The Renault Scenic has been a stalwart of the MPV market for years now, but due to a constant stream of newer, more versatile rivals, it has fallen down the pecking order. Renault has made some changes for the 2012 Scenic that should help to renew interest in it.
The most obvious change is the new look. There’s a completely restyled front end, garnished with LED running lights and chrome detailing, and the rear light clusters have also had a makeover.
The trim structure has also been simplified – there’s now only one version, the Dynamique TomTom, which comes with bags of equipment. Alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and (you’ve guessed it) TomTom satellite-navigation are all standard.
What’s it like inside? From the driver’s seat at least, it’s a little different to before. The digital instrument display has some new graphics, while the stereo fascia has bigger, simpler controls.
Unfortunately, the system isn’t much easier to use, because it’s still controlled though a system of fiddly, convoluted menus. What’s more, the menus appear on the instrument panel rather than on the large central screen, so you lose half your information display every time you operate the stereo or Bluetooth functions.
The separate controls for the sat-nav system are better, but the user interface is still less user-friendly than in many rivals’ systems. The low positioning of the controls isn’t ideal, either, because it makes the small markings on the buttons hard to see.
Still, at least you get plenty of adjustment for your driving position, making it easy to get comfortable at the wheel. Over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t great because of the thick rear pillars, but at least you now get rear parking sensors included in the standard kit list.
The rest of the cabin is pretty much as before. Everything feels smart and solid, and all five seats are surrounded by plenty of head- and legroom. The three individual chairs in the back slide, recline, fold and tumble independently of one another, and the boot is a good size, too.
Freeing up the car’ maximum loadspace requires lifting the rear chairs out altogether, though. That makes the Scenic less versatile than many MPV competitors.
What’s it like to drive? There are no chassis changes and, next to newer rivals, the Scenic is starting to feel a little old and uncultured. Whatever the speed or surface, the ride has a lumpy, unsettled feel, and that’s not ideal in a car designed to carry families. The pay-off is tight body control in corners, so the car changes direction cleanly and crisply. Unfortunately, the slow-witted, artificial-feeling steering means the Scenic still isn’t much fun.
Two new engines are available; a turbocharged 1.2 petrol with 113bhp and a 109bhp 1.5 turbodiesel with stop-start technology. We drove the latter, and while it’s a little lazy at low revs, it offers decent pull if you keep the needle above 2000rpm.
The stop-start system works fairly unobtrusively, too, and the engine is decently hushed. However, you do feel some vibration coming through the accelerator pedal, which can get irritating on a long motorway run. There’s also a fair bit of wind and road noise at higher speeds.
Should I buy one? There’s a good reason to buy this particular version, because the new stop-start-equipped engine returns a mightily impressive average of 68.9mpg. The super-low CO2 emissions of 105g/km will also mean affordable tax bills for company car drivers.
However, this version costs £20,225 - that’s no cheaper than rivals such as the Citroen C4 review, which is a better MPV, and the Ford C-Max, which is better to drive. Then again, neither rival can match the Renault for standard equipment.
So, there you have it. The Scenic is still a decent car - it doesn’t really excel in any one area, but it doesn’t do anything badly, either. If you fancy lots of kit in your car, and you can negotiate yourself a good deal, then it might be worth a look.
Citroen C4 review
What Car? says…
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
Up to the minute news from around the globe