“The Renault Scenic and seven-seat Grand Scenic offer great value for money and are designed to take whatever family life can throw at them.”
Back in 1996, Renault debuted the Renault Scenic as the first car to blend the practicality of a people carrier with the compact dimensions of a family hatchback – a mini-MPV. Now much copied and competed with, the latest, third generation of Scenic is still a class leader. It's available with five seats or as the seven-seat Grand Scenic – but practicality and comfort impress in both versions thanks to increased space, its flexible seating system and high equipment levels. All the diesel engines available are well balanced and economical and are the pick of the bunch when it comes to performance and running costs. It may be slightly off the pace of the likes of the Ford C-MAX, but the Scenic is easy to use and is solidly constructed – and it still looks nice, too. Basically, it's perfectly suited to family life and represents excellent value for money. All of this goes some way to explain why it has picked up so many family car awards over its many years on the UK market.
The Scenic – sharing suspension and some components with the Renault Megane – has reassuring handling, a smooth ride and responsive steering. A high driving position gives excellent all-round visibility. While the entry-level 109bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine is underpowered and trails the diesels on efficiency, the 114bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is much better. The basic 1.5-litre dCi diesel also offers adequate performance but is much cheaper to run, while the larger 1.9-litre dCi is more relaxing to drive and much better suited to driving on the motorway. We’d recommend the 1.6-litre dCi turbodiesel, which balances great performance and efficiency from slow moving city traffic to cruising on the motorway.
There's more space than ever before inside the current Scenic. Longer than the car it replaced, all passengers get more leg and knee room than in the previous model, while comfort is excellent. There is some body roll if you drive too fast round corners but that's the price you pay for the softer suspension setup. The car is well insulated from wind and road noise, even while travelling on the motorway, while the diesel engines can cover huge distances with very low running costs. The dashboard layout conveniently places the instrument displays as far forward towards the windscreen as possible, which helps free up extra room in the front for the driver and passenger. All models come with air-conditioning as standard.
Renault's reliability has been questionable over the years, but the manufacturer has shown significant improvement in recent times. In fact, the Scenic was the highest-ranking MPV in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, placing an amazing fourth in the top 100 cars. Renault itself us also climbing up the chart, heading up six places to number 21 in the manufacturers’ chart. Plus, there have been no recalls or major problems reported – all of which means you can have peace of mind that a Scenic is unlikely to let you and your family down. Interior quality is improved, too, where it's better than it's ever been, with a very classy feel that appears robust and solidly constructed. One area Renault has always been a strong performer in is safety, and the new Scenic holds up that reputation with its six airbags, electronic stability control and ISOFIX child seat anchor points fitted as standard.
The Scenic was always intended to handle family life, so Renault gave it a very flexible interior from the get-go and the current model is the best yet. The rear seats slide back and forth to adjust both boot space and legroom, depending your needs – and you can remove the back seats completely if you want to turn your MPV into a van with windows. With all five seats in place, the boot offers a maximum 522 litres of storage space; with the back seats taken out, that grows to a quite significant 1,837 litres. There's also a low boot lip and the opening is really wide, so loading bulky items is very easy indeed. Inside, there are also plenty of storage cubbies dotted around the interior for storing the bits and pieces of family life on the move, plus under-floor compartments and seat drawers beneath the front and outer back seats. The only real negative – and this is nitpicking really, is that rear seats are cumbersome and heavy when you come to put them back in.
Value for money
There's absolutely no doubt that Scenic represents good-value family motoring, with list prices very competitive throughout the range. Renaults dealers are also open to a good bit of haggling, so you should be able to get yourself a nice deal in the showroom. Which is necessary due to the fact that Renaults tend to have poor resale value in the used market – although practical people carriers like the Scenic are likely to do better than most thanks to increased second-hand desirability. It's been a massive sales success, too, so it should be easy to get replacement parts if needed, while servicing costs are low thanks to Renault's 4+ package, which includes a warranty, servicing and roadside assistance for the first four years of ownership.
The Scenic's 1.6-litre dCi diesel engine is very efficient – and thanks to stop-start technology – can return up to 69mpg in fuel economy, while emitting only 105g/km of CO2. The larger diesels aren’t quite so efficient, but this is balanced out by better performance, so they’re certainly worth a look if you regularly carry lots of passengers. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is by far the cheapest option, but isn’t quite as economical, returning 38mpg and emitting 174g/km of CO2. That said, it's quieter and smoother than most of the diesels if you can stomach the higher tax bills.