A significant landmark was reached by Renault in 2016, as the Scenic marked its 20th anniversary since first gracing our roads. It's a car that defined the compact MPV sector, and now, more than two decades on, it's back to redefine the class once again.
Crossovers and 4x4 sales have dominated recently, while MPV sales have declined to relative stability. As a result, this new Scenic isn’t an attempt to revive a stable sector but rather an effort to grab a bigger market share. Renault’s aim for this striking fourth-generation MPV is simple: draw traditional MPV owners away from their faux off-roaders.
So how is Renault going to do this? Well, by borrowing design cues from the handsome 2011 R-Space concept, the new Scenic, with its high waistline, sloping roof and distinctive lighting signatures, is arguably one of the prettiest MPVs we’ve yet seen. Combined with 40mm more ground clearance, a 20mm-wider body and a 32mm-longer wheelbase, it also has more usable interior space than the car it replaces.
Even the standard 20in wheels have been designed with practicality in mind (yes, you read that correctly). Renault claims that despite the larger wheels, the standard-fit rubber, with specially designed high-profile sidewalls, results in a ride comparable to that of the competition. Cleverly, the low-rolling-resistance tyres also counteract any impact the larger-diameter wheels have on the CO2 figures.
There are four well-equipped trims and five engines to choose from. At the front there is a choice of two turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engines producing 112bhp and 126bhp, and three diesels – a 107bhp 1.5dCi and two 1.6-litre units producing 126bhp and 155bhp respectively, with the latter only available with a six-speed automatic. There is also a 'hybrid assist' version, which uses Renault’s 1.5-litre diesel engine and a small electric motor, which promises to increase fuel economy and decrease emissions beyond the 100g/km threshold.
The Nissan-developed 1.5 dCi engine fitted to our test car feels like a capable unit in a family hatchback, but it's less so in this MPV. On the open road it lacks the low-end flexibility of the 1.6-litre oil burner that we suspect would fit in better with the Scenic's remit. If the car is heavily loaded, the six-speed manual gearbox will need to be worked hard (a six-speed automatic is optional), although that's no real hardship because the clutch is light and the shift itself is slick. Happily, the engine remains quiet under load, especially when compared to the sometimes-gruff diesel in the rival Citroën C4 Picasso.