Smooth, refined turbodiesel goes nicely with six-speed auto; cabin remains best in class

What is it?

The biggest Renault MPV, the Grand Espace, with a new combination of engine and gearbox – the 2.0 175bhp dCi turbodiesel and six-speed automatic gearbox.

We're testing it in luxurious top-of-the-line Initiale trim, which means standard leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, sat-nav, bi-xenon lights, electric seats and automatic everything. There may even be a kitchen sink, but there are so many cubbyholes we haven't found it yet.

What's it like?

Very pleasant. The Espace really does have one of the best cabins going – it's a living room, with light flooding in, especially if you have the optional panoramic glass sunroof.

The seats don't fold into the floor like in an S-Max (you have to remove them if you want a van), but the whole package feels much classier, even if it's not as much fun to drive. You can also fold seats down to act as tables, or turn them around to make a meeting room.

The engine is very sweet. It's one of the most refined turbodiesels on the market, and isn't grumbly even when cold. It is also well-matched to the smooth six-speed auto 'box, which efficiently masks changes.

The ride is good, though the odd pot hole sends shimmers through the body.

Should I buy one?

With 175bhp and 266lb ft, this 2.0-litre four-pot has only 5bhp and 30lb ft less than the 3.5 V6 diesel, yet it emits 50g/km less CO2 and costs £850 less. If you’re a company car driver, it's a no-brainer.

Rory Lumsdon

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