MPVs were all the rage back in the day, but then along came SUVs and crossovers of a similar size and their popularity plummeted.
Renault reckons sales have now reached a plateau and there’s still plenty of mileage left in people carriers. So much so that it’s launched a fourth generation car (and stretched seven-seater Grand Scenic sibling).
Some 6.5 million Scenics have been sold globally since Renault pioneered the compact MPV segment in 1996. However, the new car is like no other.
Priced from £21,445, the Scenic and Grand Scenic boast a dramatically distinctive design with sculptured, swept-back styling, a steeply-racked windscreen and big standout 20-inch wheels.
Elsewhere, there are key features we’ve come to expect from the ‘Renault Renaissance’ including a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, a strong mix of economical petrol and diesel engines, excellent packaging, a state-of-the-art infotainment system and a classy feel.
Starting with the interior, the new Scenic is slightly wider than its predecessor and has a longer wheelbase which means there’s more space inside.
Always a strong point for any MPV, the Scenic doesn’t disappoint with ample room up front and in the rear (though check the rear head space if you plan to carry taller passengers), plus there’s a class-leading 572 litres in the boot or 1554 litres with the back seats folded down, (there’s a simple ‘One Touch’ operation which can be activated from inside the boot or via the touchscreen).
The Grand Scenic is much the same, just a little longer and with a third row of seats, though it has to be said these are really only for small children. There’s 189 litres of boot space with the third row of seats in place – 596 with the seats down.
In both the Scenic and Grand Scenic, nifty little fold-down picnic tables are available for rear seat passengers.
The lower part of the centre console also slides back into the rear seating area. It’s certainly different, but we’re not 100% sure why. Yes, it frees up a bit of space up front, but maybe the main reason is to separate children a little in the back or just to give them extra storage and closer USB ports. Who knows?
What we do know is that the interior is bathed in light and the visibility is excellent thanks to acres of glass, that enormous windscreen and an optional full length (fixed) panoramic sunroof.
The seats are very comfortable and the driving position is high, which should suit SUV and crossover buyers. The Scenic also sits slightly higher than the outgoing model.
A large centre dial dominates the binnacle in front of the driver, while to the left sits Renault’s excellent R-Link 2 infotainment system featuring a generous 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen, first seen in the new Megane, with full connectivity.
There are four trim levels (Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav) and all variants get air-conditioning, electric windows, DAB radio and automatic emergency braking.
The list of other options and driver safety aids is extensive, ranging from Adaptive Cruise Control to an awesome BOSE sound system.
The engines available at launch include two 1.2-litre petrol units (115bhp and 130bhp), plus a 110bhp 1.5-litre and a 1.6-litre diesel (130bhp and 160bhp). These are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, while some also benefit from a dual clutch automatic box.
The petrol units are both capable of 48.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 129/g/km.
The most frugal engine of all is the 110bhp diesel, which on paper can hit 72.4mpg, emitting just 100g/km of CO2. However, unless you want to take things in a leisurely fashion, it can get a little breathless.
Our pick of the powertrains is the 130bhp 1.6-litre diesel in Dynamique S Nav trim which is the best mix between performance and economy, though sadly it’s only available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
It can hit 62mph from standstill in 11.4 seconds (but feels faster), go on to a top speed of 118mph, yet can manage 61.6mpg and emits a low 119g/km of CO2.
The engine pulls well and settles down nicely, though it doesn’t seem as refined as it is in the Megane under acceleration.
The steering is light and, despite those huge wheels, the ride is pleasant enough, though it certainly won’t smoothe out all the bumps in the road. Body lean is well controlled in corners, but generally this is a car for cruising in comfort, not hustling around country roads.
Verdict: The new Scenic is up against some formidable rivals including the Citroen C4 Picasso, Ford C-MAX and Kia Carens, so it has to score high. The good news for Renault is that it’s an impressive, well-built all-round package.
Generously equipped, spacious, safe, stylish and incorporating some SUV elements, the Scenic really has been reinvented for a new generation.
Top tip: if you go for a Scenic, choose the vibrant Honey Yellow colour.