Renault is proud to build proper MPVs and June Neary likes its style.
Will It Suit Me?
Although a 4x4 would be trendier and a family saloon might be sportier, there's nothing to touch a proper 7-seat MPV for versatility and the ability to cope with the logistical problems that family life has a habit of throwing up. That's why I was eager to get to grips with the latest Renault Grand Scenic. I have a lot of appreciation for the job that these vehicles do and Renault's offering has been one of the leading lights in the sector for a long time. The Grand Scenic is the extended seven-seat version of the standard five-seater Scenic and it gives you the option of either having two child-sized seats in the rear or folding them down to produce a larger luggage area. That's only the tip of the iceberg so far as interior adjustments go with all the rear seats capable of shifting around so the most can be made of the available space. The exterior of the Grand Scenic didn't really excite me too much but few MPVs do. The styling is pleasant enough but the main point of the shape is to maximise the amount of space inside. It's also a very large vehicle which might prove daunting to some but the size didn't look like anything you couldn't get used to and that was what I intended to do.
Being very nearly the size of the Espace, Renault's largest MPV, the Grand Scenic should be big inside and it is. The front seats are comfortable with plenty of room and a good view out. In the second row, three adults can be accommodated without any difficulty and leg room is as generous as that of anything in the compact MPV class. Slide these second row seats forward a touch and it's also possible to seat a couple of six-foot adults in the rear. Their knees will be bunched up a little as the chairs are set close to the floor but it's far from uncomfortable and smaller occupants will have no problem. These third row seats fold into the flat boot floor in a one-touch motion increasing boot space from 208 to as much as 702 litres. The middle row of seats can fold and tumble forwards, enabling reasonably dignified access to the third row, or be removed completely to create a massive 2063-litre space. Seat back trays, a deep glovebox and segmented door pockets add to the Grand Scenic's strong practicality score.
Behind the Wheel
You approach a 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 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. I tried the 1.6-litre dCi 130 diesel model. It had plenty of power, even for moving a Grand Scenic with the family and quite a bit of baggage on board. Refinement was good and although we only sat on the motorways for half an hour or so, it was enough to appreciate that the Grand Scenic would be a very accomplished companion on a long journey. There's also a lower-powered 1.5 dCi diesel with 110PS, a base 1.6 petrol variant and a very good turbo 1.2-litre petrol variant with either 115 or 130PS on tap. Despite its size, the Grand Scenic is straightforward to manoeuvre, the process aided by good visibility out of the front. In tight situations on the road, it doesn't feel as large as it actually is and anyone who's ruled out a seven-seat vehicle because they're worried about the awkwardness of its dimensions should give this one a go.
Value For Money
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.
Could I Live With One?
The Renault Scenic has been at or near the top of the compact MPV charts for years and Renault has learned a lot about what buyers in this sector want. The Grand Scenic is that knowledge being put into practice. It isn't an MPV that tries to be sporty in any way. It's just spacious, user-friendly, safe and very solidly built. Some will find the looks and the way it drives a little dull but those with domestic situations which really require the versatility of a seven-seat vehicle will love the Renault's pragmatic approach.