Since its launch in 1996 the Renault Scénic has been the benchmark compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) by which all others are measured. The Scénic was originally built to appeal to those who wanted all the practicality of a MPV, but could not accommodate the larger size and higher price of such vehicles as Renault’s own Espace. Renault underestimated the sales impact that the Scénic would have — predicting that it would be a niche model with only 450 produced a day. In fact, the compact MPV class did not exist until Renault created the Scénic and production for the first generation would eventually peak at nearly 2500 cars a day. Since its launch 3.3 million units have been sold worldwide.
Now, 13 years later, the third generation Scénic and Grand Scénic have just arrived on our local shores. By all accounts the Scénic seems to have lost none of the appeal that’s made it the de facto ‘mum’s taxi’.
Keeping up appearances is certainly no burden in the new Scénic. Renault say their new compact-MPV “heralds a fresh approach to MPV design. Using compact forms, taut lines, distinctive rear lights and sporty front-end looks derived from the new Mégane, the latest generation Scénic creates a new benchmark for this class”. We agree and enjoy the car-like styling of the new models.
As per Renault and Scénic’s heritage, safety is of paramount importance and it will come as no surprise to learn of the standard safety features such as ISOFIX anchorages for the rear seats and full-three-point safety belts for third-row occupants in New Grand Scénic, six airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), emergency brake-force distribution (EBD) and electronic brake assist (EBA). Optional safety extras include electronic stability control (ESC) with CSV understeer control. What you may not know however, is that Euro NCAP, the organisation that assesses the safety of new cars, introduced a new overall car safety rating earlier this year. Areas under scrutiny are Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Pedestrian Protection and the new area of assessment: Safety Assist. Under the new, more stringent regulations, the Renault Grand Scénic has still managed to achieve a maximum 5-star rating.
Other standard features for safety and convenience include automatic headlight activation, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, front fog lamps and electric folding mirrors. Inside the list continues with a MP3-compatible CD tuner with RCA socket and fingertip control, Bluetooth cellphone connectivity, air-conditioning, cruise control with a speed limiter, electric windows and electric power steering.
As if the list of features hasn’t been long enough already, the new Scénic and Grand Scénic 1.9dCi diesel models, are equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, integrated Carminat TomTom navigation, 3D Sound by Arkamys audio system, Plug & Music multimedia terminal and rear parking sensors. Additional optional features include 17-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.
In terms of performance, buyers will have the choice of two engines, either a 1,6-litre 16-valve petrol, or a 1.9 dCi turbo-diesel. Although Renault say “the 1,6-litre 16-valve engine has been developed to deliver greater torque and flexibility at low revs”, we sampled the engine in the new Mégane and would have to say the turbo-diesel is far better suited to the task.
The 1,6-litre produces 83 kW of power at 6 000 r/min and 151 N.m of torque at 4 250 r/min. Matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox, it accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 11,7 seconds, and reaches a top speed of 185 km/h. Renault claim a combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7,5 l/100 km.
In contrast, the 1,9dCi turbo-diesel engine produces 96 kW and a healthy 300 N.m of torque from 1750 rpm. Paired with the same 6-speed manual gearbox it hauls the Scénic from zero to 100 km/h in 10,6 seconds and the Grand Scénic in 11,5. Top speed of the diesel in both models is 195 km/h. But perhaps the best parts of the diesel engine are those which can’t be seen. Renault has added a few technical refinements that include a redesigned variable geometry turbocharger equipped with curved blades, to deliver swifter response and acceleration, as well as new seven-hole injectors that provide a finer, more efficient fuel delivery and more effective combustion. The result is a particularly refined and responsive diesel engine with no notable turbo-lag. In addition, fuel efficiency remains around 5,5 litres/100 km, ensuring an admirable potential range from the 60-litre fuel tank.
The Renault Scénic shares the same horned sub-frame front suspension arrangement as the new Mégane, as well as a closed-profile rear beam suspension for enhanced body-roll control and steering precision. True to its DNA then, the Scénic and Grand Scénic comfortably seat 5 and 7 passengers respectively, with space for their luggage, while providing a firm ride and reassuring handling characteristics.
Speaking of luggage, the Scénic has a maximum capacity of 1 837-litres, while the Grand Scénic is capable of swallowing 2 063-litres. Adding to the practicality of the Scénic are the 86-litres of storage throughout the cabin, including four underfloor compartments, four under-seat drawers, six map pockets, two aviation-style tables, an 11-litre glove-box and a further nine litres in the sliding centre console – the new Grand Scénic takes that tally to a remarkable 92 litres. Although these various storage compartments may not sound exciting in themselves, their inclusion is a testament to the ergonomics with which Renault designs its vehicles.
The quality of the interior is very good and offers a feeling of solidity. Easy to use controls, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, as well as seat height adjustment make for a comfortable journey. Headroom is cavernous, while ample legroom is found in both the front and rear. The one thing we aren’t too excited about is the new LCD screen, housing, among other information, the tachometer. A higher contrast ratio would be better, although it is reportedly customisable – just ask your kids, they’ll sort it out. We also happened to travel with a stiff cross-wind at times, which served to highlight how well the cabin is insulated against engine, tyre and wind noise.
Overall the Scénic continues to provide an incredibly safe, stylish and practical MPV at a reasonable price. Our choice would be the 1,9dCi Scénic for its nippy performance but the Grand Scénic provides the best carrying capacity for a few pennies more.
|Scénic 1.6 16v Expression||R230 000|
|Scénic 1.9dCi Dynamique||R280 000|
|Grand Scénic 1.9dCi Dynamique||R290 000|
|All models feature 15 000 km service intervals; 5 year/100 000 km service plan; 3 year/100 000 km warranty.|