If your child-rearing days are in the dim and distant past, the existence of the Renault Scenic might have escaped you. As the world’s first compact MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), the original 1991 Scenic offered a lot of interior space within a tiny footprint.
Of course, like me, that footprint has grown over the years but there remain few better ways to squeeze five people and some luggage inside a car that can still negotiate multi-story car-parks built in the seventies. And if the Scenic is a bit too pokey for you, Renault has got you covered with the seven-seat Grand Scenic.
Why the car you drive is too big
I drove the upper-mid range Dynamique S Nav dCi 110; keen Francophiles will have deciphered that as being the 110bhp diesel version, replete with satellite navigation system and a more-than-liberal sprinkling of goodies within.
If the Dynamique S Nav is too expensive for you, there is always the bottom-of-the-range Expression+ or the next-in-line Dynamique Nav. Profligate buyers – or show offs - can splash out on a top-of-the-range Signature Nav.
But Dynamique S Nav is where all the action is. My car costs £25,445 in standard specification, but the test vehicle had had another £2,635 spent on it with the addition of metallic paint (£545), LED headlights (£500), Parking Pack Premium (autonomous parking for £500), Safety Pack Premium (which translates as being essentially adaptive cruise control £500), and Bose pack (a premium sound system for £500), plus – and get ready to be outraged - £90 for a spare wheel. Yep, ninety quid for a spare wheel, a breathtaking piece of belligerence that shadows even the current fad of charging extra for coloured paint. (And before anyone gets too upset, yes, I know Renault isn’t the only culprit.)
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A rather nice place to be
Price aside, the Scenic is really rather a nice place to be. Sure, the plastics aren’t of the highest quality, but the seating position is perfect and the upright seat layout does give more head- and legroom than many of its rivals.
My mid-range model didn’t feel either under- or over-burdened with kit, boasting a neat little head-up display, ambient lighting, climate control, a rear-parking camera, tinted windows, alloy wheels, R-Link 2 multi-media system including sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, one-touch folding rear seats, and hands-free telephone connectivity.
Sprightly and lively
Renaults have always driven well on the road and the Scenic is no exception; 110bhp might not sound like much, especially given the Scenic’s relatively high weight, but it feels sprightly and lively and I rarely felt like I needed more power. Of course, I wasn’t driving with five people plus luggage on board but neither my co-driver or I felt there was much to complain about.
I also took a quick spin in a 130bhp dCi Grand Scenic and was surprised to find that it felt remarkably similar to its smaller relative. Extra length aside – the extra two passengers have got to sit somewhere, after all – it felt just the same to drive, the extra power compensating perfectly for its greater weight (the Grand Scenic weighs about 100kgs more than the Scenic).
Real-world design flourishes
Both cars share some lovely, real-world design flourishes: the one-touch folding rear seats flop forward at the press of a button (either from the dashboard-mounting multimedia screen or a panel in the boot) to leave a completely flat floor; and the sliding centre console moves forward to provide storage space for the front seat passengers or, in the rearwards position, a partition between the two rear seat passengers. Someone on the design team clearly has feuding children in the family…
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A raft of safety features
Safety is very good. The Scenic gained a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating thanks to a raft of passive and active safety features including active emergency braking with pedestrian detection, six airbags, seat belts with both load limiting and pre-tensioning, side impact bars, and ISOFIX child seat mounting points.
I’m not usually one for optional extras but the aforementioned Safety Premium Pack, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and safe distance warning, seems like good value for £500.
Speaking of value, potential buyers can safely look at the recommended retail price with a healthy level of skepticism. Online car sources websites like carwow claim to be able to realise savings of over £5,000 on a new one, a figure that doesn’t sound outlandish to me.
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3 websites to save money on a new car
Power – 110bhp
Torque – 192 lb ft
0-62mph – 12.4 seconds
Top speed – 114mph
Kerb weight – 1,430kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 72.4mpg
CO2 emissions – 100g/km
VED class – Band A
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,850kgs
Warranty – 4 yrs/100,000 miles
Price – £21,445
Price as tested - £28,080
The Ford C-Max is widely seen as the best MPV in the class, and it’s not terribly expensive either.
The best of the rest
The VW Touran is probably the most sensible vehicle in this class, but it certainly isn’t the cheapest.
The Citroen Berlingo isn’t cool, but it’s cheap and possibly the most practical car you can buy today. Expect to pay as little as £12,000 for a basic new car or a couple of grand less for something that’s just been nicely run in.
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