Renault was the first brand to properly meet the needs of compact MPV buyers wanting seven seats. This latest improved MK4 model Grand Scenic continues to effectively do just that, offering a more up-market feel and a smarter spin on a well established theme. Practical, safe, quiet, comfortable, efficient to run and relatively affordable, it ticks a lot of boxes.
Back in 2004, Renault were first to introduce the concept of seven seats in a compact MPV, launching a Grand Scenic model that's gone on to be a very significant car for the brand. The second generation version, announced in 2009, proved so successful that it effectively rendered the brand's larger Espace MPV redundant. Here, we're looking at the MK3 model, altogether more sophisticated and stylish than its predecessor. Here, the design is far more stylish and driver-centric than before, plus there's more space and storage inside along with more sophisticated infotainment technology. A 'Hybrid Assist' diesel variant will tempt those in search of ultimate efficiency too. Sounds promising doesn't it?
The Grand Scenic has never really garnered a reputation as a particularly sharp steer, but that suits the sort of customers who just want something comfortable and unthreatening to do the family duties. The bulk of sales will to the recently improved 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine, which now puts out 120hp. Don't dismiss the alternative petrol engine option though if you're a lower-mileage buyer. It's a 1.3-litre Tce turbo unit that develops 140PS and is well worth a look. There's some trendy technology to cheer you along the way too, in the form of a selectable drive mode system called 'Multi-Sense', one of those able to alter steering feel, throttle response, stability control settings and, where fitted, auto gearchange timings, all to suit the way you want to drive. Heck it even changes the engine note and alters the colour of the dashboard lighting in an effort to put you in either a more relaxed frame of mind or perhaps a sportier mood.
This is a bigger car than its second generation predecessor, 75mm longer, 15mm higher and 2mm wider. As significantly, there's 35mm more wheelbase. That's not enough to make this Grand Scenic a rival to really large MPVs like Volkswagen's Sharan, but it'll make it easier for this Renault to be considered as a really credible alternative to the largest compact MPV in the segment, Ford's S-MAX. It certainly looks sharper than before. The styling is based on Renault's R-Space concept car, key features like the steeply-raked windscreen and short bonnet heightening the elegance of this Grand Scenic's MPV silhouette. Uniquely, big 20-inch wheels are fitted to all versions. At the same time, the three-part screen combines a panoramic view with improved side vision. At the front, there's a more distinctive lighting signature. Depending on version, the C-shaped front headlights benefit from LED PURE VISION technology, while Edge Light technology provides the taillights with a 3D effect. The boot of this third generation model boasts a volume of 718-litres when the third seating row isn't in use; that compares to the 572-litre figure you get from the standard Scenic model. Plus around the car, there's total additional stowage capacity of 63-litres. Take the 'Easy Life drawer', which faces the front passenger seat and offers a storage area of 11.5-litres. That's three litres more than a conventional glove box. Lit and chilled, it opens via an electronic sensor and automatically locks when the vehicle stops. Plus, as before, there are four underfloor compartments.
There's the usual premium of around £1,800 to get this Grand Scenic seven-seat bodyshape over the ordinary five-seat Scenic model. That means prices as before, are likely to sit in the £23,500 to £28,000 bracket. There's the choice of three trim levels - 'Play', 'Iconic' and 'Signature'. A key new safety addition this time round is the AEBS 'Active Emergency Braking System' which also has a Pedestrian Protection feature. Lane Keeping Assist and a Fatigue Detection system are additionally being offered. Along with Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, a Safe Distance Warning system, 'Traffic Sign Recognition with Over Speed Prevention' and Blind Spot Warning. Buyers can also specify a reversing camera, automatic dipped and main beam headlights, front, rear and side parking sensors and Easy Park Assist hands-free parking. Higher-end versions are equipped with Renault's advanced 'R-LINK 2' infotainment system, complete with an 8.7-inch screen. Here, you get voice recognition for the navigation system, telephone use, apps and radio. There's also the option of a full-colour head-up display system that projects key driving information onto the bottom of the windscreen. And Renault also hopes it can tempt buyers into paying more for a desirable 11-speaker BOSE Surround Sound audio system.
The Grand Scenic may no longer have the lowest running costs in its class but they're still impressively low for a car of this size. The efficiency champion will be the 1.5-litre Blue dCi 120hp diesel model which should return 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and 129g/km of CO2. As for petrol power, well the 1.3 TCe engine manages 45.6mpg and 141g/km. As you would expect, all Grand Scenic models are aided in achieving their figures by a Stop & Start system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. All well and good, but if we were potentially buying this model, one of our concerns might be that the big 20-inch wheels would eventually require big, pricey replacement tyres to go with them. Renault says that won't be the case, the brand having been working with major tyre manufacturers to ensure that replacement rubber for this model won't cost any more than it would if the car was running on more usual 17-inch rims. Another aspect of purchase that should please you lies in the fact that you won't be fobbed off with the basic three year / 60,000 mile warranty that most rivals offer. All Grand Scenic models come with a much more complete four-year / 100,000-mile warranty that includes emergency breakdown recovery. There's also three years' worth of European cover as part of this package.
You might think your day-to-day family car journeys are mind-bogglingly dull but there are numerous models on the market locked in ferocious competition for the right to come along for the ride. If your brood needs everyday space for five and occasional room for seven, then here's one of the best of them, should you be seeking a seven-seater that's big enough for the family, without suggesting to the world that you've your own reserved parking space down at the maternity unit. It'll certainly help in the showroom that the looks of this third generation version are now trendier - plus it's significantly more practical where it counts - inside. On top of that, build quality is strong, running costs are low and safety is outstanding. Overall then, a car that shows Renault still has its finger firmly on the pulse of what modern families are looking for. This is Europe's most popular family MPV for a reason.