The Renault Scenic Energy 1.6 dCi demonstrates practicality and efficiency in one affordable package. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Renault Scenic is something you probably know very well but this Energy diesel engine is something quite special. It's good for 64 miles to the gallon and delivers punchy acceleration coupled to emissions of less than 120g/km. Family transport doesn't get much greener.
If there's one market sector that has been largely impervious to the demand for lower carbon-emitting vehicles it's that of the MPV people mover. Overwhelmingly bought by private rather than business buyers, safety, practicality and value for money are criteria massively more important to the target market than knocking a few grammes per kilometre off the carbon dioxide figure. What has become increasingly important to families with multiple demands on the budget is reducing the monthly fuel bill. That's where a vehicle like the Renault Scenic Energy dCi 130 comes in. hand in hand with its low CO2 output is excellent fuel economy along with all the safety and practicality that customers demand. Renault might be making waves with their new generation of electric vehicles but the Energy clearly demonstrates that the diesel engine is far from done.
When it comes to MPVs, torque counts. It's a factor that's often overlooked as buyers look to reduce their fuel bills and opt for ever smaller engines, but an engine with low torque is a simple false economy. It means that when you fill your vehicle with family and luggage, you'll need to rev it until the valves bounce to get any meaningful acceleration which will in turn crucify your fuel economy. By choosing an engine with some muscle, you'll actually be able to lower your consumption in most real-world scenarios. The Scenic Energy dCi 130 answers that particular call, managing a brawny 236lb/ft, more than double that of the 1.6-litre petrol Scenic model. This translates into some brisk in-gear acceleration which is probably no great surprise. What is perhaps a little more unexpected is the refinement of this engine. At idle it's extremely quiet, and with your stereo on the go it's genuinely difficult to figure out when the stop/start system has kicked in when negotiating city traffic. Renault quotes a 10 second sprint to 60mph and a top speed of 121mph so it's doubtful you'll feel the Scenic is in any way underpowered with this gutsy diesel plumbed beneath the bonnet.
Design and Build
The Scenic range comes in two sizes, standard and Grand, both of which are offered with this dCi 130 Energy powerplant. While the Scenic borrows the distinctive satin chrome air-intakes of the Megane coupe and a more squat, purposeful stance, the Grand Scenic has a larger glass area and a mesh grille covering its single frontal air-intake. The seven-seat model also features distinctive boomerang-shaped rear light clusters that arc around the bottom of its rear pillars and along its flanks. The interior is where the magic happens in any MPV and both Scenic models lay-on lots of space and versatility. The second row of seats can be folded flat or removed, while the Grand Scenic's third row can be dropped into the floor. Boot space is measured at 522 litres in the Scenic and 702 litres in the Grand Scenic with the rearmost seats folded. There's a massive array of storage options in the Scenic with a total of 92 litres available. Underfloor compartments, under-seat drawers, a chilled glovebox, centre console cubbies, door pockets and trays on the seat backs should help to keep the family's paraphernalia in check. There are also three 12-volt power sockets to keep the all important games consoles and MP3 players powered up.
Market and Model
Safety is of paramount importance to family buyers and few manufacturers can match Renault's reputation in this area. Its models routinely achieve maximum five-star ratings from Euro NCAP and the Scenic is brim full of 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. The second row of seats all have ISOFIX child seat anchor points too. The sole trim level offered at present is the upmarket Dynamique TomTom (which predictably includes a Tom Tom sat nav) at £20,900 or the above vehicle with optional BOSE stereo pack at £22,400 which, aside from the stereo kit, also features rear parking sensors, a different 17-inch wheel design and electrically adjustable, folding and heated door mirrors. All versions get air conditioning, ESP, front and rear curtain airbags, cruise control and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Cost of Ownership
The big draw with the Energy engine is its energy efficiency. Renault quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 64.2mpg which is astonishing for a vehicle of this size. The 1.6-litre powerplant utilises a whole host of smart technology which incrementally increases efficiency. For example, the new variable displacement oil pump reduces CO2 output by one per cent while the stop/start system shaves three more per cent away. At 115g/km the carbon dioxide figure is a massive 30g/km lower than the similarly powerful eight-valve 1.9 dCi diesel that this engine replaces. Demand for family-friendly transport with a five-star EuroNCAP score and fuel economy in this bracket is always strong and the Scenic Energy's residuals look set to be extremely healthy. Once this engine is offered in less pricey trim variations, it's hard to see how many rivals can counter its running costs.
From an engineering standpoint, it's very hard to pick fault with the Renault Scenic Energy dCi 130. The development of its powerplant has generated a slew of patents and it's an engine that will be rolled out to other Renault and Nissan vehicles in the not too distant future. For the time being at least, the engineering is a little more impressive than the marketing. For an engine that will doubtless appeal to the cost conscious looking to cap their fuel bills, it seems somewhat off-key for Renault to only offer it in upscale trim variants. Doubtless this issue will resolve itself in time and the rest of the Scenic package still feels a class act. It's not the sharpest steer, but if safety, versatility and effortless mile-eating capability are more important than body control through corners, you'll warm to this French family favourite.