Renault's Grand Scenic looks awfully large to be powered by a 1.5-litre diesel. Steve Walker 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 - massaged by Renault's Stop & Start system - hits improbably highs and there's enough torque to get the big people carrier moving at low speeds. Build quality and ride comfort of the recently facelifted 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. The Grand Scenic operates in the space between the standard five-seat Scenic and the Renault Espace but that doesn't give it a whole lot of room for manoeuvre. It's available with seven seats or with five seats and a boot like an aircraft hangar and its primary focus is on facilitating a simple, hassle free life for a medium to large family. In light of this, it probably doesn't need an enormously powerful engine but there will still be a tendency amongst buyers to view the 1.5-litre dCi diesel unit as being on the small side for such a sizable vehicle.
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 105bhp making it the least powerful of the Grand Scenic's engines. On the plus side, there's torque of 240Nm available at 2,000rpm which is substantially better than every one of the Grand's petrol engine options. 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 0-60mph time of 13.4s demonstrates. 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
The most recent subtle but effective recent cosmetics tweaks aside, there's no shortage of space inside the Grand Scenic. The front seats are comfortable with plenty of room and a good view out courtesy of the large windscreen. 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. The 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 in the seven seat model. 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 2,063-litre space. Seat back trays, a deep glovebox and segmented door pockets add to the Grand Scenic's strong practicality score.
Market and Model
With just the one 'Dynamique Tom Tom' trim spec - which, naturally, includes the Carminat Tom Tom sat nav and its associated LIVE services - the only area of choice is engine. Grand Scenic prices start at under £20,000 with the 1.5 dCi 110 chiming in at just over £21,000. If you want it with Renault's Stop & Start system, you'll have to find another £400. Pushing the value angle harder still is the optional Luxe Pack which bundles 17-inch 'Sari' alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a BOSE Energy Efficient sound system with nine speakers, a digital amplifier, a sliding centre console, electrically folding door mirrors and the Visio System for £1500, offering a considerable saving than if the options were specified individually. Safety is strong throughout with the inclusion of stability control, front, side and curtain airbags and ISOFIX child seat mountings on all the middle seats. The notable rivals for the Grand Scenic are the Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Volkswagen Touran and the other compact MPVs with capacity to seat more than five. The car is even big enough to make some customers question the need for a full-sized MPV, although Renault claims that its Espace won't suffer as a result.
Cost of Ownership
Buyers who find they can live with the unspectacular performance of the 1.5-litre dCi engine will be rewarded with some of the lowest running costs available in any seven-seat vehicle. This version of the Grand Scenic is the only one to wear Renault's eCO2 branding which is reserved for the most efficient vehicles in the range. CO2 emissions from the engine are measured at 128g/km while the combined cycle fuel economy is an excellent 57.6mpg. Go for the Stop & Start version and this improves to 68.9mpg with just 105 g/km of CO2.
The old 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 the 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.