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2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.

2017 Renault Scenic UK drive
Renault proves that compact MPVs can be both practical and attractive with the excellent Scenic.

   



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Renault Scenic

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Striking looks, interior design, cleverness of cabin features, smooth ride on 20-inch wheels

Not so good: 110hp diesel engine starting to feel its age, unremarkable driving experience, not cheap

Key Facts

Model tested: Renault Scenic Dynamique S Nav dCi 110
Price: Scenic range starts from 21,605; Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 from 25,565, car as tested 28,225
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door MPV
CO2 emissions: 100g/km (140 VED annually)
Combined economy: 72.4mpg
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 12.4 seconds
Power: 110hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 260Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

If there's still one type of vehicle in the modern day that lacks for a little 'sex' factor, it's the MPV. There's precious little designers can do with a simple two-box (or even monobox, if you squint hard enough) shape that's little more than a compact van with windows. And the very idea of having to own a vehicle that prioritises seating numbers over anything else is reprehensible to most car-lovers; after all, if passenger capacity is your main automotive concern, you ought to be buying a bus.

So huge credit is due to Renault and its unstinting braveness, its team of designers and the bean-counters behind the scenes for letting the Renault Scenic 'IV', launched in 2016 fully 20 years after the original model, to get to showrooms in almost concept car guise. Honestly, when the French firm revealed it was going to be styling up the Scenic for its fourth outing, the generally held belief was such attractive, svelte looks would never make it through the multifarious mundane processes a car company goes through, in the interim period between a model appearing on a motor show stand and the finished item actually turning up in a dreary showroom off the A509 in Kettering.

But the Scenic is different. It looks as fabulous as any MPV has a right to. It's like the Renault is the car equivalent of the dour librarian/sci-fi nerd in those schlocky rom-coms who is transformed into an absolute Prom Night stunner/lantern-jawed hunk by the end of the movie, by the simple expedient of removing glasses or beanie hats, or letting their hair down etc etc. Compared to the automotive design dumplings that have worn the 'Scenic' nameplate before, this thing is a bona fide supermodel.

The Renault obviously works best in the Honey Yellow metallic (+550 on a Dynamique S Nav like this) with a contrast Diamond Black roof, a livery that Renault seems to be using in all its promotional literature for the Scenic, yet even without the two-tone funkiness, we reckon the French MPV would still look fantastic in any guise. Part of its appeal is the intriguing decision to equip the Scenic with diametrically huge 20-inch alloys, that are also narrow (195-section) with a plump 55-profile sidewall. That means it preserves the super-cool looks of the designer's dramatic first pen strokes (in this case, the designer being Dutchman Laurens van der Acker) without compromising the big-wheeled stance in the way a set of marketing-enforced 15-inch steelies would. We'll come onto the ride quality the 20s offer later on...

The interior isn't quite as dramatic in terms of looks as the exterior, but it's spacious, airy and full of well thought-out, family-oriented features that you'd expect of a Renault MPV. Like the sliding centre armrest console, for instance, that liberates more legroom for centre-rear passengers if needs be. There are also plenty of storage cubbies, good and clear displays for the cluster and the 8.7-inch portrait R-Link 2 infotainment, and plenty of toys on the Dynamique S Nav as tested. A head-up display, panoramic roof, reversing camera and ambient lighting are among a lengthy kit list, over and above the generous equipment of a Dynamique Nav lower down the scale. A couple of 500 option packs, including an 11-speaker Bose sound system, pushed the price of our test car to beyond 28,000 but, just looking at it and sitting in it, the Renault Scenic felt worth such money.

Dynamically, the main bugbears are the ageing 1.5-litre diesel engine fitted to this particular car and a chassis that's rather too inert, even accepting the MPV which sits atop it. On the former score, the 1,461cc K9K dCi unit - launched in 2001, remember - remains a reasonable mill, but there are better small-capacity turbodiesels available than this for refinement and power delivery. With 110hp and 260Nm driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual that's satisfactory, no more, and powering 1,430kg of car, the performance is also only just about acceptable. You'd be better off with the punchier 130hp 1.6 dCi instead, even if the 1.5's admirable on-paper eco-stats of 100g/km and 72.4mpg are appealing to customers. We saw 49.8mpg from the Scenic across 164 miles of slow, town-and-country-based motoring, where the MPV was constantly stopping, starting, accelerating and decelerating. A motorway trek would no doubt return 60mpg-plus, which is excellent.

And as for the chassis, the Scenic isn't bad - it just isn't very, well, Renault. This is a marque which, like Ford and BMW, traditionally likes to engineer a bit of handling sparkle into even its most pragmatic of models, but the Scenic IV appears to have been bypassed. Everything it does is very safe and assured, naturally; there's little understeer to report and good body control too, but the lightweight steering and stolid grip of the Renault means you'll not likely get many grins from throwing the Scenic around when travelling along your favourite back road.

What it does have, though, is lovely ease-of-use and plenty of refinement. Wind and tyre noise are kept to background levels, while the diesel engine is at least quiet and smooth on a trailing throttle. It's the ride that impresses most, however, because while the 20-inch-wheel gambit hasn't quite resulted in the most serene of driving manners, the ride quality is fine enough considering the giant metal dishes at each corner. Indeed, much like the rest of the car, the Scenic's ride is quietly assured, without ever being spectacular.

It's a good MPV, then, but can its striking looks do enough on their own to tempt people out of compact SUVs, which are killing off this sort of shrunken minibus? That's hard to say. There's no doubting the Scenic is one of the best five-seat people carriers of its type and the appearance should be enough to convince many punters to sign on the dotted line. Yet the spec needs a little tweaking in order to give the Scenic more of a winning personality - go for Dynamique S Nav by all means, as it's the first level at which the contrast roof is a no-cost option, but equip the bigger diesel engine to get the best from this genial car. The problem is, you're going to have to ignore the likes of the SEAT Ateca and Volkswagen T-Roc first of all; maybe not 'sexy' vehicles in themselves, but there's no denying the British public's proclivity for crossovers, in preference to MPVs. What a shame this glamorous yet sensible Renault might just be overlooked as a result.

Alternatives:

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer: Sporty and with some interesting drivetrain choices, such as the 225xe plug-in hybrid, the BMW is nevertheless pricey, ugly to look at and not hugely clever inside.

Citroen C4 Picasso: Renault's main rival is a similarly stylish French machine with an interior that has had some serious thought put into it. C4 Picasso is due for replacement soon but it's still great.

Volkswagen Golf SV: Has all the cachet of the Volkswagen badge, for which of course you'll pay through the nose to end up with something sturdily proficient. And just a teensy bit boring.


Matt Robinson - 8 Sep 2017



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2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.

2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Scenic UK drive. Image by Renault.








 

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