Renault Scenic MPV (2016 - ) review
With its SUV inspired styling, 20-inch alloys, and imaginative interior design, the latest Scenic is a stunning alternative to the plethora of ‘vans-with-windows’ that have become the MPV norm.The Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.7 Based on its looks alone, we feel confident the new Scenic has a bright future.
It’s not the most refined or engaging motor to drive, but its spacious, airy cabin, family-friendly versatility and easy practicality, married to SUV styling, gives it a showroom appeal that few, if any, alternatives can match.
- Striking design
- Family friendly cabin
- Flexible diesel engines
- Remote steering
- High levels of wind noise
- Trim quality could be better
At a glance
The Scenic is the latest Renault to feature the bold diamond badge and distinctive swept back grille, but the family resemblance to the Captur and Kadjar crossovers doesn’t stop there. While the kinked rear window line and faux running boards at the base of the doors give it a sturdy appearance, the two-tone colour combinations, large wheel-arches with 20-inch alloys, and a raised ride height all contribute to what is currently one of the most dramatic looking MPVs.
The Scenic’s interior is smartly trimmed and feels light, airy and surprisingly spacious thanks to the large expanses of glass. On the lower trim models, the dashboard features a 7-inch portrait mounted touch screen, with the higher trim models fitted with an 8.7-inch screen.
In general, it’s easy to navigate the system, but it’s not exactly speedy: on some occasions it will buffer between screen transitions.
Although there are plenty of adjustments for the steering wheel and driver’s seat, 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. That said, the elevated ground clearance, raised rear seating and big windows means at least the kids will have a decent view of the world from the side windows.
The materials used in the cabin feel reasonably robust, although many of the switches and buttons lack the reassuring damping of those found in a VW Touran. Equally, the Scenic’s doors sound pretty hollow when slammed shut.
There are plenty of neat touches inside the Scenic, all aimed at making family life a little easier. These include front and rear underfloor lidded cubbies to store the kids’ toys, an additional rear view mirror to help keep an eye on what they’re up to, a huge central sliding armrest-come-storage console, and a spring-loaded drawer in place of the traditional glove box. You need to ensure your front passenger seat is far enough back to avoid a knock on the knees though.
In the rear there are seatback trays, and the rear seats split-fold and slide to maximise leg or luggage space. Additionally, the rear seats can be released and folded flat by using switches in the boot or via the touch screen. It’s just a shame you have to fold them back up using good old muscle power. There’s 572-litres of space in the boot with the rear seats in place, which is big enough to cope with most family needs.
Ride and handling
You may be wondering, how can a family MPV ride with any degree of comfort on 20-inch alloys? Although the diameter of the Scenic’s wheels are extravagant, so are the tyre’s side walls. Couple that with the relatively soft suspension, and the Scenic can take the sting out of all but the biggest road bumps. You can still hear and feel the rear end clattering over some of the larger lumps, and a certain amount of road friction can be felt in the cabin, but it’s not the Scenic’s worst aspect. That award goes to the amount of wind noise from the door mirrors, which becomes intrusive at anything over 50mph.
The Scenic’s lack of steering connection won’t trouble too many parents on the school run, but the lack of feedback means it can be tricky to park the car in tight spaces.
The Scenic is available with two petrol and no fewer than six diesel engines. So far, we’ve tried the 1.5-litre diesel Hybrid Assist, the 158bhp 1.6 diesel, and the 128bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engines.
The hybrid uses an additional battery and a small electric motor to boost the 1.5-litre diesel’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 Scenic’s 1.6-litre diesel engine can get a bit vocal if you really give it the beans, but it has a sufficiently strong mid-range, so it rarely needs to be extended beyond its comfort zone. This engine also comes with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which is surprisingly smooth shifting, feeling more like a sophisticated automatic rather than a cheaper twin-clutch gearbox.
The 1.2 turbo 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, 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.
Unfortunately, the Hybrid Assist Scenic commands a significant premium over the standard 1.5 diesel, and although its added flexibility is a bit of a boon – especially in city driving conditions – it does not lower emissions sufficiently to reduce company car tax bills, so it is likely to remain a rare sight on UK roads.
The Hybrid produces an official fuel economy figure of 80.7mpg and CO2 emissions of just 92g/km, while the entry 1.5 diesel delivers 72.4mpg and 100g/km.
The fresh out the box Scenic is too new for any reliability data, 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 the Scenic. That said, Renault currently sits around the middle of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer rankings, while Nissan occupies a significantly loftier position. As the two marques are built in different countries, that may have some bearing on how they rate for reliability.
Renault has a reputation for safety that few other car manufacturers can match. The 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 two Isofix points in the rear. You also get lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, hill-hold assist and automatic headlight beam adjustment.
In crash tests by Euro NCAP, the 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 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.
The Dynamique Nav adds more features, including front- and rear-parking sensors, rear seat trays, a sliding centre console, rear reading lights, sun blinds for the rear windows, hands-free entry and start up, and sat-nav.
Top end Dynamique S Nav adds part-leather upholstery, colour head-up display, fixed panoramic sunroof, Bose sound system, and the larger 8.7-inch touchscreen. The most expensive Signature range-topper has full leather seats and full LED headlights.
The Scenic is not particularly engaging to drive and it can feel a little clumsy due to its remote steering. It’s also rather noisy at motorway speeds thanks to the high levels of wind noise. These caveats aside, the Scenic is affordable to buy and run and offers a smartly designed, family-friendly environment. Crucially though, it provides a level of style and showroom appeal that no other MPV can match, and that can only be good news for residual values.