 2.0-litre 16-valve Scenics have a crashy ride, so test one before buying. If you can, steer clear of pre-facelift vehicles because newer models performed better in crash tests. The pick of the bunch is a post-1999 car with a diesel unit and a high spec.

Recalls

October 1997: Possible restriction in hydraulic braking affects Scenics built from July to the end of September 1997.December 1998: Failure of roof bars on models built from June to the end of September 1997.June 1999: Loss of brake servo assistance reported on dCi Scenics. December 2000: Possible loss of brake servo assistance on dTi-engined cars built between December 1998 and the end of May 1999.April 2000: Possibility of reduction in vacuum servo assistance on models built from February to the end of April 2000.December 2001: Potential fuel leaks on vehicles fitted with diesel engines.January 2002: Concerns over front stabiliser bar brackets on RX4 models built between June and July 2001.February 2002: Loss of brake power assistance on some Scenics without air-con built from December 1999.February 2002: Engine hesitation and idling problems on 1.4 models.

Owner comment

Christine Handy, from Stoke, has owned her 2000 Scenic for four years and can't imagine running any other car. She said: "With two young children it's everything I could want in an MPV. My 2.0-litre model has been reliable, but next time I would choose a more economical diesel."

Verdict

While it is an eight-year-old design, the original Renault Scenic is still worth investigating, although the better equipped and safer facelifted models are the top buys. All benefit from low running costs, thanks to economical engines and cheap servicing, while it's a pretty good car to drive, too. We recommend searching out well specced models. And thanks to the Scenic's popularity new, there are plenty of examples to choose from. Many cars have tried to copy the Scenic's blueprint for success, but few have managed to match its all-round appeal, let alone beat it. We like the excellent dynamics, flexible interior layout, storage space and high driving position. We don't like the two-star Euro NCAP rating on pre-1999 cars, weak, small engines and the awkward gearchange.

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