Turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol power doesn't liven up the Grand Scenic by much but it's still a winner. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
In the Grand Scenic 1.2 TCe, Renault has a highly practical MPV with a great little petrol engine. The car is tough to fault from a comfort and versatility perspective and the unit helps by delivering first class refinement. It's quite expensive to secure the services of this modern turbocharged petrol powerplant and the Scenic isn't the most exciting thing to look at or drive but that doesn't stop it being one of the very top compact 7-seater MPVs.
If you find it hard to get excited about a seven-seat MPV, don't worry, you're not alone. These vehicles aren't the most thrilling things on the road, not by a long shot, but they do perform a valuable role. As a result, it's tempting for manufacturers to try and inject some extra interest into their MPVs with sporty handling or 4x4 design cues. In contrast, Renault's Grand Scenic is a vehicle that prefers to concentrate on the basics of getting seven occupants, or five and a lot of luggage, from A to B. It's a very sensible remit that demands a sensible engine - probably a diesel. Almost all Grand Scenic buyers want to fill from the black pump, which is one reason why Renault has reduced the number of petrol options available. The French brand still has confidence in petrol power for a car of this kind though, hence its introduction of an impressive 115PS 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine into this improved Grand Scenic line-up. Just 1.2-litres doesn't sound like a lot when the task in hand is moving 4.5-metres of possibly fully-loaded Grand Scenic. It's a torquey unit though, with a lot to say for itself when it comes to taking your family swiftly and efficiently where they need to go. Let's check it out.
With 163Nm of torque on offer, this petrol-powered Grand Scenic has quite enough pulling power to surprise you on the open road. It's a very smooth and refined engine that will cope easily with a lightly loaded Grand Scenic and adequately with a fully-loaded one. If you plan on travelling with a packed car most of the time, one of the larger diesels might be a better bet. Otherwise, the TCe is a great choice. Performance over the 0-60mph sprint is measured at 12.6s and there's a 112mph top speed. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that shifts up and down the cogs in an acceptably positive manner. The Scenic's real strength lies in its ride comfort but it can hustle through corners without any problem thanks to tight body control and is only let down by a lightness in the steering which makes it better suited to driving in town than on rally stages - sensible really.
Design and Build
This revised second generation Grand Scenic has a smarter look these days, courtesy of a more contemporary front end with gloss black and chrome detailing and the almost obligatory LED daytime running lights. It's what's inside that matters though. There's certainly no shortage of space. 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
Expect to pay around £21,000 for a 1.2-litre TCe Grand Scenic - that's around £1,000 more than the 110PS 1.6-litre petrol model that this variant is designed to replace. The problem for most potential buyers will be how close this kind of pricing is to the 110PS 1.5-litre dCi diesel variant that most will probably end up getting tempted by. There's only one Dynamique Tom Tom trim level but it comes complete with an impressive rosta of kit. Pride of place on which goes to a Carminat TomTom satellite navigation system with live traffic updates. Also included are bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with a speed limiter, front and rear reversing sensors and air conditioning. It doesn't stop there. You also get a Bluetooth compatible stereo with auxiliary and USB inputs, wheel-mounted stereo controls, plus 12v power outlets in the boot and in the second row of seats. And the seats are finished in a rather smart synthetic leather and fabric mix which looks good and ought to prove hard-wearing. Safety-wise, there's ESC stability control and ABS with brake assist and brake force distribution to help you avoid an accident but if you just can't, there are all the usual airbags, including front and rear curtain ones. There's also Hill Start Assist, Understeer Control to help corner turn-in and ISOFIX child seat fixings in all three second row seats. It all accounts for a five star EuroNCAP safety rating.
Cost of Ownership
The 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine manages a fuel return of close to 50mpg and a 140g/km emissions showing. Compare that to the 68.9mpg and 105g/km showing you'll get from a 1.5-litre dCi diesel model with stop/start and make your own decision. The issue of residual values is a trickier one for Renault. Expect an entry level diesel to retain around 34% of its new value after three years and 30,000 miles. The 1.2TCe petrol engine has been well received by the trade as well, suffering only a 1% drop from the diesel's figure. The generous 18,000 mile servicing intervals make running costs cheaper and Renault's warranty is better than many of its rivals at 4 years/100,000 miles. Insurance groups range between 15 and 21 which seem about average for the class. And, if you're interested, 14% of the plastics used on the car are derived from recycled material.
You've got to admire the Renault Grand Scenic's focused approach to the MPV problem. Too many of its rivals get side tracked by trying to be too sporty in look or feel. That approach will be desirable for some buyers but when push comes to shove, few of those cars can match the raw practicality of this Renault. The 1.2-litre TCe engine is an excellent addition to the Scenic range, with refinement and a useful, if not spectacular, turn of pace. It isn't cheap and the economy can't match that of the diesels but those who choose it are unlikely to feel disappointed.