Renault has updated the look and motors of its Scenic compact MPV once more and introduced a more efficient petrol option. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Renault's improved third generation Scenic boasts crisper styling, more equipment and a couple of new downsized, eco-friendly engines, one of which, the 1.2 TCe petrol unit, is on test here. With chassis technology lifted from the latest Megane hatchback, this is a car that retains plenty of dynamic appeal, but its appeal remains its spacious and versatile interior.
The Renault Scenic is a stalwart of the compact MPV class, a segment full of people carriers usually based on family hatchback underpinnings that sit between full-sized MPVs like Ford's Galaxy and smaller supermini-sized models, like Nissan's Note. The Scenic is based on the Megane family hatch in the same way that if you look beneath its Citroen C4 Picasso and Ford C-MAX rivals, you'll find similar components to those in the Citroen C4 and Ford Focus respectively. Here, we're examining the entry-level 115bhp 1.2 TCe petrol version, powered by a more efficient downsized engine that Renault has developed to replace the old 1.6 VVT 110bhp petrol unit. Is it up to the task of persuading Scenic customers that diesel power isn't the only option in this segment? Let's find out.
This revised Scenic was one of the first Renaults to get the new 1.2 TCe 115 petrol engine we're looking at here. Far more refined than its 1.6-litre predecessor, it offers significantly better economy and CO2 emissions yet delivers 140lb ft of torque. Rest to sixty takes 11.7s on the way to 112mph. The taller, bulkier dimensions of compact MPV products don't lead you to expect the same kind of sporty driving experience offered by the family hatch that spawned them but Renault has applied much of the chassis technology found under its Megane to the Scenic. MacPherson strut front suspension is linked to an innovative horned sub frame that helps to reduce lateral movement and gives more precise steering responses. The rear set-up is based around a tough torsen beam and together, the two systems help the Scenic achieve a very low specific roll angle for a compact MPV. This is an important indication of its ability to corner in a composed manner without leaning too much. The electric power steering has also been refined to give sharper responses and greater accuracy.
Design and Build
Freshen-up facelifts nearly always address the same areas and Renault has been no less predictable with the Scenic. So the front-end gets a crisper, slightly more angular look with some gloss black and chrome detailing. LED daytime running lights are standard and the design of the rear light clusters has been tweaked. There is also a smarter range of wheel trims and alloy wheels and two fresh body colours: Azzurro Blue and Damask Red. The interior is where the magic happens in any MPV and this Scenic model lays on lots of space and versatility. The second row of seats can be folded flat or removed and boot space is measured at 522 litres. There's a massive array of storage options with a total of 92 litres available. Under-floor 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 topped up.
Market and Model
You'll need the best part of £20,000, even for this entry-level petrol Scenic variant, so this is no longer the really affordable family car it once was. Still, it is very well equipped, with features like alloy wheels and sat nav included as standard. 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 rear seats all have ISOFIX child seat anchor points too. A tempting option is what Renault calls its 'Visio System' which includes a lane departure warning system that'll stop dozy drivers from veering out of their lanes on the highway. And headlamps that'll automatically dip themselves in the face of oncoming traffic at night. I'd also be tempted by the nine-speaker Bose audio system with its digital amplifier. Both this audio set-up and the Visio package are included in an affordably-priced 'Luxe' Pack which also throws in dual-zone climate control, a sliding centre console and electrically folding mirrors. 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.
Cost of Ownership
If you're looking for the most affordable five-seat compact MPV in its class when it comes to running costs, then this is it. Thanks to a standard stop/start system, the 115bhp 1.2 TCe we're looking at here manages 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 135g/km of CO2, but its asking price is really too close to that of the entry-level diesel variant to tempt very many UK buyers. What else? Well insurance is group 15, servicing is affordable and residuals no worse than you'd find from other mainstream rivals. Oh and 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.
MPVs can get a bit frumpy in their pursuit of ultimate practicality and family-friendly design but this improved Renault Scenic is looking to redress the balance with refreshed styling, the latest driver-aid tech and more frugal engines like this petrol 1.2 TCe unit. The sound basics have been retained and improved upon, with the car offering competitive space, a wide array of useful features and Megane-derived chassis dynamics to satisfy the keen driver. As for what's under the bonnet, well we still can't see too many Scenic buyers going the petrol route, but for those covering low annual mileages who'll appreciate this variant's lower up-front asking price, the 1.2 TCe variant could be a sensible bet. In a car that remains an under-rated choice.