From £23,4456
Renault’s new Grand Scenic rivals the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso for style but can’t quite match it for substance

What is it?

With its unique blend of Gallic flair, impressive versatility and hatchback-rivalling dynamics, the Renault Scenic came to define the compact MPV sector when it was first released back in 1996. Now, two decades on, Renault hopes to recapture some of that initial success with its all-new seven seater - but that won't be an easy task considering the current state of the MPV market.

A lot can change in 20 years, and the sector Renault once dominated has been driven almost into the ground by competitive PCP deals and the fact that consumers have become increasingly image conscious. Why have a middling MPV when you could have a much more fashionable SUV instead?  

So why, you might ask, is Renault targeting a dwindling market? Well, according to the French manufacturer, this new Renault Grand Scenic isn’t an attempt to revive a diminishing sector but rather an effort to grab a bigger market share. In short, they’re going after the Volkswagen Touran and Citroën Grand Picasso.

Renualt grand scenic ukdrive 3015

First impressions are positive. By borrowing design cues from the handsome 2011 R-Space concept, the new Scenic, with its high waistline, sloping roof and distinctive lighting signatures, looks like a more cohesive package than the decidedly fussy Picasso. And combined with 40mm more ground clearance, a 20mm-wider body and a 32mm-longer wheelbase, it also promises more usable interior space than the car it replaces.

However, the most dominating feature of the new Scenic is undoubtedly the standard fit 20in wheels. Yes, standard fit. Renault claims that despite the larger wheels, the specially designed rubber, with high-profile sidewalls, results in a ride comparable to that of the old Scenic, which ran on smaller 17in wheels. Cleverly, the low-rolling-resistance tyres also counteract any impact the larger-diameter wheels have on the CO2 figures.

What's it like?

We recently tested Renault’s 1.5-litre diesel engine in the Renault five-seat Scenic and found it to be a rather weak unit that lacked low-down grunt. Thankfully, there are no such problems with the more powerful 128bhp 1.6-litre diesel. With maximum torque achieved at 1750rpm, the motor pulls strongly from low revs and, unlike the 1.5, keeps performing well until it reaches its peak power at 4000rpm. That said, we suspect that if the car is fully loaded, the six-speed manual gearbox will still need to be worked hard (a six-speed automatic is optional), but that shouldn’t be a hardship because the clutch is light and the shift itself is relatively slick.

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The same can’t be said for the ride, however. Despite Renault’s claims about specially designed sidewalls and cleverly tweaked suspension, there is simply no way to hide the impact of those whopping 20in wheels. At low speeds the car feels fidgety and unsettled, there's significant bump-thump from potholes and ruts and at high speeds the road noise can become genuinely grating. Ultimately, if you value comfort and refinement, the Grand Picasso is a better-resolved machine.

Not all is lost, however. The boffins at Renault know how to tune a good chassis, and the Scenic has benefited from this expertise. The steering is light and precise, the front end turns in keenly and resists understeer and although the damper settings allow body float over crests, there’s never a point where the chassis feels unstable or loose. Providing you don’t make the kids sick, the Grand Scenic can be genuinely good fun to hustle down a B-road.

Renualt grand scenic ukdrive 3019

Seven-seaters often have limited space in the third row and the Grand Scenic is no exception. The middle row of seats moves forward in one swift movement, making access relatively easy, but once back there you’ll find that leg and head space is at an absolute premium. Unless you have very young children, the rear seats are only suitable for the shortest of journeys. A Volkswagen Touran this is not.

The Grand Scenic does offer more in the way of cubbyholes, however. There are four in the floor, a massive sliding centre console on the top three trims and a filing cabinet-style glovebox, plus handy picnic tables on the back of the front seats for most models. It also comes with two USB ports and a central storage bin in the rear, making it ideal for families on the go.

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Up front, the Scenic’s interior is equally impressive, feeling just as upmarket as that of its main competitor. The infotainment set-up, with its 8.7in portrait touchscreen display, is a delight to use compared with the previous-generation system and, despite being tricky to operate on the move, shortcut buttons that are physical rather than touch-sensitive make simple operations, such as changing the interior temperature, a relative doddle. 

Should I buy one?

Objectively, the Grand Scenic ticks most boxes for the majority of family car buyers. It’s relatively spacious, engaging to drive and cheap to run. And with the addition of driver assist systems such as traffic sign recognition, lane departure assist and driver condition monitoring, it’s safe, too. 

That said, despite rivalling the Grand Picasso for style, it’s nowhere near as comfortable nor as refined, which isn't ideal for a car designed to excel on long family trips. It also doesn’t have the same third-row space as the VW Touran and can’t hope to compete with premium SUVs for badge appeal.

The Scenic may well have redefined the compact MPV sector back in 1996, but we doubt it’ll have the same impact today. 

Renault Grand Scenic Dynamique S Nav dCi 130

Where Middlesex; On sale Now; Price £28,445; Engine 4 cyls, 1600cc, diesel; Power 128bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1601kg; 0-62mph 11.4sec; Top speed 118mph; Fuel economy 61.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK 119g/km, 23%; Rivals Citroën C4 Grand Picasso, Volkswagen Touran

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Spanner 20 December 2016


Is that a urinal on the dashboard? Good thinking by the French bottom shakers. A welcome piece of original thinking to at last create some differentiation in a crowded segment.
jamesf1 21 December 2016

Spanner wrote:

Spanner wrote:

Is that a urinal on the dashboard? Good thinking by the French bottom shakers. A welcome piece of original thinking to at last create some differentiation in a crowded segment.

genuine lol

Soren Lorenson 20 December 2016


£28K for a Renault Scenic!! Get lost.

It will be worth £2,800 in five years time, but most of the shiny bits will have fallen off by then. There are so much better things on which to spend £28K.

This should be £18K max.

Don't expect to see many on the road.

jmd67 20 December 2016

"looks like a more cohesive

"looks like a more cohesive package than the decidedly fussy Picasso".

Absolute nonsense. Look at the side view. It's a total mess. The wonky line of the side windows looks like a mistake and the cartoon wheels are hideous. The interior looks cluttered and quite dated and the back row (the whole reason for this kind of car) can't fit anyone in comfort bigger than a small child.

Yet again though Autocar will put handling as the main consideration, something I don't think I've ever heard any non-car loving friends ever mention when choosing a car. Ever.