Renault Scenic long-term test review
The latest Renault Scenic people carrier is big on style and technology, but is it practical, too? Our chief photographer has got six months to find out...
6 May 2017 – first report
Price: £25,455 Price as tested: £28,080 Miles covered: 3010 Official economy: 72.4mpg Test economy: 50.4mpg Options fitted: Metallic paint (£545), LED headlights (£500), Parking Pack Premium (£500), Safety Pack Premium (£500), Bose Pack (£500), spare wheel (£90)
As a photographer I need a big, practical car so I can transport all my gear from job to job. And yet for many years I’ve actively avoided MPVs, because I’m not a fan of their boxy looks.
I’m not alone, either; as SUV sales have boomed, there has been a corresponding drop in the popularity of MPVs.
Unsurprisingly, Renault’s Scenic hasn’t been able to escape this trend, even though (or perhaps because) it was the car that defined the MPV sector back in the 1990s. But for the latest version Renault has adopted a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude.
Gone is the purely functional design, replaced by something with a high waistline, distinctive lighting and more than a hint of SUV about it. And gone too is my main reservation. But is the Scenic now an example of form over function?
Well not, if the design team at Renault is to be believed. Despite having unusually large wheels, they're shod in specially designed high-profile tyres that are said to give a ride comparable to that of the competition.
Inside, meanwhile, the Scenic is more spacious than the car it replaces, featuring a bigger boot and plenty of kit to help keep your nearest and dearest safe.
The interior also benefits from a distinctly fresh and modern design. Analogue instrument dials have been scrapped and replaced with digital displays for speed, engine temperature and fuel; scrolling through the five drive modes changes the centre display and the priority of the information displayed. It’s a thoroughly forward-thinking set-up that works well once you’re acquainted with the interface.
Dynamically, the Scenic is less adventurous. The Nissan-developed 1.5 dCi diesel engine fitted to our car is a known quantity, having been introduced in the previous-generation Scenic. That said, there is a reason Renault has retained its services; it feels gutsy and has no problem lugging the Scenic up to motorway speeds.
It's only when I've driven the car fully loaded that the six-speed manual gearbox needs to be worked hard, and that's no real hardship, because the clutch is light and the shift slick.
So, after many years of actively avoiding MPVs, I’m looking forward to running the Scenic. Whether it can maintain its appeal against the allure of more rugged SUVs is still up for debate, but over the next six months I'm going to see whether the Scenic has the appeal to compete with those rivals, while holding its own as a functional, practical and comfortable addition to the fleet.
See what some What Car? readers think of the new Scenic in the video below: