Gareth Butterfield thinks the Renault Scenic proves there’s life in the MPV sector yet
IT’S been 20 years since the first Renault Scenic burst onto the scene. In those days the world had gone people-carrier mad. SUVs were the tools used by farmers and crossovers were devices you’d find in a posh car stereo system.
Nowadays the market isn’t quite so buoyant. If you want to lug around five people and a lot of luggage, often people turn to “soft roaders” or jacked-up versions of hatchbacks. So does the Scenic still have a place in the modern motoring world?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not short of competition. Citroen still peddles a version of its long-standing sparring partner, the Picasso and pretty much all the other big names offer something similar.
Renault realises, then, that the Scenic needs to stand out from the crowd if it’s to make a decent fist in a crowded and under-loved market. And the first weapon in its arsenal is the newcomer’s bold looks.
Here’s a sector that’s not known for its outlandish design, with most rivals following a function-over-form ethos, and Renault wades in with a car available in a selection of bright colours, with striking swooping angles and 20″ wheels as standard. To be frank, it looks fabulous.
It drives pretty well too. Don’t be under any illusions it’s going to set your pulse racing, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its fine road manners, good levels of grip and a ride that stays comfortable despite those massive rims.
Its interior, true to form with modern Renualts, is something of a minimalist tech-fest. They’ve never been ones to follow the crowd and the latest dashboard layout certainly looks different. It’s dominated by a huge touch-screen which controls nearly everything and, while it’s better than some offerings on the market, it does make it feel like there could be a simpler way.
Passengers will love it though. Everywhere you look there’s clever storage solutions, natty details and cubby holes. In my book, a good people-carrier should surprise you and impress you more the more you take time to poke around. And the Scenic does just that.
The Scenic’s cabin accounts for 80 per cent of the car’s entire volume and this mean’s its extremely spacious. Storage holes pop up everywhere and the boot is excellent. Rear seat passengers have plenty of space, the seats fold at the touch of a button and there’s even two fabulous picnic tables in front of each rear seat.
There are several engines to choose from in varying degrees of potency, with the 110 dCi diesel arguably being the better all-round option – although the TCe 1.2 litre, three cylinder petrol engine will also perform well if you want to avoid the black stuff.
Fuel economy is good, if not amazing, and emissions are kept admirably in check.
The all-new Scenic range starts at £21,605 and for that you’ll get an awful lot of goodies thrown in.
It’s a refreshing and interesting car in what should be an otherwise dull sector. The world may be turning away from people carriers, but here’s a car that makes you wonder why.