Citroën Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi 120 Feel
List price £24,990
Target Price £20,972
Has a recent facelift propelled the Grand C4 Picasso back to the top of the MPV class?
Renault Grand Scénic 1.6 dCi 130 Dynamique Nav
List price £26,945
Target Price £26,420
Bold, SUV-inspired looks are aimed at setting the new Grand Scénic apart from the plainer opposition
Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI 115 SE
List price £25,785
Target Price £21,136
Fresh from winning our MPV of the Year award for the second year in a row, the Touran will be hard to beat.
Let's be honest: a seven-seat MPV is the kind of car that you need rather than desire. The trouble for their makers is that there are now other options (think SUVs) that are almost as practical, but with far more kerbside appeal.
Renault has acknowledged this by being more than a little brave with its new Grand Scénic. Rather than building another practical but unexciting box, it used a striking concept car as inspiration and produced a distinctive design that blends bold shapes with SUV styling cues.
To see if it’s more than just a pretty face, we’ve put it up against our current favourite MPV, the Volkswagen Touran. It may look plain, but it’s good to drive, has an economical diesel engine and is filled with practical touches. And with Citroën having just updated its Grand C4 Picasso, that’s also a strong contender for top spot.
What are they like to drive?
All three of our contenders have 1.6-litre diesel engines, but there are clear differences in how they perform. With the most power and the shortest gearing, the Grand Scénic is the quickest by some way if you accelerate from low revs, regardless of which gear you’re in.
If you’re accelerating through the gears from a standstill, the Grand C4 Picasso is similarly quick, but only when you rev its engine hard. The Touran’s less powerful engine makes it slowest by a significant margin, but it’s still quick enough. It’s the Touran that we’d rather be in if it we had to stop quickly, though. From 30mph, it stopped 1.0m sooner than the C4 and 1.3m before the Scénic. This gap only increases at higher speeds.
The Touran also impresses in the way it corners. Its steering feels meatier than the too-light C4’s and artificial-feeling Scénic’s, allowing you to place the Touran’s nose confidently. Body lean is well contained in both the Touran and Scénic, but the C4 sways around noticeably under hard cornering.
In wet and slippery conditions, we found the stability control systems of the C4 and Scénic to be quite abrupt in their operation compared with the subtle interventions of the Touran’s.
While we wouldn’t call any of these cars fun to drive, the Touran is easily the most enjoyable on a twisty country road. This is partly down to its fairly firm suspension. You do feel imperfections in the road, but good damping means these are dealt with quickly enough to avoid any juddering.
The C4’s soft springs make it comfier most of the time, but it sometimes crashes over potholes. The Scénic doesn’t ride bumps as badly as you might expect given its huge 20in alloy wheels, but it’s still the firmest of our trio. All three cars come with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The C4 and Scénic have vague shift actions that aren’t particularly satisfying, especially compared with the precise gearshift in the Touran. The C4 and Touran’s engines tested here are available with automatic gearboxes, but you have to go for the more powerful 1.6-litre or less potent 1.5-litre motor if you want a self-shifting Scénic.
The Scénic certainly has the gruffest-sounding engine, with the most clatter when idling and the coarsest sound when accelerating. The C4 is far smoother and quieter unless you really push it, and while the Touran’s engine is a bit boomy, it’s the quietest all-round cruiser.
Page 1 of 5