Scénic Grand (blue) is 198mm longer than Scénic and has roof rails, five-seat Scénic prices are £21,445-30,645, while seven-seat Grand Scénic line-up costs from £23,375-32,445

Scénic Grand (blue) is 198mm longer than Scénic and has roof rails, five-seat Scénic prices are £21,445-30,645, while seven-seat Grand Scénic line-up costs from £23,375-32,445

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Designed with the capability to have 48V electrics for next year's Hybrid Assist variants, the new Renault Scénic and Grand Scénic also have the ingenious one-touch folding seats which Faurecia invented for the Espace.

Is there still a large market for C and D segment MPVs?

According to Mike Willis, who looks after Renault UK's C & D range passenger cars, these new models, on sale in Britain this month, complement the Kadjar SUV. That's a similar position to the one taken by Ford, Volkswagen and PSA - there is room in their ranges for SUVs as well as similarly sized MPVs.

Will there be a replacement for the XMOD crossover variant? No says Willis, that car having been a place holder for customers looking for an SUV, which the UK importer did not have until the arrival of the Kadjar in 2015.

The main difference with Renault compared to its British market rivals is the lack of a D segment saloon and estate range. The Talisman does OK in France and spectacularly well in South Korea. It's on course for more than 50,000 registrations with Samsung SM6 badges in just one country, while Renault might manage to sell a few more than 30,000 units of the Talisman across LHD European markets.

One-touch seats

Renault still doesn't believe its challenger for the Passat would work in the UK, nor does it think there would be much demand for an RHD Espace. Which means that British buyers have until now been denied the opportunity to have a Renault with Faurecia's fiendishly clever seat folding system, which has hitherto only been for the Espace. The French Tier 1 also supplies the instrument panel, a sliding centre console, the touch-opening glovebox, acoustics and soft trims, a fibreglass composite spare wheel tray and emissions control systems for the diesel and petrol engines.

Unlike the catchy names which Chrysler always seems to come up with for the flexible seats in its various generations of minivans, there is no equivalent to the likes of Stow 'n' Go, which is a pity. Like the rest of us, flipping seats is a vanilla activity for me; even the electrically folding ones in SUVs such as the XC90 and Q7 I have no opinion on - they're just slow and boring. What Renault simply terms its one-touch system is the work of genius. And the best bit? You can even lower them via the R-Link 2 infotainment screen.

Lift the tailgate of the Scénic and to your left, on the carpeted wall, you'll see three buttons. Press ALL and the magic happens: first the left head restraint retracts with a satisfying whir, then the backrest flops on the cushion, followed by head restraints middle and right, and then the 60 part of the 40/60 split. If you just want one of the two folded, that's what the other two buttons are for.

Like the standard wheelbase five-seat Scénic, the seven-seat long-wheelbase Grand Scénic has a manual tailgate as standard but it's not at all heavy to pull down so you could easily live without optional electric assistance. Renault has wisely made the theatrical seat-flipping standard on both cars and to watch five of them fold before your eyes is something I doubt I would tire of.

Grand Scénic is really a 5+2

Despite an additional 70mm in the wheelbase, the second row in the Grand has less legroom than the Scénic. As much as I admire the engineering novelty of how seats six and seven can be stowed, when raised I wouldn't call them suitable for adults. In common with a London taxi, the back of your head is way too close to the rear window. It also doesn't bear thinking about where any sharp, heavy objects in the boot would be forced in the event of the car being hit hard from behind.

Renault points out that the new models both have five stars from EuroNCAP and in terms of those often overlooked aspects of safety, there are terrific views out, and the A pillars are not too wide, so dangerous blind spots are largely avoided.

Powertrains

Back to Mike Willis, who I mentioned at the start of this article. Renault's man says he sees about 10-20 per cent of combined sales being variants powered by petrol engines, which is higher than some rivals. There are five engines in the UK, all with four turbocharged cylinders and in combination with three transmissions. All are front-wheel drive only, and the 48V Hybrid Assist diesels will be in dealerships from April. The line-up will eventually be as follows:

  • TCe 115 (1,198cc, 85kW & 190Nm) 16v petrol
  • TCe 130 (1,198cc, 96kW & 205Nm) 16v petrol
  • dCi 110 (1,461cc, 81kW & 260Nm) 8v diesel
  • dCi 110 Hybrid Assist (identical outputs but better economy and CO2)
  • dCi 110 Auto EDC (1,461cc, 81kW & 260Nm) Electronic Dual Clutch
  • dCi 130 (1,600cc, 96kW & 320Nm) 16v diesel
  • dCi 160 Auto EDC (1,600cc, 118kW & 360Nm) 16v biturbo

Lengths, roominess

Neither of these vehicles is especially large, and indeed, there is less rear overhang than with the third generation models. The Scénic is 4,406mm long, and the Grand, which incidentally also has a SCENIC badge on its tailgate (i.e. no GRAND) has an extra 228mm between its bumpers. The standard car's boot capacity is 572 cubic litres and with the third row seats upright, just 233 for the Grand Scénic.

