Extended test 2017: James Mills, Renault Grand Scenic

Extended test: 2017 Renault Grand Scénic 130 dCi

Which is the best family car?

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Driving is testing the three key types of family car over the coming months: an SUV (Honda CR-V), an estate (Audi A4 Avant) and a people carrier (Renault Grand Scénic, below). Which will prove the most useful for parents?

  • Model 2017 Renault Grand Scénic dCi 130 Dynamic S Nav
  • Tested by James Mills (@squarejames)
  • Test starts May 1, 2017
  • Price excluding options £28,605
  • Price with options £31,454
  • Options fitted Metallic paint (£545); full LED headlights (£500); Parking Pack Premium, including hands-free parking, 360-degree parking sensors and blind spot warning (£500); Safety Pack Premium, including adaptive cruise control, safe distance warning and advanced emergency braking system (£500); Bose Pack (£500); emergency spare wheel (£90); QuickFix aluminium roof bars (£150); two tablet holders (£64).


May 4, 2017: Welcome to the family

Extended test 2017: Renault Grand Scenic

MPVs might be a dying breed but in my view, the Renault Grand Scénic is the most interesting-looking car of the three family cars Driving currently has on long-term test. Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s chief designer, has said the new Scénic has to do more than just attract admiring glances:

“The old Scénic looked like Mum and Dad had grown bored with each other,” he told us at the latest model’s launch. “The new one looks like they are in love again.” The Dutch designer added that if this model doesn’t sell, “the MPV segment deserves to die”. No pressure, then.

Our car has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which Renault says returns 61.4mpg and emits 119g/km of CO2. It has a manual gearbox, which wouldn’t be our first choice for this type of car, but we’ll see how the six-speed unit gets on.

The Dynamic S Nav trim includes enough goodies to fill the shelves of a John Lewis electrical department. Are they helpful, though, or just shiny stuff to entice drivers like magpies?

And would buyers of this car be wise to spend a small fortune on extras, including LED headlights, a hands-free parking system, adaptive cruise control and a fancy Bose audio system? Keep returning to this page over the coming months to find out.

Got a question about the Renault Grand Scénic? Contact me on Twitter @squarejames.


May 10, 2017: First report on living with a Renault Grand Scenic

Extended test 2017: James Mills, Renault Grand Scenic

THE RENAULT Scenic has an unlikely fan. A certain Jeremy Clarkson described it as good-looking, well-equipped, practical and economical. I bet Renault’s people couldn’t believe it when the nation’s toughest-talking car critic added that the Scenic was exceptional value for money.

It was with these findings in mind that I first approached Driving’s Grand Scenic. Surely there must be a chink in this family car’s plastic armour?

There’s no beef to be had with this car’s price. Compared to the Honda CR-V and Audi A4 Avant that Driving is also subjecting to an extended test this summer, the Grand Scenic is a bit of bargain, priced from £23,445, and the Dynamique S Nav dCi 130 costs £28,605.

It’s also the only one of our three family cars to feature seven seats. The Grand here means bigger, and by bigger, Renault doesn’t just mean that there’s an extra bit of bodywork bolted onto the back of the car, to make room for the third row of seats that comes as standard.

The engineers have been hard at work, physically extending the chassis structure so that the distance between the car’s front and rear wheels is increased by 7cm for the Grand. What’s more, the back of the body has been lengthened, meaning overall the Grand is almost 23cm longer nose to tail than the standard, five-seat Scenic.

“20-inch alloy wheels. Has someone in Renault’s design department has been watching reruns of Pimp My Ride?”

It may not sound like much but in a family car, where parents and children soon feel like they’re living on top of one another, every little helps.

Where the previous model appeared to have been styled with all the flair of a Little Tikes push car, this fourth-generation Scenic is a handsome beast. The roof is low, the ride height is raised (to mimic an SUV), there’s neat two-tone paintwork and the whole lot is finished off with a set of huge (and standard) 20-inch alloy wheels. Has someone in Renault’s design department has been watching reruns of Pimp My Ride?

This gives it a certain cool factor that this type of car has always lacked. “Yes, we’ve got kids,” it says to other drivers in the shopping centre car park, “but we haven’t given up on life.” It makes other seven-seaters, such as the BMW 2-series Active Tourer and Ford S-Max, look frumpy.

The interior is significantly different to the last generation Scenic. For starters, the driver’s dials and instruments are now dead ahead of the steering wheel, whereas they sat in the middle of the dashboard before, giving the person sat in the middle rear seat the clearest view of the speedo, for some unfathomable reason.

