The Renault Scenic is, as you’d expect from the company that invented the MPV with the Espace, really quite a good car. The five-seater more than fulfils its role as a family wagon thanks, in part, to a clever rear seat that slides and folds, allowing you to juggle seating and luggage space in a bewildering number of combinations. That it drives well is a bonus, most families being more concerned with space for the kids and dog than sporty handling.
Yet space and decent handling aren’t enough anymore; a series of dreadful winters has convinced us that we need something with a bit more grip or the illusion of more grip, at least.
So, we’ve welcomed the current cadre of faux SUVs with open arms, a niche the XMOD slots into very nicely. Its mud and snow tyres and Grip Xtend (I know), Renaults traction control system that balances power and braking to give extra grip in low-friction circumstances, ticks the all-weather box without the expense, weight, and complication of four-wheel-drive. Its a compromise, but one that generally works quite well in snow and mud for a while, at least.
Lets see how it fares in wintry rural north Wales, shall we?
Raised suspension, silver underbody guards, and black wheel arch trims are well-trodden ways of adding some off-road pizzazz, so it isn’t surprising that Renault has added them. The big bluff front adds to the purposeful stance, giving the illusion of a much bigger car than it actually is.
The result is inoffensive (providing you choose something other than the Saffron Yellow finish of our press fleet car) at best, and almost handsome from some angles. And the neighbours will know that you’re primed for the next apocalyptic snowstorm.
The interior is clever, rather than beautiful, but thats OK because you’d rather tag along with Stephen Fry than Rylan Clark wouldn’t you? That means clever rear seats that slide n fold, rear seat reading lights, a TFT screen with a multitude of eco information, heated mirrors, a height adjustable drivers seat, electric windows all round, and easy-to-clean synthetic leather trim.
As a family car it has everything you need and very little that you don’t. Its comfortable, well-built, and had oodles of room. There really isn’t anything to complain about other than some of the plastics feel a bit cheap.
Our Dynamique TomTom adds automatic headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, and sat-nav as standard equipment. Optional extras fitted to our car included a 700 panoramic roof, an 1,800 Relax Pack comprising proper leather upholstery and an electrically adjustable drivers seat, and a 250 Parking Pack, consisting of rear parking sensors and folding mirrors.
Wed choose the latter but probably skip everything else; with them all fitted the price jumps from a reasonable 21,095 to a slightly less palatable 25,695, even if the XMOD did feel rather deliciously plush as a result.
The XMOD drives very well indeed and if it isn’t quite as fluid as the class-leading Ford C-Max, it stops, starts, and steers with a rare aplomb, reminding us of the days when French cars generally did this so much better than anyone else.
The ride is good and body roll, sometimes a nasty characteristic of tall SUVs, is kept firmly in check. I enjoyed every drive in the XMOD as it does exactly what it says on the tin – which isn’t something I can always write.
Our car had the optional 17 MESA alloy wheels fitted. As ever, unless ultimate dry-road grip is your priority, Id save 310 by sticking with the 16 standard equipment wheels and benefit from a slightly better ride into the bargain.
My week with the XMOD was unseasonably warm, so I cant really report on how the M+S tyres and Grip Xtend worked. Previous experience suggests that it will keep you mobile during weather that will strand a four-wheel-drive fitted with normal tyres; which is more than enough, isn’t it?
The 1.5-litre diesel engine isn’t a bad little thing at all, being tolerably quiet and smooth revving, and while 110hp might not be enough to set your underpants on fire its enough for a family car undertaking family duties. You’ll reach 62mph after 12.3 seconds and hit 112mph shortly thereafter but you’re looking at a family runabout, so you really don’t care about that, do you?
Which is very sensible. Mid-range performance, the sort of urge that allows you to overtake dawdling motorists, is more than adequate and your fuel consumption should top 55mpg with ease. Throw in 110g/km for VED purposes and you’re looking at paying 30 a year for a tax disc.
Value for Money
A bare-bones petrol XMOD can be had for just under 17,000, with a basic diesel coming in at just over twenty. Thats not bad value at all. Throw in some very reasonable running costs and the XMOD should be relatively cheap to run over three years or so.
The Renault Scenic XMOD does what it sets out to do; provide cheap all-weather transportation for a family of five. That is does so with a rare vim and vigour is a bonus that many keen drivers will relish.
The problem is that others do it as well, if not better. The Ford C-MAX is better to drive on the road, and the Skoda Yeti Outdoor does it better both on- and off-road, even if it is a tiny bit smaller. But if neither of those appeals, then the XMOD is certainly worth a close look.