Renault Scenic Review
The Renault Scenic is a mid-size family MPV with head-turning SUV looks and a unique infotainment system layout that rivals the the Ford C-Max, Volkswagen Touran and, to a lesser extent, the Citroen C4 Picasso
What's not so good
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Considering how boring the old model was, the new Renault Scenic makes for a welcome a dose of continental fresh air.
It’s an imposing car to look at – it’s 20mm wider than the car it replaces and comes as standard with two-tone paint and blingy 20-inch alloy wheels that look, well, fantastic!
Those looks couldn’t come at the expense of practicality, though, so the Renault has a big boot, cubbyholes and under-seat bins that provide 63 litres of storage and one of the most elaborate gloveboxes we have ever seen.
The engine range is extensive, too. Buyers can choose from five diesels, two petrols and a diesel-electric hybrid that returns fuel economy of 80.4mpg. Petrols are manual only, but diesels are available with a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch auto with the same number of gears.
All models come with emergency city braking that works at speed of up to 31mph and can detect people (a class first), cruise control, two Isofix child-seat mounting points, a height adjustable driver’s seat and a Bluetooth phone connection.
If you like the look of an SUV, but don't need the high ride height, the Scenic is perfect for you
The Renault Espace was arguably the first MPV ever made and that expertise shows in this new Scenic. There’s much to like here, not least its cheap running costs and practical interior. Sure, the VW Touran is better to drive and the Citroen C4 Picasso is more comfortable, but the Scenic – much like the Espace – offers something genuinely unique here – stylish looks that don’t punish you for needing a practical car.
The Renault Scenic is just a five-seater, so you’ll need the Grand Scenic to take any more than that. However, the Scenic looks after its passengers pretty well, although some alternatives have bigger boots
This may not be the biggest car of its type, but what it lacks in sheer space, it makes up for with some really clever features, like the sliding centre console
This being the non-Grand Scenic it’ll only seat five, but there should be no gripes space-wise because the new model has a longer wheelbase than the car it replaces for more cabin space. Unlike in rivals, though, the rear bench doesn’t have three individual seats and the VW Touran offers more shoulder room.
Storage is impressive, though, with large door bins, plenty of places to stash phones and you can charge up to four at the same time if you put them in the clever centre console. It can slide between the front and rear rows to be either huge storage area for the front seat passengers or a seat divider for those in the back.
According to Renault, the Scenic boasts the biggest boot in its class, but someone must have forgotten about the huge 743-litre boot in the VW Touran. Still, at 572 litres in capacity, it’s bigger than the 537-litre load area in the Citroen C4 Picasso.
Just like the Megane it’s based on, the Scenic is composed on the move and you can place it confidently on the road – it doesn’t feel big from behind the wheel.
The 1.5-litre diesel is quick enough and cheap to run – it's all you need really
Even though petrol engines are making a resurgence, it’s no surprise to see that most of the engines available for the Scenic are diesels – including the mild hybrid that boasts the best fuel economy in the range.
That’s not to say the petrols aren’t good. Far from it – the 1.2-litre turbocharged unit in the TCe 130 is potent enough to zip through traffic and easily overtake slower cars on the motorway. It’s as fast as most rival MPVs with a 0-62mph time in the 11-second range, however, load it up with people and/or luggage and you won’t see anything near the claimed 48mpg official fuel consumption.
Official mpg and CO2 figures are identical in the smaller 1.0-litre TCe 115. However, the smaller engine is considerably slower, adding a second to the 1.2’s relatively sedate 0-62mph time and struggling when fully loaded. On the upside, the TCe 115 is the cheapest way into Scenic ownership.
Kicking off the range is the 1.5-litre dCi 110 – a fuel-sipper that’s also found in the Megane and Kadjar. In the Scenic you’ll have to work the gearbox to keep up with traffic, but the engine is smooth and also pretty quiet once up to speed. Ignoring the expensive hybrid (that uses the same engine boosted by an electric motor), the dCi 110 is the cheapest Scenic to run with fuel consumption of 72mpg.
The 1.5-litre diesel is so well suited to life in the Scenic, there’s little point in considering either the 130 or 160hp 1.6-litre models. Both return fuel economy of more than 60mpg, while the latter is the quickest car in the range, but 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds still won’t set the world alight.
The hybrid assist model is also hard to justify. Rather than a full-blown green machine, it’s really just the 1.5-litre diesel combined with a small electric motor to boost efficiency. As a result, it can return fuel economy of more than 80mpg, but these gains don’t justify its high price.
The Scenic isn’t fun to drive, but labeling something as not fun to drive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad and the Scenic is the perfect illustration of this – the steering is accurate and, because it’s wider than the old model, body roll is better kept in check.
One of the biggest differences between the Scenic and its rivals is that it comes with huge 20-inch wheels as standard. They look great but mean that car’s ride never seems to quite settle. As a result, it is neither as comfortable to ride in as the Citroen C4 Picasso nor as fun to drive as the VW Touran.
That’s not helped by the light steering, which is ideal for town use but seems bereft of feel on faster roads. The manual gearbox also feels rubbery and the automatic isn’t as fast to react to driver inputs as, say, VW’s DSG auto.
Inside a Renault, one normally expects to find a slightly confusing-to-use but very interesting-to-look-at cockpit that ultimately isn’t really well built.