Extended test 2017: Renault Grand Scenic interior

In the middle of the dashboard is a large, 8.7 inch touchscreen. It’s positioned quite high so it’s well within reach, and the screen is of reasonable resolution, but there’s no getting away from the fact exploring its many menus and sub-menus takes eyes off the road.

Helping redress the balance a little is a head-up display, which can show, amongst other things, speed, distance to the vehicle in front (in seconds) and navigation instructions.

The trump card played by the Grand Scenic, however, is its stowage space. My family and I keep discovering new hide-holes all over the place, and an official, final count will be delivered in due course.

One big change compared with the last generation Scenic is that the middle row of seats is now two seats made to look like three, whereas before it boasted three independent seats. This was ideal when you had three strapping teenagers in the back, as the middle person could slide their seat forward slightly so they didn’t have to hunch their shoulders.

It also means that the central middle seat lacks Isofix child seat mounts, so if you have a kiddie seat that requires Isofix, or you insist on using Isofix for safety reasons, it can only be placed on the outer chairs, or the front passenger seat (with the passenger airbag turned off, of course).

Extended test 2017: Renault Grand Scenic

Another difference is that all five back seats can now be lowered at the touch of a button. A control panel in the boot lets you choose between each individual seat, or all five at once. It’s a handy feature.

Just how well the car’s interior stands up to the demands of a family of five remains to be seen. And getting the best from the car’s myriad gadgets and gizmos and safety and security features is not going to be the work of a moment.

One feature that has been turned off is the keyless card’s “hands-free walkaway and welcome function.” In plain English, it means that when activated, the driver can keep the key in their pocket and the car will lock itself when the walk away, and unlock as they approach it.

However, it’s all too eager to lock itself, such as when you remember you’ve left the house keys on the kitchen table and go back to the house, or walk back to pick up the kids’ school bags from the front hallway. In such cases, the Scenic locks itself, regardless of whether or not it’s full of passengers.

It’s not just plain annoying. Although unlikely, what if the doors then failed to unlock with everyone aboard? There’s also growing concern over security vulnerabilities of this type of keyless system.

Happily, Renault lets drivers choose whether or not they wish to use the convenience function. So switching it off was a simple matter. A pat on the back, then, for Renault and letting drivers choose for themselves.

Got a question about the Renault Grand Scénic? Contact me on Twitter @squarejames.

May 24, 2017: Second report on living with a Renault Grand Scenic

2017 Renault Grand Scenic extended longterm test

If you were going to put a family car to the ultimate test, what would it be? Thrash it around the Le Mans race track for 24 hours? Punish it with the blast-furnace heat of Death Valley? Or grind its gears all the way up the Col de la Bonnette, with a caravan in tow and not pausing for breath before beginning the dizzying descent on the other side of the 2,802m summit?

None of these can come close to loading up the car with the family and heading on holiday.

Have you ever seen how much stuff kids want to take these days? In my time, a yoyo, colouring book and some pencils would have been the lot. Today, children can make a travelling circus look like a hermit moving home.

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The Renault Grand Scenic was tasked with carrying balance bikes, mountain bikes, helmets, scooters, swimming floats, buckets and spades, fish nets, crab lines, luggage, wash bags, Trunkies crammed with toys, tablets and smartphones, wellington boots and running shoes, smart shoes and casual shoes, books and teddy bears, a pushchair and tyre pump, not to mention a mountain of grocery shopping to keep the troops marching upon arrival.

Our family isn’t as bad as some, though. One mum I know says she took 28 pairs of shoes for her and two children, for a week away.

Each time I opened the Grand Scenic’s boot – a process which, rather quaintly, is done manually, using something called hands, rather than by waving your foot around under the bumper, looking like the world’s worst Michael Jackson impersonator – I’d have to be ready to catch cascading bags like a juggler ending their routine.

Happily, the car has a bootifully big boot. In five-seat configuration, there’s 596 litres of luggage space. If you needed to go mad at a DIY store, dropping the five back seats liberates 1,737 litres – trouncing the Audi A4 estate and Honda CR-V SUV family cars that we’re comparing to this people carrier.

Unlike the Audi, however, the luggage cover doesn’t have an integrated restraining guard to keep everything out of the cabin.

2017 Renault Grand Scenic extended longterm test

To be honest, the boot was the least of my worries. The Grand Scenic is fitted with Renault’s aluminium “quick fix” roof bars. They would be a quick fix, if you could fix things to them quickly.

If, like me, you own a roof rack and bike carriers, but these are for square-section bars, you have to buy adapters to make the bike carriers compatible with Renault’s aero-style aluminium bars. After a helpful conversation with The Roofbox Company, and £42.50 later, I had all the parts needed to mount bikes on the roof.

