The Renault Scenic is back, in fourth generation guise aiming to reinforce its position as the compact MPV to choose. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Renault's fourth generation Scenic range now has more of an up-market feel, with sleeker more sophisticated looks and cleverer technology. A range of more efficient engines mean it still stacks up well on the balance sheet and it remains nicely built, safe and very well equipped. All very good reasons to keep it well in contention against key rivals in the five-seat compact MPV segment.
The Scenic has been one of Renault's biggest contemporary success stories, selling over 4.5 million units since its launch in 1996. It's been especially popular here in the UK, filling the number one spot in the MPV sales charts for many of those years, but in more recent times has been overtaken by the likes of the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer and the Ford C-MAX in the affections of British buyers. Hence the need for this completely redesigned fourth generation model. 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' diesel variant will tempt those in search of ultimate efficiency too. Sounds promising doesn't it?
The focus with this latest car has been in offering customers more choice. Choice in body shapes, in trim levels and in engine options. How these compact MPV class cars drive is actually some way down the priority list for most buyers behind value for money, safety, reliability and practicality. The Scenic has never really garnered a reputation as a particularly sharp steer, but that suits the sort of customers who just want something comfortable and unthreatening to do the family duties. The bulk of sales will go on the dCi diesel engines which develop 95 or 110PS in 1.5-litre form, or 130 or 160PS in 1.6-litre guise. The best seller will be the 1.5 110PS dCi variant and 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. So far so practical. There's also a very attractive 1.2-litre TCe turbo petrol unit in 115 and 130PS guises which is well worth a look if you don't cover such big mileages.
Design and Build
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 its 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. As before, the mainstream Scenic range comes in two sizes, standard with five seats and Grand with seven seats: it's the standard version we look at here, a car that claims best-in-class stowage capacity. The boot of this fourth generation model boasts a volume of 572-litres and 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. In the back, this Scenic is equipped with folding tables that open to reveal a small storage area that can accommodate a mobile phone, a gaming console or perhaps crayons, whilst it is also possible to attach electronic tablets of different sizes. The two USB ports at the rear of the centre console mean electronic devices can be used without time restraints.
Market and Model
Prices as before, are likely to sit in the £21,000 to £25,000 bracket, with the usual premium of just under £1,500 if you want the longer Grand Scenic seven-seat bodystyle. There's the choice of four trim levels - 'Expression+', 'Dynamique Nav', Dynamique S Nav' and 'Signature Nav'. 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. Higher-end versions are equipped with Renault's advanced 'R-LINK 2' infotainment system, complete with an 8.7-inch screen. Here, you get voice recognition for the navigation system, telephone use, apps and radio. There's also the option of a full-colour head-up display system that projects key driving information onto the bottom of the windscreen. And Renault also hopes it can tempt buyers into paying more for a desirable 11-speaker BOSE Surround Sound audio system.
Cost of Ownership
The 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 will be the 1.5-litre dCi 110PS diesel model that comes 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. 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 diesel model should return nearly 70mpg on the combined cycle and not much more than 100g/km of CO2. As you would expect, all 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.
Renault's fourth generation Scenic is here to remind us that there's still a place for the traditional five-seat compact mini-MPV in a modern market stuffed with other, more high profile alternatives. It's practical, spacious, well built and decently equipped, as every car of this kind must be, but in this case, each of these criteria has been ticked off with a thoroughness that reminds you just who invented this market sector in the first place. Is it all enough to keep the market's original five-seat mini-MPV as the best choice for frugal families? Perhaps. Many might be surprised at just how thoroughly this French contender can now meet their needs. One thing's for certain. As a more versatile spin on spacious five-seat family motoring, the Scenic model line has a lot of life in it yet.