£22,120 - £24,650 Price range
48 - 71 MPG
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!
And that matters because in a small MPV class dominated by less interesting metal such as the Ford C-Max, Volkswagen Touran and, to a lesser extent, the Citroen C4 Picasso – the Renault’s head-turning appearance means it really stands out.
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 and is free to tax. 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.
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. The new Scenic, though, does things differently – build quality is much improved over the old model and the few buttons are neatly grouped around the infotainment screen. The drawback is that it all feels a bit dull, although models in the upper end of the range get ambient lighting and a leather-wrapped dashboard that raises the game slightly.
However, it’s the portrait-orientated infotainment system that’s the big conversation starter. As in the new Megane, the R-Link 2 system incorporates radio, sat-nav and climate controls to liberate the dashboard of buttons. It’s very quick to respond and feels like a well-sorted tablet with its pinch and swipe functions. It is standard on Dynamic S models and a £3,000 option on basic models.
There are a few negatives to moan about, however. For starters, the infotainment screen surround quickly becomes covered in finger marks and the system itself isn’t very easy to use on the move. Smartphone mirroring systems such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available yet, but will come in 2017.
Renault Scenic passenger space
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.
Renault Scenic boot space
According to Renault, the Scenic boasts the biggest boot in 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Renault Scenic petrol engines
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, so both cost £130 to tax. 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.
Renault Scenic diesel engines
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 and free annual road tax.
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 and cost £30 a year to tax, while the latter is the quickest car in the range, but 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds still won’t set the world alight.
Renault Scenic hybrid
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 and is free to tax, but neither gains justify its high price.
The Scenic covers new ground when it comes to safety – automatic emergency braking is standard and, unlike any other car in its class, the Renault’s system can detect people as well as cars. That along with standard equipment such as traction, stability and understeer control helped the Scenic secure a five-star rating when it was tested for safety by Euro NCAP.
And if that isn’t safe enough, a trip to the options list can have your scenic kitted out with adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system.
The Scenic has been well equipped for family life and comes dripping with standard features such as autonomous braking, auto-dipping headlights and traffic sign recognition. You also get Renault’s R-Link infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, climate control with two temperature zones, plenty of USB and 12v ports, and an armoury of hidden storage areas that will send border control into overdrive.
Renault Scenic Dynamique Nav and Dynamique S Nav
One level up are the two Dynamique trim levels, which focus mostly on boosting convenience. Both get all-round parking sensors, that clever sliding centre console, rear-mounted aircraft style picnic tables, ambient lighting and sat-nav for the R-Link infotainment system with live traffic updates. To that lot Dynamique S adds a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, an 11-speaker Bose stereo, plus the bigger portrait-style 8.7-inch touchscreen.
Renault Scenic Signature Nav
The Scenic Signature Nav is quite pricey, making it hard to justify for families. Nevertheless, its leather upholstery makes it feel more luxurious – and has family friendly wipe-clean properties – and you also get electrically adjustable/massaging front seats, and bright-shining LED headlights.
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.