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3/5

2018 Renault Scenic MPV review

Renault’s Scenic is a stylish entry in the fast-dying mini-MPV segment. We get behind the wheel to see if it’s as good as its predecessors were.

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Introduction

Renault first launched the Scenic nameplate way back in 1996. Across four generations, it’s remained a Megane-based mini-MPV, offering five – or in later Grand versions, seven seats - but atop a familiar hatchback body and offering car-like driving dynamics.

The latest model turns up the style to appeal to would-be crossover buyers, and adds lots of clever safety tech to reassure family buyers. It’s equipped with a selection of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, offering class-leading fuel economy, and has a spacious interior with some clever touches.

Performance

The range kicks off with tiny 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engines, which are great for nipping around town. If you’re planning on loading the Scenic up to its full (ample) capacity though, or doing longer trips, you’d be better off plumping for one of the smooth and torquey diesels.

Our car came equipped with Renault’s first ever hybrid system, which adds an electric motor and battery onto the mid-range 1.5-litre dCi diesel. It aids performance and improves economy, though it does add £1,000 onto the base price of the Scenic.

However, none of the Scenic range offers particularly scintillating performance. While rivals such as the Volkswagen Touran are available with powerful engines of up to 187bhp, the Scenic tops out at 163bhp – and most buyers will opt for a 108bhp diesel.

All of the engines come mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, with an automatic optional on most. The gearstick is mounted high up in the cabin, so it falls close to hand, and the shift action is positive.

Ride & Handling

The Scenic comes fitted as standard with 20-inch alloy wheels. While these look great, they unfortunately mean the car rides poorly over rough surfaces. Potholes are undertaken with a serious thud, and the whole experience isn’t particularly relaxing.

The Scenic does settle down on the motorway though thanks to soft suspension. However this contributes to a lot of lean in the corners. If you take it gently, it’s quite comfortable – aided by excellent seats – but pressing on could easily make passengers in the rear car sick.

The Scenic isn’t particularly fun to drive fast thanks to numb handling and over-light steering. Though you can alter the steering’s weight by selecting Sport mode, it feels artificially heavy – we’d stick with Neutral. On the plus side, the helm is accurate and it’s easy to place the car where you want it on the road.

Interior & Equipment

The Scenic offers plenty of equipment as standard. Even base-spec cars come with a touchscreen infotainment system, massive alloy wheels, air-conditioning and cruise control. Step up the range for a variety of luxury features, ranging from the useful, such as LED headlights, to the downright odd, such as massaging seats. One of the mid-spec trims will likely be the sweet spot.

The Scenic is pretty roomy, as befits a people carrier, but the space isn’t best suited to adult passengers. The long-legged will soon run out of room in the rear, and suffer a lack of headroom and knee room. There’s plenty of space for child seats, however, with ISOFIX points for safety. The boot is class-leading, too.

The main problem with the interior is how dark it is. Every material is a different variation on black plastic, making for a car that seems smaller than it is. Even the panoramic glass roof doesn’t brighten things up considerably.

Cost

The most efficient model is the 1.5 dCi with Hybrid Assist, which claims an incredible 80.7mpg and 94g/km of CO2. In reality, you won’t see anything close to that, but we averaged well over 50mpg on a long cruise – not bad for what is essentially a box on wheels, even if it is a very stylish one.

The other engines are less efficient but all of them – even the powerful turbocharged petrols – are as economical as any others you’ll find in the class.

Other running costs should be low too, thanks to Renault’s reasonably-priced four year servicing deal.

To buy, the Scenic is a little bit cheaper than the premium-feeling Volkswagen Touran – but it’s undercut considerably by the bargain Kia Carens, which also offers seven seats and a really long warranty. Prices are on par with the Citroen C4 Picasso, which is our favourite five-seat MPV.

Verdict

The Renault Scenic is a good-looking and reasonably practical MPV that should be painless to own – and very wallet-friendly if you opt for an efficient diesel. It’s not the best to drive, and the interior pales in comparison to rivals – but Renault’s very accomplished at making MPVs, and the Scenic continues that success. It’s a safe and striking family car with a fair bit to recommend it.

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