The current incarnation of the Renault Scenic has been around since 2003 – and is just about to be replaced. That makes it a perfect time to pickup a late example from the current range or capitalise from falling prices if buying used. With that in mind, I recently spent a few days driving a 2007 Renault Scenic 1.5dCi Expression. This is what I found.
I’ve always been a fan of fairly conservative car design – traditional dashboards with dials, simple, standard controls and so on. I’ve also never been especially keen on MPVs, preferring either a traditional saloon or an estate, depending on my needs.
The Scenic managed to partially change my views – read on to find out how.
Unlike the brand new Ford Mondeo I recently reviewed, the Renault Scenic is well-endowed with modern styling and gadgets, inside and out.
The humble key has been banished, replaced by a credit card sized device that controls the locks and needs to be inserted into a slot on the dashboard before you press the sports-car style starter button.
I have to admit to having a smile on my face at this point – there is something undeniably cool about pushing in a large button and hearing the engine come to life – rather than the normal twist and release required with an ignition key.
Although the V8 rumble I was salivating over stayed in my dreams, after a succession of clicks and whines, the 86bhp 1.5dCi engine in my Scenic did come to life and I was ready to go. Almost.
Driving the Renault Scenic
I’d picked the Scenic up from a busy city centre office location – in the middle of evening rush hour. Navigating my way out of the city (which I’d never visited before) provided the ideal opportunity for me to find out just how intuitive the Scenic’s controls and dash layout were to get to grips with.
First things first – releasing the handbrake was accomplished by pulling on a small handle situated on the bottom of the dashboard – by my right knee. I was initially rather confused by the handbrake’s refusal to disengage – until I discovered that it had some kind of ‘hill start’ system and was waiting for me to engage a gear before it released, thus preventing me from rolling accidentally.
The Scenic’s central digital dashboard display is presumably intended to reduce the amount of time a driver has to take their eyes off the road when monitoring speed, revs and radio station choice. Revs are displayed using a Formula 1-style row of bars that progressively illuminate as your revs rise, while speed is simply displayed in large digits – around 3cm high.
By the time I’d done a few hundred miles, I have to admit to being converted to this system. You don’t have to look as far down as with a traditional dashboard and it is useful.
Anyone looking for performance probably shouldn’t choose the 86bhp 1.5dCi model. While fuel consumption for my fully-loaded car was excellent – at around 50mpg (including lots of fast motorway cruising), the engine’s power band was surprisingly narrow. Keeping it moving required lots of cog-swapping and it soon became obvious why a six-speed gearbox had been provided.
That said, the engine was more than adequately powerful for general use and was very quiet and civilized at speed, with less noise than some comparable vehicles. Handling and ride were good for a family vehicle and I spent several days driving the Scenic without ever feeling uncomfortable.
Luggage Space in the Scenic
Most people buy cars like the Scenic because they have children and need to lug a fair amount of stuff around. Rear space in the Scenic was pretty reasonable with the seats up, although its flexibility as an estate car substitute was spoilt somewhat by the fact that the rear seats don’t fold into the floor – they fold down on top of it instead, reducing the available load space somewhat.
Although sceptical at first, most of the Scenic’s design quirks really started to make sense after a few hundred miles. It was comfortable, frugal and capable, although anyone used to driving a more conventional car – like a Ford – will find that the slightly complex and non-standard controls take a little getting used to.