Not only did the Renault Scenic essentially invent the European compact MPV segment, but its four-generation lifespan has also neatly charted the evolution of the family blob on wheels.

And at its inception in the mid-1990s, the Scenic was very much a blob: a swollen, high-ceilinged carcass welded to the front-wheel drive platform of the contemporary Mégane hatchback.

It neither sounded nor looked like much of a prospect, and even Renault believed it would be a niche product.

But the model won the European Car of the Year title in 1997 and caught the public’s imagination in the best possible way. At its peak, the manufacturer was said to be turning out 2500 examples a day.

Its replacement added to the line-up a long-wheelbase Grand version, which came with the two third-row jump seats necessary to bridge the gap between the compact segment and the longer-running, more expensive large MPVs.

However, the outgoing Scenic III floundered, along with the rest of the class, as droves of family buyers migrated from drab five-door bubbles into the more dynamic profile of the crossover.

Renault’s introduction of its XMOD model was intended to stem the tide, but its half-hearted execution and off-key looks only highlighted how unfashionable the Scenic had become.

At the Geneva motor show in 2011, Renault proved well enough that it could read the writing on the wall by showing the R-Space concept, a strikingly voluptuous take on the MPV format that was followed by the Initiale Paris two years later.

In 2014 the latter went real-world with the non-right-hand-drive and ostensibly crossover-influenced new Espace, a car with which the latest Scenic shares much of its big-wheeled, flashy front-end styling and swept-back visual theme, along with a platform and a production line.

This new Scenic looks about as shapely as an MPV might be made to look and is launched in the UK with a 36-version showroom line-up.

That suggests Renault is wildly more confident about the model’s prospects now than it was 20 years ago. We’re testing the seven-seat Grand variant to find out if such optimism was suitably justified. 

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