First DriveStriking looks and clever tech help make this the best Renault Scenic yet. We think going for one of the diesels makes more sense, though
First DriveBody styling add-ons and new traction system aim to turn MPV into a crossover rival; and there's no price penalty for choosing it over a standard Scenic
Hope, then disappointment. My relationship with Renault seems to have been stuck in this cycle for some time.
The Avantime, the Vel Satis and to a lesser extent the Megane promised much with their extraordinarily bold styling but couldn't deliver the full package. The Megane is a good car, but not as good as the Focus, despite five year's extra thinking time.
The others? Well, the fact that Renault has already canned the Avantime tells you all you need to know.
So although I love the styling, I was prepared to be disappointed again when I first drove the new Megane Scenic. The opportunity came with the arrival of the first right-hand-drive cars in the UK. You can order one now, and deliveries start in mid-September.
I needn't have worried. Instead of trying to persuade us that we need a whole new kind of car, as it did with the Vel Satis and Avantime, Renault has just applied its radical but consistent family styling to a very well proven, successful product.
The original Scenic, launched seven years ago, was the first midi-MPV and has sold by the million. Others have since copied the formula and Volkswagen and Ford have only just caught on, but I don't think Renault has too much to worry about.
In the steel our Privilege test car looked just as cool as it does in the pictures. Inside, it's a revelation. The amount of space on offer is astonishing; there's as much rear legroom as in the BMW 5-series and a huge boot.
The impression of space is just as important and, with the £600 full-length panoramic sunroof fitted, the Scenic feels airier than anything else in the class.
Build quality is superb, too, even on our early car. The cabin materials are uniformly soft and expensive and the panel fits are tight. It's as funky inside as out, but the ergonomics aren't perfect; the front seat squabs are too short and the Starship Enterprise central display is too busy and some of the graphics are hard to read.
But the Scenic makes up for it with inspired features like the vast bin in the central console and its lit underfloor storage boxes. The interior is as flexible as you'd expect: the front seat folds forward to become a table, all three rear seats lift out relatively easily and the outer two can be repositioned laterally to free more shoulder room for adult rear-seat passengers.
It drives well, too. The 120bhp dCi diesel we tested is the pick of the range; there's a 140bhp version coming but this one's as torquey as the 5-series, if a bit vocal. The dash-mounted gearchange is quick, if not slick, and the only black mark is the rubbery steering.
The ride is calm and quiet, and body control is tight. The 120 dCi starts from £16,350, or £17,850 for our Privilege trim, but it would be easy to send the bill way over 20 grand with liberal optioning.
This isn't a budget midi-MPV like the Citroen Picasso, but running costs are low; minimum non-Euro4 diesel company car tax and a claimed combined 48.7mpg.
Try one. You won't be disappointed.