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Car group tests

Renault Scenic vs Citroen C4 Picasso vs Ford C-MAX

Renault hopes to breathe fresh life into the MPV class with its new Scenic. Can it see off the Citroen C4 Picasso and Ford C-MAX?

As with traditional saloons and estates, MPVs have come under increasing sales pressure from fashionable SUVs and crossovers. Five-seat models have been particularly hard hit, despite delivering a blend of unrivalled practicality and family hatch running costs.

However, people carrier pioneer Renault has kept the faith with this family-friendly format, and its all-new fourth generation Scenic aims to tempt buyers with its bold styling, upmarket interior and acres of space. As before, there’s a choice of standard five-seat or extended seven-seat models, but it’s the former we test here.

Yet Renault isn’t the only French firm with a desirable and daringly designed MPV on its books. The Citroen C4 Picasso is our current class favourite, thanks in no small part to its blend of style, brilliant packaging, refined driving dynamics and lengthy kit list.

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Completing our trio of contenders is the Ford C-MAX. It’s been around for a while now, but a facelift last year has kept the car fresh, while its agile chassis and fine ride set the standard for driving dynamics. So which of these versatile vehicles takes the spoils?

Head-to-head

Renault Scenic

Model: Renault Scenic Dynamique S Nav 1.5 dCi 110
Price: £25,445 
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 108bhp 
0-60mph: 12.3 seconds
Test economy: 45.1mpg/9.9mpl 
CO2: 100g/km  
Annual road tax: £0

The Mk4 Renault Scenic is out to prove that crossovers aren’t the only fashionable family wagons. It has all the ingredients to succeed, as it mixes concept car looks, a classy cabin, impressive practicality and penny-pinching running costs. Here we test the £25,445 Dynamique S Nav 1.5 dCi 110.

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Tester’s note: Early next year a Scenic Hybrid Assist will be introduced. Combining a small 10kW electric motor with our car’s 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel, the mild hybrid claims 92g/km and 80.7mpg

Citroen C4 Picasso

Model: Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 BlueHDi Flair
Price: £25,110 
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 118bhp 
0-60mph: 10.9 seconds
Test economy: 49.6mpg/10.9mpl 
CO2: 100g/km  
Annual road tax: £0

The Citroen C4 Picasso is our reigning MPV champ, with its design flair, efficient engines, roomy cabin and affordable prices. A facelift earlier this year has kept it fresh, but can it see off the new Scenic? We test the £25,110 1.6 BlueHDi diesel in top Flair spec – although the car in our pictures is a Feel.

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Tester’s note: The Picasso scores on family-friendly details. Parents will love the three rear Isofix seat mounts in the rear, while the central dials allow kids to watch mum or dad’s speed.

Ford C-MAX

Model: Ford C-MAX 1.5 TDCi Titanium X
Price: £26,045 
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 118bhp 
0-60mph: 11.1 seconds
Test economy: 43.4mpg/9.5mpl 
CO2: 109g/km  
Annual road tax: £20

The Ford C-MAX has always been great to drive, and a facelift last year injected some much needed kerb appeal. It also offers decent practicality, while the £26,045 1.5 TDCi Titanium X PowerShift tested here mixes low running costs with a long list of kit. 

Tester’s note: The Grand C-MAX carries a £1,470-£1,600 premium over the standard car. As well as a third row of seats, it gets sliding side doors. But it’s not as roomy as rival Grand models.

Verdict

First place: Citroen C4 Picasso

If you’re looking for a family car that delivers space, style, comfort, low running costs and a brilliantly thought-out interior, the Picasso still reigns supreme. In 1.6-litre BlueHDi guise, it serves up a winning blend of performance and efficiency, while Flair trim offers luxury car kit. It’s also the most refined choice. Crucially, it feels like it’s been designed from the inside out with families in mind.

