MPV is still a firm family favourite

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Steve Sharpe drives the Renault Grand Scenic

It was an instant success with both the critics and the public, picking up the 1997 Car of the Year award.

Those punters looking for a vehicle with increased levels of interior space and the versatility to accommodate a growing family looked towards the Scenic, with other manufacturers taking note, bringing out their own takes on the French manufacturer’s people carrier.

After more than two million cars had been produced, Renault introduced the second generation model in 2003, with better performance levels and even more practical features than its predecessor.

In addition Renault pioneered a compact MPV in two versions with different lengths.

Following the example set by the luxurious Espace and Grand Espace people carriers, the standard five-seat Scénic II was joined within a year by the seven-seat Grand Scénic, which provided an extra row of easy fold-down seats within its longer body.

As a further variation on the theme, the range grew to include a five-seat Grand Scénic in 2006, giving more space for extra passenger comfort or load carrying capacity as required.

The third generation Scenic and Grand Scenic models were unveiled in March 2009, while in early in 2012, Renault undertook its first revision of the third-generation model, most notably revising the powertrain line-up to include the clean and highly efficient 1.5 dCi Stop & Start and the brand new 1.2 TCe 115 petrol unit.. In addition, Scenic gained more contemporary frontal styling and rear lighting, plus new trim details.

During the second quarter of 2013 the range was joined by the new XMOD, plus the new 1.2 TCe 130 engine and the brand’s new front end styling.

The facelifts and upgrades were designed to allow the Grand Scenic to keep up with the Citroen’s Grand C4 Picasso, Ford’s C Max and many other newer MPVs.

And it was successful, because the Grand Scenic is a practical, easy to drive and roomy family vehicle.

It’s longer, wider, taller and with a longer wheel base than the previous version and Renault have succeeded in making the functional family car a little more svelte and aerodynamic.

It’s still unmistakeably a people carrier but the sloping roofline and improved curves, along with the redesigned front section, are a definite improvement.

Take a look inside the cabin and the it’s smart and pretty stylish.

Once again its undoubtedly an MPV, which is good or bad according to personal taste, with all the controls situated in the centre of the dashboard in a long, narrow section, with bare plastic in front of the driver.

The main readouts – speed and rev counter, fuel gauge etc – are on a digital screen in the centre of the cabin, which is crystal clear, but a second screen with the satellite navigation system is quite small, and the satnav map is even smaller when on a split screen with the media display.

It’s pretty complicated at first as well, with a further rotary dial in between the front seats to control things.

But the majority of the plastics in view are good quality and the finish is really good.

The plastics and fabrics feel nice and there’s stitching to add a bit of extra classiness. The seats are supportive and comfortable, with suede highlights.

There’s are impressive amounts of space and storage areas too. The Grand Scenic is a seven-seater with two extra seats at the rear which fold flat to allow for more load space.

The three middle seats roll back and forward independently but Renault have missed a trick with the fact that the conventional three rear seats don’t fold flat, rather fold up.

They can be completely removed to utilise a huge area of carrying space but you really wouldn’t want to do that too often.

But with lots of cubbyholes and plenty of headroom and legroom, the Grand Scenic should be able to cope with all the requirements of a large family comfortably.

The engine line-up features a number of engines, including the 1.5 dCi 110, 1.6 dCi 130 and 1.2 TCe 115 and 130 petrol engines, all with Stop & Start. Both TCe engines offer 43.5 mpg and 145 g/km CO2.

The dCi 130 in my test car was the world’s most powerful engine of its type for its size at launch. It’s frugal, too, offering 64.2 mpg on average and low CO2 of only 114g/km.

However, it takes some getting used to get the most out of it.

The MPV pulls off quite sedately in lower revs but when the turbocharger kicks it you get a whoosh of power and the car flies forward with a surge.

Mistime a gear change and you can be left chugging along in low revs before you gradually pick up speed before that surge kicks in again, and if you pull off in too low a gear you’re stuck in no man’s land. Equally the six-speed manual gearbox can be a little jerky at first.

Once you’ve spent some time behind the wheel, though, the Grand Scenic provides a pleasant drive.

There are large amounts of glass to let in the light so the cabin’s nice and airy, while visibility’s good for driving around town.

Take the Grand Scenic out in the country and the MPV drives well.

MPV’s aren’t renowned for thrill-a-minute white knuckle experiences but the Renault deals with winding corners well. It’s a tall car but body roll has been pretty well handled and things stay nicely in place.

The steering’s a bit numb but it does what it’s meant to.

The Scenic’s emphasis is on comfort rather than performance, so head for the motorways and the Renault is quite happy notching up the miles. The car’s nice and quiet, and so’s the engine

The Grand Scenic is unashamedly a practical family car and it therefore scores highly in those areas.

Where it also scores is in value for money.

The Grand Scenic ranges from £20,590 to £23,715, which makes it competitively priced in relation to its main rivals.

There’s only one trim available, called Dynamic Tom Tom, but it gets a nice kit list as standard, including alloys, Bluetooth, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and satellite navigation.

Also standard is a four-year warranty that includes free servicing and roadside assistance for the same period.

There are lots of optional equipment as well, including a fabulous upgraded Bose stereo package, which hel-ped to push my test car up to more than £28,000.

The Renault also returns decent mpg figures and emissions, too.

The Grand Scenic wears its family credentials proudly and although unlikely to raise many pulses it does exactly what a family MPV should. It’s flexible, versatile, good value for money and economic.

Throw in an impressive list of equipment and a quality interior and you have a family car that certainly deserves consideration.

FACT FILE

Renault Grand Scenic

Engine: 1.6 diesel

Transmission: Six-speed manual

0-60mph: 11.1 seconds

Top speed: 121mph

Economy: 64.2mpg avg

Price: £23,715 on the road (£28,035 inc options)