The stowage space in the cabin is impressive. There are compartments under the floor (big enough to take kids’ wellies), large door bins, a huge centre console that slides on rails, cup holders, flip-up tables and (optional) tablet holders mounted to the back of the front seats. There are also built-in sunblinds.

And, just as importantly, given the car has a panoramic glass roof that doesn’t open, the back of the cabin features ventilation ducts set in the B-pillars, to waft air-conditioned coolness to passengers.

2017 Renault Grand Scenic extended longterm test

On the road, the Grand Scenic is surprisingly good to drive. Renault’s engineers have tuned the suspension to resist bodyroll, the steering is relatively responsive and the car resists impersonating a tanker turning at sea.

The trade off is that because it has 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, the ride comfort is slightly sharp over lumps and bumps and the gearing is very short, so at 70mph motorways the 1.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine is buzzing away at 2,150rpm, which is quite high for a modern diesel car with a six-speed manual gearbox.

The fuel economy is currently averaging 50.2mpg, which seems remarkably good considering the seven-seat car does a mix of local trips and longer journeys. And I like the convenience of not having a screw cap on the fuel tank neck.

But the best feature of all isn’t the sort of thing that would excite the majority of car reviewers. A display tells the driver how much of a gap there is to the car in front. Measured in seconds, it’s oh so useful, because once you keep it in the green-coloured safe indicator, you know you’re more than two seconds behind the vehicle in front. And as everyone knows, only a fool ignores the two second rule. And if you don’t know what that means, watch this classic road safety advert from the 1970s.

It’s part of the optional, £500 Safety Pack, that includes a lane keep assistance system and something simply called ‘safe distance’. If you’re ordering a Scenic or Grand Scenic, pick this from the options. When you’ve got a car full of kids, this is probably one of the most effective safety features of all.

Got a question about the Renault Grand Scénic? Contact me on Twitter @squarejames.


July 14, 2017: Third report on living with a Renault Grand Scenic

Relatives recently took an interest in the Grand Scenic. The young couple and baby daughter own a current generation Nissan Note, complete with a roof box, but are finding that their stylish Bugaboo pushchair eats up most of the boot space before they’ve packed so much as a spare nappy and change of clothes.

So I treated them to a guided tour of the Grand Scenic. There were ‘oohs’ and ahhs’ from the young parents. I suggested that until recently, they couldn’t have imagined a time when they’d get so excited about a seven-seat people carrier. Before you know it, I warned, you’ll be choosing which conservatory to fit to the back of your house

What was drawing praise? The practical things that make the Scenic so child-friendly. Naturally, it comes with a pair of Isofix securing points for child seats, which are on the outer two chairs in the middle row of seats, and another on the front passenger seat. It’s a shame you can’t get more – such as in the middle row’s central seat, or two more in the rearmost two chairs – but the likelihood is few drivers need so many. (We don’t.)

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Next are the sunblinds built-in to the back doors and tinted rear windows, which have proved invaluable during this year’s summer heatwave. The panoramic glass roof also drew praise, and from my experience, the great thing about it is that there’s a solid cover that can be closed at the touch of a button on hot days – a far more effective solution than the fabric blinds fitted to some cars with this type of roof.

Also helping keep a car-full of adults and children cool is an effective climate control system, with dual temperature control for the driver and passenger, and air vents in the pillars for the back doors, which are appreciated by our kids.

Throw into the mix more storage solutions than a branch of Ikea, including two tray tables which use elasticated straps to keep drink bottles in place, four USB chargers (two in the front and two for the back seats) and a pair of 12V sockets and it’s well equipped for the various gadgets and gizmos that kids today can’t bear to be parted from.

And when they’ve all got their head buried in iPads, parents can sit back and relax in comfort. The front seats are particularly supportive, and feature large, adjustable headrests that look and feel like the sort of top-dollar item you’d find in a Mercedes S-class. And then there’s the Bose audio system, which does a good job of playing Dad’s old indie music loud enough to have those in the back removing their headphones and complaining about the terrible tunes that are spoiling their own listening experience.

As for the boot, it didn’t disappoint during the guided tour of the Grand Scenic. With 596 litres of luggage space, or 1,737 litres with all back seats folded, it is substantially more spacious than cars from a class or two below, such as my relatives’ Nissan Note (381 litres).

At a time when SUVs are all the rage, I say this is a good-looking, affordable and impressively practical alternative that drivers should consider as their next family car.

Got a question about the Renault Grand Scénic? Contact me on Twitter @squarejames.