The Grand Scenic offers space for seven in a package that serves to remind us of Renault's years of expertise in this game. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Renault's Grand Scenic range has been treated to a revision and it's all the better for it. This seven-seater now offers better efficiency, more equipment and better value. Although it's been overtaken in the sales charts by some rivals, there's real talent here.
Renault can, on occasion be a frustrating car maker. Not because it tries and fails but because every so often it shows us what it's really capable of and then you wonder how this company could attempt to sell us cars like the Wind, the Safrane, the Avantime and other such no-hopers. When the company's stars align and it gets its best brains under one roof, it's capable of pure, unadulterated genius. Cars like the original Espace, the lovely Clio 182, the Renaultsport Megane R26 and the Scenic. For some this would be the cue for the sound of a needle scudding across a vinyl record. The Scenic? Really? Think about it for a moment. The Scenic made the compact MPV class what it is today. Before it, we had horror shows like the Toyota Picnic and the Nissan Prairie. The Scenic showed that in packaging there was profit. It's now been revised and the Grand Scenic seven seater might just be the one to choose. Here's why.
The Grand Scenic is all about the ride. You don't buy a vehicle like this for the way it can attack an apex or blitz a GTI away from the lights. Instead, you choose a decent MPV for club class ride quality and the ability to de-stress otherwise fractious journeys. Yes, there are other seven seat MPVs that are a more entertaining steer for the 10 per cent of the time that you want require such entertainment but do you really want to put up with bump and thump from the suspension for the other ninety per cent? The Grand Scenic rides softly, the cabin is well insulated from wind, road and engine noise, the steering is quiet and the handling neutral. It's what you need in a car of this type. The bulk of sales will go on the 1.5 and 1.6-litre dCi diesel engines which develop between 110 and 130PS. So far so practical. There's also a very attractive 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit in 115 and 130PS guises which is well worth a look if you don't cover such big mileages and there's also a makeweight 1.6 petrol. The best engine in the line up is the dCi 130 which offers plenty of torque and a relaxed power delivery.
Design and Build
In terms of styling, most of the changes to the latest Grand Scenic range have centred around freshening up its face. The logo at the front is now bigger and set against a gloss black background that emphasises the revised grille. The glass area is bigger and there's a mesh grille covering its single frontal air-intake. This seven-seat model also features distinctive boomerang-shaped rear light clusters that arc around the bottom of its rear pillars and along its flanks. The interior is where the magic happens in any MPV and the Grand Scenic features a third row of seats which can be dropped into the floor. Luggage space with all seven seats in place is 208-litres, if you fold the third row and remove the second row, there's a cavernous 2,063-litres. The styling budget was clearly devoted to the exterior of the car as the cabin will look fairly familiar to existing Grand Scenic owners. The minor functions can be a little awkward if you've never used them before, with unusual radio controls, and the sat-nav joystick isn't for the ham-fisted. As before, there's a vast array of internal storage options in the Grand Scenic with more than 90-litres available. Underfloor compartments, under-seat drawers, a chilled glovebox, centre console cubbies, door pockets and trays on the seat backs should help to keep the family's paraphernalia in check. There are also three 12-volt power sockets to keep the all important games consoles and MP3 players powered up.
Market and Model
As much as you vow it won't, having kids changes you. It changes your priorities and your viewpoint. It makes you more risk averse too and Renault realises this which is why the Grand Scenic has always scored so well in terms of safety. The Grand Scenic routinely scores maximum five-star ratings from Euro NCAP and this latest car is packed with features designed to avoid collisions and protect occupants should one occur. The car can be specified with automatic headlamps and wipers, cruise control with a speed-limiting function, bi-xenon headlamps that swivel to illuminate round bends and a seat-belt reminder that sounds if a rear-seatbelt is unbuckled. There's also ABS with brake assist and brake force distribution and ESC stability control with CSV understeer control. You get ISOFIX child seat anchor points too. Typically for the Grand Scenic, there are a huge number of comfort and luxury-oriented options. In addition to an electric panoramic sunroof and sliding centre console, there are seven specific equipment packs available. The top BOSE+ Pack, costing £1,500, features a nine-speaker stereo. Among the features within the other six packs are a rear parking camera with front parking sensors, Renault's Visio System lane departure warning with automatic high and low beam, five fully adaptable headrests, dark carbon leather and sliding centre console. Prices for the standard car start at just over £20,000.
Cost of Ownership
Those with families the size of which merits the purchase of a Grand Scenic will appreciate that kids are expensive to keep in shoes, iPads, Happy Meals and such like. They'll also like what they see when it comes to Grand Scenic running costs. It's very hard to go wrong wherever you look in the range. There is one exception and that's the entry-level 1.6-litre engine which is a duffer in virtually every regard. Once you've successfully avoided that pitfall, there's some real talent on offer. The 1.2-litre TCe engine is now available in two flavours, 115 and 130PS, and makes a whole lot of sense if you don't cover huge mileages or just plain don't enjoy diesels. You'll get 44.1mpg from the 130PS unit and 46.3mpg from the 155PS engine. Compare that to the 36.7mpg you get from the weedier 1.6 and you can appreciate the benefits in spending another £1,100. The 1.5-litre diesel 110PS diesel with the Stop & Start system is the one to go for if you're after the best fuel economy, registering 68.9mpg. Renault's six-speed EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) transmission is available on the 1.5 dCi 110 but unlike the hot Clios, it comes without paddle shifters. Thus equipped, fuel economy drops to a still respectable 60.1mpg. The range-topping dCi 130 engine registers an excellent 64.2mpg.
It's easy to overlook quite how good the Renault Grand Scenic is; to judge it by entirely invalid criteria. It's been around for so long that it's almost blended into the background while other rivals proclaim their talents more stridently. A look at recent sales figures will show that the Grand Scenic has lagged behind the likes of the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, the Ford Grand C-MAX and the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. That is an issue for Renault but the problem is more one of perception than any glaring deficiency in the vehicle or its pricing. This latest car just plain works and works well. Buy one with either the 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine or one of the excellent diesels and it's a delight. The latest styling changes are a big improvement on its amorphous predecessor and the Grand Scenic carries its extra inches in the wheelbase with more elegance than the latest Grand C4 Picasso. If you appreciate an MPV that instead of begging for approval from magazine road testers instead concentrates on what really matters to family motorists, you'll still find a genuine slice of genius in the Renault Grand Scenic.