Car Test   R0343
 
July 2003
First Drive Renault Scenic
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.9dCi
Whether it’s due to bravado or a confidence born of success, Renault appears to be convinced that its latest Scenic will prevail against familiar family holdalls such as Zafira, Picasso and later - arriving newcomers like the Ford C-Max and VW Touran. After all, it argues, it virtually invented the compact MPV and has had seven years and 200,000 units of success, which it intends to improve on with this Mark II model.
  
   Apart from a set of familiar engines, the 426cm-long, Megane-based Scenic is all new. It’s slightly bigger all round than the previous model and obviously follows its hatchback sibling with an individualistic, bustle-back treatment. Next year a 23cm-longer, seven-seat Grand Scenic joins the range, but for now it’s just a five-seater.
  
   Well, ‘just’ hardly does justice to the versatile seating arrangements, because there’s a wide range of permutations. The three rear chairs all slide and recline, and can be unclipped and removed in familiar fashion – no clever fold-into-the-floor tricks in this case, though. At 15kg apiece, they’re pretty weighty, too. However, as before, when the centre rear seat is taken out, the outer two can be unplugged and repositioned inboard for greater shoulder space and legroom. With all seats in place, knee and legroom within the lighter cabin (two large sunroofs are on offer) are more than adequate, although burly blokes are likely to overlap the narrowish cushions.
  
   There are even more storage spaces than before, but for serious load carrying, the volume of the already big, square-shaped boot can be virtually doubled when the back seats are tumbled forward, where they click-lock into place.
  
   Of the five engines on offer, we rate the lively 1.9dCi turbo-diesel as the best all-rounder, thanks to its eager pulling power and commendable overall quietness. It’s particularly impressive on motorways, where its long-legged sixth gear (31.8mph per 1000rpm) gives relaxed cruising. The promise of nearly 49mpg is appealing, too. In contrast, the five-speed petrol 1.6 sounds and feels uncomfortably busy.
  
   There’s a hint of float on wavy surfaces taken at speed, but that’s a small price to pay for a generally very comfortable ride. As with Megane, however, the electric power steering is let down by a lack of clean, precise response and, in a turn, a feeling of nibbly self-centring at the wheel rim.
  
   The best news for the driver is that the more upright steering wheel gives a more car-like driving position. There’s a clear view, too, of the new central instrument panel with its bold digital speedo, but only a tiny bar-type tachometer. Space up front is liberated by employing an easy-shifting, console-mounted gear lever, as well as an electronic parking brake, applied by a facia trigger and released automatically on pullaway. This and the keyless ignition and door locking (via a card) are now familiar Renault features. The new centre console looks like a tacked on afterthought, but its controls are convenient to both front occupants. The climate control is only mediocre in its output and efficiency, though.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • rear head restraints lower flush into backrests
  • numerous storage spaces, very deep glovebox
  • fuel cap incorporated into filler flap
  • 'clean fingers' external bonnet release pull
and GRIPES
  • front cushions on the short side for some
  • no rear sill protection
  • ugly wiper arm mechanisms in full view
  • slot-like underbonnet access
VERDICT
For all its stylish new looks, the latest Scenic is, in fact, a play-it-safe, steady-as-you-go design – there’s nothing new in the seat-folding department, for example. It does, however, benefit from a more supple ride, an improved driving position and even greater luggage and storage space. Does it set a new benchmark for the sector? Don’t know yet; we await the Scenic’s showdown with the Touran and C-Max with interest – pistons at twenty paces!


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1870cc, turbo-diesel, 8 valves. 120bhp/221lb ft with direct injection, common-rail fuel delivery; 60-litre fuel tank
drive front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual. Optional electronic stability control programme with understeer control and traction control
suspension front: independent MacPherson coil spring/damper struts, anti-roll bar
rear: torsion beam axle with coil springs and telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 6.5in alloy with 205/60R16H tyres; full-size steel spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with standard brake assist/ABS and EBD
0-62mph* 10.8sec
official mpg§ 38.2/56.5/48.7
maximum speed* 117mph
CO2 emissions 154g/km
* maker's figures  § urban/extra urban/combined

THE SCENIC RANGE
body lower-medium, mid-priced MPV - 5 seats   trim levels Authentique, Expression, Dynamique, Privilege plus five option packs
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.4 litre/98bhp, 4/1.6/115, 4/2.0/136
diesel: 4/1.5/80, 4/1.9/120
  drive front-wheel drive; 5-speed manual on 1.4, 1.6 and 1.5dCi, 6-speed on 2.0 and 1.9dCi. 4-speed automatic available on 1.6 and 2.0
notable features semi-automatic parking brake, 'hands free' card operates locks and ignition, two electric sunroofs, rear door sunblinds, see-me-home headlamps, numerous storage spaces (including sliding centre compartment), front and rear curtain airbags, sliding rear seats, 'childminder' mirror, Carminat satnav


SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
  in centimetres (x)
  steering
   
  easy to park/garage?
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