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Driving Renault's new Scenic

2009-09-29 08:44

Hailey Philander

Gallery: Grand Scenic

Whoever said MPVs are the preserve of bored mums with too many kids and pets may need to swallow their words after taking a look at Renault’s new Scenic and Grand Scenic.

The first and most obvious thing you'll notice about these MPVs is its styling. Just because its basic shape is a box, does not mean it has to look like one. Scenic and big brother Grand Scenic seem to break the convention that people carriers are unattractive first and functional later.

There are a few subtle styling differences between the two, apart from the obvious being that the one is a seven seater, while the other is a more compact five seater. The front ends look similar with the large, almost droopy, headlight clusters, but the rear ends are a lot more distinctive with model-specific tail light clusters that sweep across the D-pillars.

Inviting cabin

Inside the cabin, as with Mégane, soft-touch plastics are featured throughout. Notable features include a customisable TFT screen to display essential information (although controls governing these functions are positioned quite high up on the dash so if you, like me are fairly short and prefer a lower seating position, accessing the switch is a literal stretch), Bluetooth connectivity and integrated TomTom navigation on Dynamique models. However, one good thing is that this time the stop/start button is on the correct side, unlike the Mégane…

One thing that did concern me about the cabin was the fascia overhang that, while stylish and undoubtedly fab at removing unwanted glare, was prone to jiggling on poor road surfaces. I'd love to see how many squeaks and rattles this feature will develop over the years.

That the cabin is versatile cannot be questioned. The seven-seater Grand Scenic has leg space worth mentioning, too, with Renault saying it can now comfortably carry adult passengers up to 1.75 m. There's a host of stowage spaces on offer, including underseat drawers, underfloor compartments, two aviation-style tables for the second row and a sliding centre console/armrest.

And despite its size, all-round visibility on both models is superb.

Space explorer

With both Scenic and Grand Scenic being longer than before (80 mm and 70 mm, respectively), luggage space has also grown considerably. This can be altered to suit specific needs by arranging the seats to provide either more or less cargo space.  

However, while Scenic and Grand Scenic may look (and function) like proper MPVs, they ride like proper hatchbacks. Really. Riding on the same horned subframe front suspension as the new Mégane and using a rear beam arrangement, the ride is supple and comfortable and there's no sense that either would want to topple over mid-corner.

Turbodiesel provides the main thrust in the MPV line-up with only the entry-level Scenic Expression carrying a 16-valve 1.6-litre petrol engine. While there was no opportunity to drive the petrol version, the turbodiesel motor was hugely impressive along the varied launch route with its 300 Nm of torque willingly hauling the people carrier about.

And while the MPVs display a convincing mix of go matched with show, it's good to know they are also fairly safe for the family. Six airbags are standard and Isofix anchors are supplied for the entire second row. All models come standard with ABS, EBD, EBA, electronic stability control and optional understeer control. All these contribute to the Grand Scenic scoring a five-star rating in the rigorous Euro NCAP crash tests.

Scenic 1.6 16v Expression  -  R230 000
Scenic 1.9 dCi Dynamique  -  R280 000
Grand Scenic 1.9 dCi Dynamique  -  R290 000

All prices include a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a five-year/100 000 km service plan.

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