2004 Renault Scenic II 1.9 dCi
Author: John Oxley
When the new Renault Megane II was introduced it was only a matter of time before its MPV offspring, the Scenic II, joined the hatchback and the sedan in the lineup.
With head of design Patrick le Quement cooking up a storm - and some controversy - with the "bustle bum" Megane hatch, the new Scenic was expected to be a lot different from the outgoing model.
It most certainly is that - but the good news is that Le Quement's Megane II shape has been toned down for the Scenic to the point where it has become macho and pretty at the same time, an evolution of the original in a direction that sees bold frontal treatment and a smaller tail.
It also gets better ride and handling, plus improved safety levels that sees Scenic II the first small MPV performer to get five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
From the front the new Scenic has a strong and powerful appearance, with Renault's latest corporate "face" showing a large chromed diamond logo, and there are big headlamps and a deep under-bumper air intake, plus foglights on the top models.
Go to the side of the car and you see a much flatter roofline than before, although still slightly curved.
There is still a shade of the old Scenic in the side profile, especially in the deep side glass, particularly in front. The windscreen is big - Renault says it's the largest in its segment, covering 1.45 square metres.
There's also a large panoramic sunroof option.
The tail treatment sees large rear lights and a big tailgate that extends right down to bumper level for easy loading.
Renault has taken a big leaf out of Citroen's book with the layout of the dashboard, while at the same time improving things.
Thus we see the instrument cluster moved to the centre of the dash á la Picasso, with a digital display, and the gearlever, again like that on the Picasso, sitting on a satellite console that juts out from the dashboard, allowing room for the front passenger to slide through and deal with back seat "problems".
In our road test of the Picasso we in fact criticised its dash layout, mainly because the LCD (liquid crystal display) instruments were washed out by strong sunlight in certain conditions.
Renault has taken a different route, however, and it solves those problems.
Firstly, the hood over the instruments is bigger than that on the Citroen. And secondly, Renault uses an LED (light emitting diode) display that is bright enough that it can be seen even in the harshest sunlight.
The instruments are digital, with large numerals for speed, and a quadrant display for the revcounter plus vertical line displays for fuel and water temperature.
Thanks to the horizontal roof line Scenic II gains 26 mm of headroom in the front compared to the previous version, placing it among the best in the class. In addition, elbow room is increased by 23 mm. With high priority given to back seat space, Scenic II offers knee room of 226 mm, which remains the largest in the market.
For the first time in this price bracket (and the first time on an MPV) an electronic handbrake is installed, and this is standard on the 1.9 dCi.
In addition, the front passenger seat can now be folded to form a flat hard-surfaced table.
This enables the back-seat passengers to enjoy better visibility, while also making it easy to load long objects. In a further development, the three back seats, when set into their vertical storage position, latch into position automatically without the need for bungee-straps.
The materials used for upholstery and finish reflect Renault's drive for improved quality, notably the use of soft touch plastics on the upper surfaces of the dashboard, and soft plastics on the centre console, too.
Increased in size to 17 litres, the cooled glovebox is the largest in the segment. In addition, four drawers beneath the seats are always accessible, as well as four compartments made possible by the flat floor.
According to the position of the sliding back seats the luggage space varies in volume from 430 to 480 litres (VDA).
Standard equipment includes keyless entry and remote central locking via the Renault Card, plus a radio/CD with remote controls, manual aircon with heating ducts to the rear seats, 2-speed adaptive windscreen wipers, rear wiper with automatic reverse mode, electric variable assistance steering, and double optic "See me Home" headlamps.
The Renault Card works on the same operating principles as in Mégane II, but its slot is now vertical. This means remote locking and unlocking of the doors via the card, and better security since operation is in effect "keyless"
There's a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, height adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, time delay courtesy lights, a seven-function onboard computer and warning system with an outside temperature gauge, an accessory power point next to the gearlever, and all four side windows have one-touch control incorporating an "anti-pinch" system.
There are sliding outer rear seats (in addition to the sliding centre seat), automatic headlamps, sunblinds for the rear window and rear doors, and rain sensor wipers.
