Renault Grand Scenic MPV (2016 - ) review
With its SUV-inspired styling, standard 20-inch alloys, and airy interior, the latest Grand Scenic is a refreshing alternative to the rather bland ‘boxes on wheels’ that currently dominate the mid-sized MPV sector.
Interested in buying Renault Grand Scenic?
The Grand Scenic shares plenty of stylistic themes with the five-seater Scenic, with the same distinctive diamond nose badge and swept-back grille, along with the kinked rear window line and faux running boards at the base of the doors. However, the Grand sits lower to the ground than the Scenic – as much as 53mm when fully laden – and as a consequence, it looks more like a jacked-up estate car than the five-seat model, which clearly mimics an elevated SUV. Higher spec models come complete with a dramatic two-tone colour combination, while enormous wheel-arches filled with 20-inch alloy wheels are standard across the range. All in all, the Grand Scenic is arguably one of the most dramatic looking MPVs currently on sale.
The Scenic’s interior feels light, airy and spacious, thanks to the large expanses of glass. On the lower trim models, the dashboard features a 7.0-inch touch-screen, while posher models are fitted with an 8.7-inch portrait-mounted screen. The basic system is reasonably easy to navigate, with a simple menu structure and large on-screen icons that are easy to hit. The higher end system is less intuitive, though, because the layout and the functionality are far more complicated. Some menus are difficult to find and use, while the screen can be slow to respond to commands and screen transitions. There’s plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat, and the large glass area gives you a cracking view of the road ahead. However, the driving position is very far back from the windscreen, so it’s difficult to judge where the nose of the car begins and ends. The small rear windows also mean your rear view is a bit limited, so don’t go for the entry version because it doesn’t have reversing sensors. The materials used in the cabin feel reasonably robust and solid, but they’re not as posh as those found in some rivals, and many of the switches and buttons lack the reassuring damping of those found in a VW Touran.
Provided you avoid the entry-level trim, there are plenty of neat touches inside the Grand Scenic, all aimed at making family life a little easier. These include front and rear underfloor lidded cubbies to store the kids’ toys, aviation-style picnic tables, a huge central sliding armrest-come-storage console, and a vast array of USB ports for keeping all the family’s devices juiced up. Move to the boot, and you have buttons for dropping all the rear seats flat with a single touch (although you have to use good old muscle power to reinstate them), along with a cubby under the floor for storing your load cover when it’s not needed. The provision of space is more of a mixed bag, however. It’s brilliant when you’re carrying five, because the rear seats have loads of head- and leg-room, and the boot is also an impressive size. Unfortunately, space gets much tighter when you try to carry seven. Nobody will fit in the third-row chairs unless those in the middle row sacrifice some space by sliding themselves forwards, and that means nobody gets enough leg-room to travel comfortably. Many other seven-seaters – even compact ones – are much more adept carrying seven.
Ride and handling
Comfort is the most important dynamic feature for any car that’s designed to carry families, and on that score, the Grand Scenic falls a little short of the competition. The ride feels jittery and unsettled whatever your speed, which might well cause the little’uns to get restless too readily, and that’s the last thing any parent wants. In all likelihood, the ride won’t be helped by the car’s massive 20-inch alloys wheels, but these are standard across the range and you can’t specify anything smaller, even as an option. The firmness in the suspension does mean that body lean is well contained in the corners, but the handling isn’t exactly electrifying due to remote steering and front tyres that wash wide rather early. Besides, we’d take comfort over agility any day in an MPV.
The Grand Scenic is available with two petrol and four diesel engines, and we’ve tried most of them. The diesel Hybrid Assist uses an additional battery and a small electric motor to boost the 1.5-litre diesel engine’s low-speed driveability, reducing CO2 emissions in the process. It effectively means you can pull higher gears at lower revs; roundabouts can be tackled in third – rather than second – gear, without any fear of the engine bogging down. The two 1.6-litre diesel engines, one with 128bhp and one with 158bhp, can get a bit vocal if you really work them, but both are sufficiently strong in the mid-range, so they rarely need extending beyond their comfort zone. The lower-powered unit will be plenty perky enough for most drivers, but automatic fans might be interested to learn that the higher-powered one comes with a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox that’s surprisingly smooth. The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol is surprisingly perky away from the mark, so much so that your passengers will remain oblivious to its modest capacity. Once the initial boost is spent, however, the engine lacks sufficient mid-range flexibility, so if you regularly haul a full contingent, you’ll be better off with one of the diesels.
The Grand Scenic is about par for the course when it comes to pricing: it’s not the cheapest seven-seater out there, but it’s certainly not the most expensive, either. The slinky looks not only give a swish image, but they’ll also help maintain the car’s desirability, which can only be a good thing for resale values. Most of the engines do a relatively solid job for fuel economy and CO2 emissions, compared with their equivalent rivals.
The fresh-out-the-box Grand Scenic is too new for any meaningful reliability data to be available, but it is based on the same platform as the Nissan Qashqai, so it shares many of the same mechanicals and electronics. The Qashqai is a reasonably strong performer, so that bodes well for the Scenic. That said, Renault currently sits around the middle of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer rankings, while Nissan occupies a significantly loftier position. The fact that the two marques are built in different countries may have some bearing on how they rate for reliability.
Renault has a reputation for safety that few other car manufacturers can match. The Grand Scenic comes with a comprehensive suite of kit including six airbags, stability control, active emergency braking with pedestrian detection, emergency brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring and three Isofix child seat mounting points. You also get lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, hill-hold assist and automatic headlight beam adjustment. All versions except the basic one have a fatigue sensor to warn you when you need to take a break, and a couple of safety packs are available that allow you to add things like lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and safe distance warning. The Grand Scenic hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the five-seat Scenic performed well, earning a full five-star rating overall, including an impressive 90% score for adult protection and an 80% rating for child protection.
Most versions of the Grand Scenic come well equipped. Even the entry-level Expression+ provides dual zone climate control, four powered windows, an electronic parking brake, LED running lights, cruise control and a 7.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system that incorporates Bluetooth and a DAB radio. Dynamique Nav (predictably) adds sat-nav, along with front and rear parking sensors, part-leatherette upholstery, rear seat trays, a sliding centre console, rear reading lights, sun blinds for the rear windows and hands-free entry and start. Dynamique S Nav adds a colour head-up display, reversing camera, fixed panoramic sunroof, Bose sound system and the larger 8.7-inch touch-screen system. The most expensive Signature range-topper has full leather upholstery, massaging front seats and full LED headlights.
The Renault Grand Scenic is an appealing option among the current crop of compact MPVs, due to its flamboyant looks, solid quality and spacious-looking cabin. True, some rival MPVs are more practical and versatile, especially when you try to seat seven, and the Grand Scenic isn’t the best car of its type to drive, either. That said, it does most jobs adequately enough to make it worthy of your consideration.