The Scenic was Daddy of the MPV … but how does the Grand Scenic measure up to the big boys?

By Philip Hedderman

SOME marques are synonymous with certain models.

Take VW and the GTi for example.

Mention those three letters and you invariably get two.

The same applies to the MPV … the mere utterance of it and one immediately thinks Scenic.

You see, Renault pretty much gave birth to the hardest fought-over segment in the car business today, and it wasn’t planned.

The odd looking creature, built on the chassis of the hugely popular Megane, exploded onto the motoring scene in 1996 and blew everybody away.

Nothing could have prepared the market, or indeed, the French auto outfit for what was about to happen.

No sooner had the dust covers come off, the motoring press were hailing it as the vehicle of the future.

In fact, it caused such a stir the Scenic was named European Car of the Year weeks after its debut.

Looking at the first generation model today, it didn’t seem all that special. But it wasn’t about how it looked – it was all about the drive.

For the first time ever an ordinary ‘bread and butter’ people carrier was built with one thing in mind – the family.

Renault designers took pride in producing an interior that is easy to live with, well thought-out, spacious and meets the specific needs of those on-board.

The scenic came offering a groundbreaking 84 litres of interior storage including large drawers under the seats and underfloor lockers on the first two rows, to a spacious sliding centre console, cup holders, door pockets, and so on.

Toys, magazines, drinks, electronic equipment and all your travel essentials can be stored within easy reach.

Couple that with oceans of head and legroom – and you’ve got an instant winner with growing tribes.

And the head of those families, namely the mums, simply adored everything about this car especially the practicality, versatility, and above all, the elevated driving position.

It was that one single thing which spread like wildfire as they raved about it at the school gate, football training and ballet lessons.

Demand for this family favourite rocketed to unprecedented levels – catching Renault completely on the hop.

They had wrongly identified it as a niche market and forecast production at 450 a day, which in the space of 12 months, catapulted to 2,500 per day.

Since then we’ve had the pleasure of the Scenic II, the wonderful off road creature (that wasn’t off road) the RX and of course today’s Scenic III and the Grand Scenic (7 seats).

Thankfully the bigger, bolder offering has retained all those family values (the two extra seats are for U-12s only) it feels a good bit roomier than it’s older brother.

It beats everything else for third row spaciousness, and thanks to the fold-down, sliding second row seats, the new bus is capable of literally carrying anything from holiday luggage to the kitchen sink.

Its massive boot can hold up to 702 litres and once the second rows seats are removed, this capacity increases over 2,000 litres.

Adopting “if it’s not broken don’t fix it philosophy” Renault engineers were concentrating on technology like it revolutionary TFT (Thin Film Technology).

This is basically a graphic of a rev counter and other clocks instead of the bulky instruments, which, at the flick of a button, can change style and colour.

This flatscreen type gadget is a feature we are bound to see in future Renaults and indeed other marques as it drives down production costs.

The Scenic also boasts a very impressive green CV with a promise that any new model carrying the eco2 symbol has CO2 emissions at or lower than 140 g/km which means road tax bands of €104 or €156 a year and mpg of 55+.

I personally clocked up over 1,000 kms both city and motorway driving before the reserve light flashed on.

This was particularlly impressive considering that this was automatic and the bog standard manual will be even more frugal.

But it’s that drive and the fact that the cabin is a fine place to spend time (even with three screaming kids).

The model we tested came with a panoramic sunroof which ran from the windscreen to the bootlid with an various electric tilt/slide options.

Light poured in, even on cloudy days, giving the inside a gargantuan feel cheering up the occupants in an instant.

If that doesn’t do it for you then the €21,090 (scrappage) price tag may be the decider.

So the French fancy is the man then?

Well, under scrapage which ends next month, it certainly is hard to beat but there is one thing our Gallic friends didn’t factor into the equation.

That chink in the armour is called the new Ford C-Max.

The previous model wasn’t at the party and therefore not really a threat but the new carriage is a different baby altogether.

It’s bigger, better built, has twin sliding doors but most importantly, is considerably cheaper.