Upholstery and carpeting is beige. Outside there are colour-coded door handles and mirrors, and special metallic-coloured side strips.
All five seatbelts are three-point, and five adjustable headrests are fitted, those in the rear folding away when the seats are flopped forward.
A full size spare wheel is installed, windows are tinted all round, the exterior mirrors are heated and electrically adjusted, there's a front reading light and rear central lighting, plus a boot light under the removeable rear parcel shelf.
There's also a tyre pressure monitoring system and a fuel filler flap with built-in cap.
Driver aids include ABS brakes with EBD and Emergency Brake Assist.
Safety is catered for by two-stage adaptive airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as side airbags, and there are curtain bags in the rear.
The turbo-diesel model has 16 inch alloy wheels
Under the skin
The 1.9 dCi has a four-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel which produces 88 kW at 4 000 r/min and a stunning 300 Nm of torque at 2 000 r/min. This is mated to a brand-new 6-speed manual gearbox, and Renault claims overall fuel consumption of just 5.8 litres/100 km.
As mentioned, Scenic II utilises the platform of the Megane II.
This means the front suspension layout comprises MacPherson struts with a rectangular lower arm, with a damped subframe serving to insulate the vehicle body from road vibration.
At the rear, the programmed deflection torsion beam with coil springs incorporates an anti-roll bar.
Suspension mounting points are placed ahead of and within the wheel axis, to further enhance the vehicle's handling precision.
Four wheel disc brakes are standard. Those at the front are ventilated, and measure 300 mm, while 270 mm solid discs are fitted at the back..
Renault's new generation electronic stability programme (ESP) with CSV understeer control and ASR traction control is available as an option on all models.
There's a great feeling of quality around this new Scenic. Renault has paid special attention to the standard of finish of the new car, especially to the regularity and width of shut-lines - the gaps where various components fit into the bodywork, such as the gap around the bonnet.
Other improvements include extra sound-deadening and better control of wind noise and engine noise, plus higher-capacity heating and air conditioning components from Megane II.
What all this means is that one gets a great feeling about the car right from the start.
The ability to balance seat height and steering column height and reach allows one to get a really good driving position, and on the road this translates to exceptionally easy placement of the car on the road, especially in hard cornering.
The steering wheel is small, and with the instruments off in the centre of the dash this means there's quite a sporty feel to the car.
Handling is superb. In concert with most other journalists who have driven the Megane, I can't stop praising the superb balance between handling, roadholding and ride quality from this chassis, which carries over into the Scenic.
The fact that the Scenic is taller and heavier doesn't make a lot of difference to the driver, since there isn't a lot of body roll to give that "topple over" effect that women hate so much.
Added to the sporty feel is the super smooth gear change. The stubby gearlever slots through the gate like a switch, and its positioning makes it very easy to use.
Most of all, though, I liked the electronic handbrake, which is mounted on the right hand side of the dash.
When you stop the car you merely pull it lightly and the car is held in position, even on the steepest hill.
And when it's time to move off, you merely accelerate away. The handbrake automatically disengages, and it's simplicity itself. The car can't roll backwards, and hill starts are the easiest thing in the world.
Renault has also changed the minor controls, giving them short stalks that feel very sturdy, and which are logical and easy to operate.
The turbo-diesel engine is a lusty unit, and this makes driveability a strong point. With all that torque one might ponder the need for six forward gears, but the reality is different.
Fact is that having six gears makes it possible to get the best out of the 1.9-litre motor under acceleration and when overtaking, without at the same time having to play musical gear changes when you're cruising.
And the fuel economy is amazing!
Renault has come up with another winner in the Scenic II. There's lots of opposition on the way, for sure, but it will have to be REALLY good to get the better of the French connection.
The new Scenic has everything you could want in an MPV, and only specialised applications might persuade a potential buyer to look at an opposition product.
The Scenic is priced right, goes right, and feels right.
Oh, and it gets a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.
Additional peace of mind is provided by a three-year/60 000 km maintenance plan. Service intervals are 10 000 km for diesel models.
- Renault needs more service outlets