Renault's Grand Scenic looks awfully large to be powered by a 1.5-litre diesel. Jonathan Crouch investigates.
Ten Second Review
A seven-seat vehicle with 1.5-litre diesel power doesn't sound like a winning combination but Renault's 1.5-litre dCi engine occupies the Grand Scenic engine bay with some aplomb. Performance is nothing special but economy - which can be massaged by a clever Hybrid Assist system - hits improbably highs and there's enough torque to get the big people carrier moving at low speeds. Build quality and ride comfort in this third generation range are particular Grand Scenic strongpoints.
Lots of power is a nice thing to have in a car but it isn't always absolutely necessary. Motorists who are willing to put up with acceleration that's on the sluggish side and pulling power of sub-epic proportions can save a lot on the upfront purchase price and in the running costs of their vehicle. The question is, how low is it sensible to go? Ordering the seven-seat, 1.5 tonne Renault Grand Scenic with a 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine looks like sailing a little too close to the wind but if all you're after is a roomy family runabout, the French marque's little diesel could pull it off. In this case, we're looking at the MK3 Grand Scenic model, altogether more sophisticated and stylish than its predecessor. Here, the design is far more stylish and driver-centric than before, plus there's more space and storage inside along with more sophisticated infotainment technology. A 'Hybrid Assist' version of this 1.5-litre diesel variant will tempt those in search of ultimate efficiency too. Sounds promising doesn't it?
You can find the 1.5 dCi engine in a number of Renault's smaller products. None of them is as weighty a proposition as the Grand Scenic, however, or has the potential to gain weight with up to seven passengers and their luggage piled on board. Added to this, the engine's maximum power output is just 110bhp, making it the least powerful of the Grand Scenic's engines. On the plus side, there's torque of 260Nm available at 2,000rpm, which is enough to provide very eager pulling power. It gives the car enough muscle to cope at low speeds even with a large payload on board but the emphasis is on coping. Performance is fairly pedestrian, as a 0-62mph time of 12.4s demonstrates. This derivative is also being offered with clever 'Hybrid Assist' technology. Hybrid Assist functions with a 48-volt battery, enabling the electric motor to support the internal combustion engine, which remains in continuous operation. You automatically approach any seven-seat MPV measuring four and a half meters from nose to tail with certain expectations about how it will drive but it's worth giving the Grand Scenic the benefit of the doubt. Comfort is the priority and rightly so but Renault has also managed to instil a high degree of poise and manoeuvrability. With its suspension system lifted from the Megane, the Grand Scenic resists cornering roll well and has plenty of grip at the front wheels. The ride quality is first class, the car tiptoeing over poor road surfaces and avoiding too much wobbliness on sudden undulations. The steering is sometimes too light and the manual gearbox isn't the slickest but in general, and considering the Grand Scenic's family remit, Renault has got the balance just about right.
Design and Build
This is a bigger car than its second generation predecessor, 75mm longer, 15mm higher and 2mm wider. As significantly, there's 35mm more wheelbase. That's not enough to make this Grand Scenic a rival to really large MPVs like Volkswagen's Sharan, but it'll make it easier for this Renault to be considered as a really credible alternative to the largest compact MPV in the segment, Ford's S-MAX. It certainly looks sharper than before. The styling is based on Renault's R-Space concept car, key features like the steeply-raked windscreen and short bonnet heightening the elegance of this Grand Scenic's MPV silhouette. Uniquely, big 20-inch wheels are fitted to all versions. At the same time, the three-part screen combines a panoramic view with improved side vision. At the front, there's a more distinctive lighting signature. Depending on version, the C-shaped front headlights benefit from LED PURE VISION technology, while Edge Light technology provides the taillights with a 3D effect. The boot of this third generation model boasts a volume of 718-litres when the third seating row isn't in use; that compares to the 572-litre figure you get from the standard Scenic model. Plus around the car, there's total additional stowage capacity of 63-litres. Take the 'Easy Life drawer', which faces the front passenger seat and offers a storage area of 11.5-litres. That's three litres more than a conventional glove box. Lit and chilled, it opens via an electronic sensor and automatically locks when the vehicle stops. Plus, as before, there are four underfloor compartments.
Market and Model
There's the usual premium of around £1,800 to get this Grand Scenic seven-seat bodyshape over the ordinary five-seat Scenic model. Prices for this 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel derivative start at just over £24,000 and there's the £1,500 option of EDC auto transmission if you want it. Entry-level 'Expression+' trim gives you most of what you'll need, but if you stretch up to mid-range 'Dynamique Nav' spec, there's the option of a 'Hybrid Assist' version of this 1.5-litre diesel engine at a premium of around £1,000. Further up the range, there are plusher 'Dynamique S Nav' and 'Signature Nav' variants if you want more kit. With these, you've you the same manual, EDC auto or Hybrid Assist powertrain oprions. A key new safety addition this time round is the AEBS 'Active Emergency Braking System' which also has a Pedestrian Protection feature. Lane Keeping Assist and a Fatigue Detection system are additionally being offered. Along with Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, a Safe Distance Warning system, 'Traffic Sign Recognition with Over Speed Prevention' and Blind Spot Warning. Buyers can also specify a reversing camera, automatic dipped and main beam headlights, front, rear and side parking sensors and Easy Park Assist hands-free parking.
Cost of Ownership
The Grand Scenic may no longer have the lowest running costs in its class but they're still impressively low for a car of this size. The efficiency champion is the 1.5-litre dCi 110PS diesel model fitted with the brand's clever 'Hybrid Assist' system that works with a 48-volt battery and provides an electric motor to support the diesel engine. Here, you're looking at 80.7mpg on the combined cycle and 92g/km of CO2. Even if you can't stretch to that variant though, you should find this to be a very frugal MPV. In conventional form for example, the 110PS 1.5-litre dCi diesel model should return 70.6mpg on the combined cycle and 104g/km of CO2, figures exactly replicated by the EDC auto version. As you would expect, all Grand Scenic models are aided in achieving their figures by a Stop & Start system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, stuck n traffic or waiting at the lights. Most buyers will want to consider the 'Renault 4+' programme which provides retail customers with a comprehensive four year/100,000 mile warranty, free routine servicing for four years or 48,000 miles, includes four years of roadside assistance cover and offers up to four years of lease or PCP finance, subject to status.
The familiar small engine, big car combination has never been one to excite the enthusiastic driver but in a practical family vehicle like Renault's Grand Scenic, it can work. Of course, it helps if the powerplant in question is Renault's consistently impressive 1.5-litre dCi unit. Its healthy torque output makes up for a lack of outright power on journeys around town and out on the open road, progress isn't too strained. The real reward comes in the shape of running costs that few seven-seat vehicles can hope to match. Renault has done a fine job with this third generation Grand Scenic. It's still not the most involving car to drive in the MPV sector but that isn't really the point of a vehicle like this. Ride comfort is first class and refinement is also good, so long as the 1.5 dCi engine isn't flogged too hard. The cabin is well designed and extremely well built with classy materials and decent space in all three rows. The smallest dCi engine won't be the choice for high mileage drivers but everyone else should give it the benefit of any doubt.