So is the Renault Scenic E-Tech really MPV-like inside?
Its 545-litre boot capacity is certainly promising. You open the tailgate to a really deep, squared-off load space that’s complete with a few bag hooks, a 12V charger and cable storage under the floor. The problem is that the floor is a long way down from the load lip, and the 40/20/40-split rear seats leave a big step up when folded down. So while there’s plenty of space in the boot, it’s mostly in the depth.
Having a huge drop over a not-terribly-low lip means persuading dogs to steeplechase into a dark well; and it’s back-crippling stuff having to heft a heavy buggy up, over and down, rather than just sliding it onto a flush floor. However, Renault has told us it will be offering a variable boot floor in the UK that will solve this issue, either as standard or as a very affordable option.
There’s endless leg room in the back of the Scenic – more than in the new Peugeot e-3008 – and even if you get the panoramic glass roof (which has smart glazing, allowing its opacity to be changed at the touch of a button), a couple of six-footers will be very comfortable. The middle seat squab is wide and the central passenger benefits from the lack of a transmission tunnel, so three kids will be reasonably happy together across the rear bench.
However, while the three-way seat split is more useful than the 60/40 split of many rivals and the centre armrest has a cunning hidden phone stand and two charging ports, the seats don’t slide or recline, and you can mount only two child seats to them. For true family practicality, we would have wanted more seat versatility – ideally three individually adjustable seats with three sets of Isofix points in proper MPV fashion. Sadly, such ultimate practicality seems to be reserved for van-based cars nowadays.
Sliding into the front seat doesn’t do anything to shake the increasing suspicion that the Scenic is in fact a plush, large hatchback with nothing MPV about it – just like most of the family crossovers in this class. Chiefly because the visibility to the rear is poor, and even forwards visibility is middling at best, as the chunky side mirrors often obscure your view at junctions.
Anyway, this sounds like we’re on a massive downer on the Scenic, but that’s not the case. The lack of versatility is a big disappointment, following Renault’s noises about this car’s family usefulness being such a big selling point; but if you take the Scenic for the straightforward, roomy electric crossover that it evidently is, it’s a strong contender. For a start, the materials used inside are lovely. Our high-spec Iconic test car was particularly nice, with light, part-leatherette upholstery and grey textile inserts. Some 80% of those materials are from recycled sources, too.
The dashboard is very similar to that in the Renault Austral, so the 12.0in touchscreen is your window to just about everything, but there’s also a slim row of physical air-conditioning buttons just below it, which makes us very happy. The screen has in-built Google software, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it’s one of the better ones in the class. There’s a useful shortcut button to the home page permanently visible at the top of the screen, and having all the familiarity and usability of Google Maps is great.
Sometimes these really huge, portrait-oriented screens are actually harder to use on the move than those smaller screens that have a ledge on which to steady your hand, but the large icons and reasonably straightforward layout of this Renault system make it pretty easy to get along with.
Which perhaps can’t be said about the array of stalks coming out of the right-hand side of the steering column, where you will find the gear selector, the indicators, and a chunky growth of buttons below that again for the audio. It’s a lot of protruding controls to be fumbling around with in a small area.