Second place: Renault Scenic

The new Scenic upholds Renault’s reputation for producing practical and desirable MPVs. It rivals the Citroen for style, while its interior is fractionally ahead for quality and upmarket appeal. It’s also spacious, well equipped and cheap to run. Yet it’s undermined by its inconsistent ride and the poorest refinement here, plus it can’t match the Picasso for family-friendly features 

Third place: Ford C-MAX

Keen drivers should look no further than the fine-handling Ford. Take the wheel and its polished driving dynamics and smooth ride are in a different league. Plus, this is backed by a smooth and eager diesel and a slick box. Yet the focus here is on practicality, and this is where the C-MAX falters. Not only is it smaller inside, it also lacks many of the features that take the stress out of family motoring.

Other options for similar money

New: BMW 216d Sport

Price: £25,495Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl, 114bhp

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The first front-wheel-drive BMW retains the sharp dynamics of the brand’s traditional saloons, while the MPV body covers a roomy, beautifully finished interior. It’s not as well equipped as these cars, but oozes upmarket appeal.

Used: Mercedes E 300 Hybrid Estate

Price: £25,000Engine: 2.1-litre 4cyl, 204bhp

If space is your priority, the vast E-Class Estate is unrivalled. The E 300 diesel/electric hybrid matches our new models for efficiency, but delivers far more pace. Our budget secures a 2014 AMG-Line model with just 17,000 miles. 

Figures

 Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 BlueHDi FlairRenault Scenic Dynamique S Nav 1.5 dCi 110Ford C-MAX 1.5 TDCi Titanium X PowerShift
On the road price/total as tested£25,110/£25,110£25,445/£26,490£26,045/£27,640
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£8,964/35.7%N/A£10,418/40.0%
Depreciation£16,146N/A£15,627
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,002/£2,004£1,016/£2,031£1,092/£2,183
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,276/£2,126£1,403/£2,338£1,458/£2,430
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost20/£774/A/£011/£538/A/£019/£731/B/£20
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£400 (3yrs/35k)£449 (3yrs/30k)£340 (2yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,438/2,785mm4,406/2,734mm4,380/2,702mm
Height/width1,610/1,826mm1,653/1,866mm1,626/1,828mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,560cc4cyl in-line/1,461cc4cyl in-line/1,498cc
Peak power/revs 118/3,500 bhp/rpm108/4,000 bhp/rpm118/3,600 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 300/1,750 Nm/rpm260/1,750 Nm/rpm300/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd auto/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel55 litres/foam52 litres/foam53 litres/space saver
Boot capacity537-630/1,851 litres572/1,554 litres432/1,684 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,320/630/1,600kg1,430/616/1,850kg1,472/528/1,200kg
Turning circle10.4 metres11.2 metres10.7 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr4yrs (100,000)/4yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers12,000 miles (1yr)/19616,000 miles (1yr)/158 12,500 miles (1yr)/781
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.26th/18th8th/1st27th/27th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars86/88/68/81/5 (2013)90/82/67/59/5 (2016)92/83/50/71/5 (2010)
    
0-60/30-70mph10.9/10.5 secs12.3/12.3 secs11.1/11.7 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.0/6.3 secs4.9/7.5 secs4.5/6.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th8.0/11.8 secs10.8/14.2 secs9.1/11.9 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 117mph/1,900rpm114mph/2,000rpm113mph/1,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 47.6/30.5/10.4m50.8/35.0/8.5m46.7/32.3/8.3m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph68/48/58/66dB67/45/60/67dB66/47/57/67dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range49.6/10.9/600 miles45.1/9.9/516 miles43.4/9.5/506 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 64.2/80.7/74.3mpg67.3/76.3/72.4mpg60.1/72.4/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 14.1/17.8/16.3mpl14.8/16.8/15.9mpl13.2/15.9/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket153/100g/km/20%168/100g/km/20%174/109g/km/21%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/£225/£250
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEB*£1,350/y/y/£900^^£1,500/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/£200
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,750/£1,750**Yes/£1,250/£1,250**Yes/£600/yes
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£520/£750/yes£545/£500^/yes£525/yes/£450
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes£300/yes/yes/yes
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