Three gearboxes, and a 92g/km CO2 variant

The best CO2 average is an impressive 92g/km but you'll have to wait until next year if that matters as, you guessed it, it's for the Hybrid Assist. The expected best seller, the 110 dCi, has an official number of 100g/km or 104g/km with EDC. All manual gearboxes have six speeds but there are two EDCs: a six-speeder for the engine I just mentioned and a seven-ratio transmission for the range-topping 160hp biturbo diesel.

Hybrid Assist for 110hp diesel

As yet there isn't a lot of information available on the Hybrid Assist system, Renault understandably holding this back for an inevitable separate media launch in the months ahead. What is known, is that this works with a Motor Generator Unit which will recover energy during deceleration. This is stored in a 48V battery located under the boot floor, with the 48V/12V converter located ahead of the passenger side (in RHD cars) front wheel. The MGU also serves as a 10kW motor to give the car extra boost.

The official NEDC Combined number for the Hybrid Assist is 80.7mpg, overall consumption claimed to be reduced by 8-10% compared to the non-HA versions of this 1.5-litre 110hp engine. And the cost? Mike Willis says it will be an extra GBP1,000. The CO2 reduction will mean a lower BIK band so the additional spend could be worthwhile for some business users.

Automatic braking as standard

Segment firsts for the UK include Active Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and it is to Renault's immense credit that this is standard, plus of course it should mean lower insurance premiums.

Options or features on higher model grades include (forgive the caps but these are Renault's official names) Adaptive Cruise Control, Full LED headlights, Lane Departure Warning, Hands Free Parking, Blind Spot Warning, Safe Distance Warning, R-Link 2 with Live Traffic, and Rear parking camera.

LRR and tyre walls that are just 195mm thick

An innovation is this class is standard 20" wheels. Incidentally, a space saver spare tyre, which like other OEMs Renault charges money for (£90), has a diameter of 17 inches. The good news about the cars' ride and handling on these big wheels and relatively narrow low rolling resistance tyres is that both are impressive. There is a fair bit of wallow and nose dive upon take off or hard braking from the Grand with the 130hp engine and not a lot of oomph. The lighter Scénic is by contrast quite fun to drive enthusiastically, one up at least.

If there is a Renault with a nicer interior than these MPVs, then I am yet to see it. The company has really made an effort in this area. Unlike the Mégane and Kadjar, the insides of which neither look nor feel as good as their Golf and Tiguan rivals, these two new cars give the impression of being near-premium. In high-spec versions, almost everything is very close to VW levels, only small oversights such as easily finger-printed dark and shiny plastic around the R-Link 2 screen letting that impression fall away. Other than this, soft plastics and mostly elegantly shaped controls are plentiful.

For a family, the 13-litre cubby between the front seats will be invaluable, as will the overall 57 litres of storage space throughout the car. A couple of thoughtful touches are the bands which will secure tablets to the seat-back tables in the second row, and something else which we see too little of: those big tyres have a ridge so if you're an occasional or habitual alloy wheel scraper, you shouldn't be in this car.

Where are they built?

Renault wouldn't be drawn on UK market sales expectations for the new models, nor was there an estimate for how many will be manufactured at Georges Besse. That's the official name for the Douai plant in France where both Scénic (project code: JFA) and Grand Scénic (RFA) are manufactured. As this factory also makes the low volume Espace and Talisman, the addition of the new models will be very welcome indeed.

The sum-up

Are these new MPVs class leaders? I would have to say that in the case of the much roomier Scénic, yes. The VW Touran is an excellent vehicle but somehow the Renault manages to match it for interior looks and the suppleness of its suspension. The Scénic gets my vote for its looks - from all angles - helped immensely by the way those big tyres fill the wheelarches, as well as for its roominess and the ease with which you can flatten as many or as few seats as needed.