We car buyers are a fickle and fashion led bunch. Not so long ago we snapped-up MPVs like… well, they were going out of fashion. No self-respecting school run parent was without a Sharan, a Galaxy, a Touran, an S-Max, an Alhambra, a Zafira, a Carens… Or of course an Espace or Grand Scenic, it was after all Renault and their Espace that kicked this whole mono-box family mini-bus thing off in the first place. Then along came the SUV, every manufacturer from Mazda to Maserati builds one now. The MPV has seemingly fallen from family favour.
Or has it? Renault think otherwise, and after a week in their latest Grand Scenic I’m beginning to think there might still be a case for them too.
You can no longer buy a Renault Espace on this side of the Channel – don’t worry, there’ll be no Brexit jokes here – but if you have set your mind on Gallic seven seater you can buy Renault’s Grand Scenic instead.
By stretching their five-seater Scenic by 230mm Renault have liberated enough space to accommodate two extra chairs – albeit perhaps for children only as they’re a tad small and require youthful agility to get to – that when not in use fold flat into the Grand Scenic’s boot floor.
And what a boot it is. It’s cavernous, with an excellent square opening and flat load lip. Renault’s designers have also paid attention to detail, so you can also store the parcel shelf under the floor when all seven seats are in use and the middle row and seats furthest aft can be remotely folded (on all but the entry-level Grand Scenic that is) by the touch of a button located just inside of the rear hatch or via the dash-mounted touch screen. Practicality you see is king in this sector.
It’s a shame then, should you have you’ve just become the parents of triplets that is, that the Grand Scenic’s middle bench won’t allow the fitment of a trio of baby-seats side-by-side like some of its rivals do. There is ISOFIX on the front passenger seat though, plus a wealth of cubbies and storage options, some of which are situated in the floor, in which to store all of family life’s associated flotsam, jetsam and I-Pads.
Further forwards still both driver and passenger get plenty of elbow room, a commanding seating position complete with near cinematic views forward, a glovebox that slides outwards filing cabinet style, and the option of a centre console that can be slid forward and backwards to either increase legroom or reveal the now all-important USB ports. All Grand Scenics also benefit get a portrait mounted digital touchscreen; 7 inch in Expression+ trim complete with DAB and Bluetooth, or as in our case 8.7 inch in Dynamique S trim complete with extra features such as Tom Tom sat-nav, Renault’s R-Link system and voice control. Whilst it’s not the quickest of systems to boot-up, after initial familiarisation, it proves easy and clear to use.
But perhaps best of all unlike Peugeot-Citroen, Renault have chosen to leave controls of the air-con to more conventional knobs and dials – there’s no need to swipe between menus or screens simply because you feel chilly. Fit, finish and material quality, although still not class-leading, is also leagues ahead of where Renault once were too.
It’s no use having a slick interior if the exterior and driving experience don’t match though, and again Renault deserve praise for their efforts. The Grand Scenic is based on the same underpinnings as both the Megane and Kadjar so benefits from accurate steering, far less body roll than you might be expecting from something this size and, sufficient punch and performance to see of the mid-morning dawdlers. It’s no sports car, but it’s quiet and relatively economical to boot, especially so when equipped with the 130bhp diesel engine. The only bugbear is the ride, which oddly brings us on the Grand Scenic’s styling.
All Grand Scenics get 20 inch alloys as standard, they’re as big (if not as wide) as those on a Bentley Mulsanne. Big wheels do wonders for the way the Grand Scenic looks – with its swept-back lines it’s a very handsome car I’m sure you’ll agree - sleek even. But the ride suffers as a result of those fashionable rims and never settles fully until you find the smoothest of tarmac. It’s by no means uncomfortable, don’t get me wrong, but if you were expecting that once cushy savoir-faire ride-quality that used to go hand-in-hand with French cars, think again.
You probably don’t buy an MPV though if driving dynamics are your number one priority: you buy one because practicality is. There are MPVs that offer more space than the Grand Scenic, and of course there are SUVs that do too; few carry seven with as much style though.
If you need to carry a crowd without resorting to actually having to follow one, the Renault Grand Scenic is more than worthy of your full attention.
Renault Grand Scenic Dymanique S Nav dCi 130
Engine: 1,600cc 4Cyl 8V turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed manual, front wheel drive.
Power: 130 bhp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lbft @ 1,750 rpm
0-62MPH: 11.4 Sec
Max Speed: 118 mph
CO2: 119 g/km
MPG: 61.4 combined
Price: From £28,445 (as driven £31,080)
Many thanks to Lisa at Renault’s UK press office for the loan of their Grand Scenic