Fancy a family holdall that covers all the bases? Renault reckons its Grand Scenic is just the ticket. Steve Walker takes a closer look the popular 1.6 dCi 130 diesel version.
Ten Second Review
Marrying sleek looks to a practical interior isn't an easy thing to achieve and Renault hasn't really bothered trying with its latest Grand Scenic. Best described as inoffensive from a styling point of view, the car offers a massive interior with a versatile seating system to make the most of it. Ride comfort is first class, as is the quality of the materials and the general cabin environment. Recent changes to the Scenic and Grand Scenic bring the benefits of low CO2 and excellent fuel economy to an already solid reputation for safety, kit-per-£ value and versatile, roomy, well thought out accommodation. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that the1.6-litre diesel Grand Scenic we're looking at here is capable of almost 65mpg.
You might think your day to day family car journeys are mind-bogglingly dull but there are numerous cars on the market locked in ferocious competition for the right to come along for the ride. The school run, shopping trips, taking the dog to the vets or the kids to the dentist, this boring stuff is meat and drink to MPVs like Renault's Grand Scenic. If they can make the daily lives of a large family that bit easier, they've fulfilled their purpose. The question is, will this extended Scenic be the best car to take the edge off your daily grind? Renault has a lot of MPVs and faith in their future. The market for these vehicles has stagnated somewhat since 2005 as the rise of the 4x4 gave families a less frumpy way to get their hit of practicality. Sales have stagnated nice and high, however, and Renault is keen to mop up a big chunk of the total with its six-strong MPV line-up comprised of the Modus, Scenic, Espace and their respective Grand versions. It means customers can get a Renault that precisely fits their requirements with the spacious six spanning 3870mm to 4560mm in length. The Grand Scenic sits below the standard Espace and the nature of the densely packed range is that its abilities and size are very similar to that car. Renault sees it very much as a family vehicle and a vital one in promoting the brand's family-friendly image. It also expects the Grand to account for 30 per cent of overall Scenic sales.
You automatically 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 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. There's a choice of engines. Here, we're looking at the popular 1.6 dCi 130 Stop-Start diesel, which sits just above the 105bhp 1.5-litre dCi in the line-up. Despite its modest capacity, this turbocharged engine has 130bhp and a silky smooth power delivery. It can take the bulky Scenic to 62mph in 11.1s and although it can get a little loud in the upper reaches of the rev-range, refinement is generally good.
Design and Build
If the idea of the interim facelift is to make a car look different enough to notice with the minimum amount of changes, Renault has got it just about spot on with the refreshed Grand Scenic. There's a slightly crisper look to the front which has also acquired some gloss black and chrome trim to go with the quite tastefully applied LED daytime running lights. The tall rear light clusters have been tweaked, too. And, apart from a new range of wheel trims and alloy wheels and two new body colours - Azzurro Blue and Damask Red - that's about it. Being very nearly the size of an Espace, 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 1863-litre space. Seat back trays, a deep glovebox and segmented door pockets add to the Grand Scenic's strong practicality score. Inside, the quality of the materials leaps out at you. There's been competition amongst manufacturers to see who can install the most soft-touch materials but the Grand Scenic takes this squishy arms race to another level with a fascia the texture of an elephant's underbelly. The minor controls are cleanly executed and feel solid to the touch while the general standard of construction is very tough to fault.
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 but the 1.6 dCi 130 Stop & Start we're looking at here tops out the range at around £23,000, which represents very keen value when you compare like-for-like equipment levels with rivals from Ford, Vauxhall and Citroen. 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.
Cost of Ownership
You should get just over 50mpg on a regular basis from this 1.6 dCi 130 model, with 114g/km of CO2 emissions. Don't ignore the smaller capacity 1.5-litre dCi alternative though. What the Grand Scenic's entry-level diesel engine lacks in outright pace, it makes up for by being one of the most fuel-efficient seven-seat vehicles you can buy. The 1.5 dCi 105 engine gives the car an average of 55.4mpg and 134g/km emissions, which is better than many of the eco-special models offered by rival marques.
Renault's Grand Scenic is targeted unashamedly at meeting the needs of a large family and there aren't too many vehicles that do a better job. It isn't the most thrilling thing to look at and although it handles well for its size, the bias rightly veers towards comfort rather than driver involvement. The seven-seat cabin is as spacious as the large exterior dimensions would suggest, while the build quality and the classy design inside set the benchmark in the sector. Renault's strengths translate well to the compact MPV market and although it isn't compact by any means, the Grand Scenic looks destined for success. Comfort, safety and practicality are what it's all about for this car's target customers and those are the areas where it excels. Good job Renault.