Renault claim, with good reason, to have given birth to the C-segment MPV. Back in 1996 the Megane Scenic managed to redefine how much space you could get out of a mid-size hatchback platform. Its clever seating and neat storage solutions prompted an explosion of copycat models from rivals.
Now most of the main players have a vehicle in the segment but Renault, keen to remain the leader in the market, is back with the fourth generation of Scenic.
The Scenic is an all-new car and certainly looks it. Sticking closely to the R-Space concept revealed in 2011 it has a huge steeply raked front screen and downward swooping roofline. The neat styling manages to make the Scenic look smaller and neater than it actually is and big alloys fill the arches nicely.
Renault Scenic Dynamique S Nav dCI 110
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-62mph: 12.4 seconds
Top speed: 114mph
Fuel economy: 72.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Next to the Scenic, the seven-seat Grand Scenic looks a little ungainly at the rear. The extended bodywork and flatter roofline rob it of the five-seater’s sleek shape. Still, it’s generally accepted that you’ll sacrifice a bit of style for the added practicality.
Variety is the spice of life
There are, apparently, 36 model variations of Scenic/Grand Scenic available and I got a headache trying to negotiate my way through the list. The key points are that there are four trim, five engine, and three gearbox choices.
Expression+ kicks of the range, with Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav upping the equipment levels and prices. Whichever you go for you’ll get plenty of kit, with cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry standard across the range.
A 1.2-litre petrol engine comes in 114bhp or 128bhp tunes while a 1.5-litre 110bhp diesel sits beneath 128 and 158bhp versions of a 1.6-litre unit. Depending on engine choice you can have a six-speed manual or six- or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Bestseller is expected to be the 110bhp diesel in Dynamique or Dynamique S trim.
For such an apparently low-powered engine the 110 turns in an impressive performance. Its 0-62mph time of 12.4 seconds is hardly stellar but that belies how flexible it feels on the move. With 192lb/ft of torque it pulls surprisingly strongly, picking up well in every gear.
The Grand Scenic with the larger 1.6 118bhp diesel engine feels exactly like the Scenic with the 110 engine. The extra power is offset by the extra weight the larger car carries but that still means it pulls along well for such a small unit in a car its size.
The extra weight and higher output mean the Grand Scenic 130 returns 61.4mpg against the Scenic 110’s 72.4mpg. Both emit less than 120g/km of CO2.
Room for a little one
Of course, as an MPV, the Scenic’s raison d’etre is to shift people and stuff with aplomb.
Spacewise, in five-seat guise four average-sized adults will fit comfortably. Those in the front, particularly, will have no complaints thanks to plenty of all-round space and excellent visibility. The second row’s middle seat isn’t quite full-width but it’s far far better than the vestigial lump in the Ford C-Max, for example. It’d be fine for a child, or a slim-hipped adult for shorter runs.
The point of the Grand Scenic is that it adds an extra two seats in its longer shape. Access to these is pretty good via the wide rear doors but as with any C-segment MPV they’re the preserve of the young, short or very flexible. The middle row slides to create more legroom but it’s still not somewhere any adult is going to feel comfortable for long.
A neat trick on all but the most basic Expression+ models is the one-touch folding of the seats. Via either buttons in the boot or the main touchscreen you can flip any or all of the rear two rows flat with a single press, creating up to 1,901 litres of space. Even with the middle row up the Scenic offers a class-leading 572 (596 in the Grand Scenic) litres although space is a constricted 233 with seven seats in place.
Bigger is better
Renault are making a big deal about the Scenic’s wheels. It comes only with 20-inch alloys that sound better suited to a Range Rover than a mid-sized MPV but Renault say there are a host of
benefits to them. Key is the fact that there are no engineering compromises to allow for a variety of different-sized wheels. This has allowed the engineers to come up with a single setup offering the best ride possible.
It certainly shows on the road, with a ride that is consistently calmer and smoother that you’ve any right to expect. The Scenic is commendably calm in most situations and the Grand Scenic’s slightly increased length means it smooths out bumps just a little better than the five-seat model.
Renault are also making a lot of noise about the Scenic’s safety credentials. As standard every model gets active emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive front airbags, electronic stability control, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and auto high beam lights.
Pricing starts at £21,445 for a 1.2 petrol Scenic Expression+, rising to £32,445 for a 158bhp diesel Grand Scenic in Signature Nav trim.
C-segment MPVs are all about providing comfortable, usable family transport and the Scenic shows that Renault still have the knack 20 years after launching the original car. Strong, economical engines, good interior space and a healthy selection of safety equipment are the sort of things that matter to buyers and the Scenic nails them all.