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We've had "The Spaceship" as it has been affectionately christened, for 5 months now, and have covered 6,500 miles in it. Overall, we are very happy with it.
We looked at many midi-MPVs such as the C-MAX and Touran, and what disappointed us most was the boot space on offer. The Grand Scenic seemed to be one of the few which offers decent load carrying capabilty and plenty of cabin space, without having to migrate to a full blown MPV such as an Espace or Galaxy. The pop up "third row" seats are strictly for kids only, but have been called upon on more than one occasion, and do at least have proper 3-point belts. They also pop up and fold individually for maximum versatility. Oh, and it's a personal thing, but I really like the "big ass" styling. Yes it's an MPV, but at least they've made an effort.
In practicality terms, the Grand Scenic is beyond reasonable criticism. As well as the aforementioned pop up third seat row, the "standard" rear seats can individually slide fore and aft to vary the leg room to boot space ratio, as well as tumble forward or pop out completely. With all rear seats removed or folded as applicable, this creates an almost van-like load capacity which is ideal for trips to the dump, or for collecting bulky items such as fridges or washing machines. A minute or two refitting the seats, and it becomes a spacious and well appointed family car again. This "dual role" ability is one of the most appealing things about the car.
We drove 1.6 and 2.0 petrol examples, as well as 1.5 and 1.9 diesels, and felt that the 1.9 diesel was by far the best match for the car. Punchier and more effortless than the 1.6 petrol, barely any slower and significantly more frugal than the 2.0, and in my opinion more refined than either, it provides effortless performance even with the car fully laden, and returns around 40 mpg "without trying". It has the bottom end grunt to make the car feel sprightly off the mark, which the petrol engines lack, and gives that bit more at day to day RPM. In this type of car, easy, effortless grunt seems more appropriate than out and out power.
On a recent run to the coast, driving gently, but fully laden and with generous use of the air-con, we averaged 48 mpg which is good for a 1500kg car. Apart from a little clatter and rumble when cold, which quickly dissipates as the second bar appears on the temperature gauge, its impeccably mannered. It pulls well from 1500 RPM upwards, and despite being a far more technically sophisticated unit than its petrol siblings, seems to be reliable so far. Thankfully, ours doesn't have the problematic FAP particle filter system fitted to the later 130 bhp version of this engine.
You don't buy this kind of car for handling, but the Grand Scenic isn't bad for a big old bus. The steering is totally devoid of feel with a horribly artificial and rubbery self centring action, and weighting is the same whether parking or doing 80 mph, but the chassis itself is perfectly capable. Roll is well controlled for a big vehicle, and the expected understeer is progressive and easily recoverable. Driven swiftly, and with a little margin before its limits, it flows surprisingly well across country roads. This sensation of flowing is largely due to the ride quality, which is just superb. The car glides smoothly over potholes and camber changes which would set up sharp crashes or line deviations on most cars, but cleverly it never seems to become floaty when pushed. A C-Max is definitely more fun, but the Renault is more comfy and effortless. It's fair to say the Scenic tends to encourage sedate driving over enthusiasm, and driven gently it is a very quiet, comfortable and relaxing car.
The brakes are stupidly over servoed and result in emergency stops at the merest brush of the pedal until familiarity kicks in. In their defence, they always inspire confidence though, however laden the car or hot the weather. The ABS is well set up too and doesn't intrude. Brake Assist and EBD are also standard on all Grand Scenics, and do their job subtly and without intrusion. The 5 star NCAP rating is also an additional comfort when carting the kids around. Of course, there are no guarantees, but it all helps.
We adore the interior, which is light, airy and surprisingly well finished. Compared to the Touran in particular which was very "German" (tall black/grey plastic dash, functional, slightly austere feeling), the Renault's feels modern, young and very attractive to the eye. Everything falls neatly to hand, and the big central LCD panel shows all the information you need very clearly. Not having dials in front of you adds to the impression of space and light, as there is less between you and the windscreen. Our car also has the dual panoramic roof which, through the use of two glass panels, makes approximately 80% of the roof surface area glass, and this also helps. The front panel slides up and over (electrically) the rear panel, which gives a near convertible "open top" feel n sunny weather. The kids love it.
Kit is very generous - CD autochanger, all round electric windows, electric roof, ABS, EBD, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, electric folding mirrors, and the piece de resistance - the full keyless operation. Keep the Renault card in your wallet, and the car unlocks for you when you touch the door handle, and starts when you press the button. It's absolutely superb. To lock the car, "double click" the little flush button on any of the door handles, and the car locks itself, and closes any open windows (or sunroof). This is one of those gadgets that you will struggle to live without once you've had it. Approaching the car with two kids and bags of shopping, not having to fish keys out of your pocket is a real bonus. Some of these features are options in Dynamique trim, but our car started life as a dealer demonstrator, and so came fully loaded. A previous owner has had the tyre pressure monitors removed, which I'm told is a good thing as they rarely work properly, but other than that, it's as it left the factory.
Build quality is generally good. Renault's trim quality has improved beyond all recognition in recent years, although the car is still disappointingly "creaky" particularly in hot weather. That said, everything still works and nothing has fallen off, despite the car being used as a working family car. It still cleans up almost as new inside and out. I think with French cars you either learn to accept they rattle, and live with it, or buy something else. Frankly, as long as it remains mechanically reliable, we're not bothered. Noise levels overall are lower than many far more expensive cars. Comfort is also superb, although I don't like the angle of the throttle pedal which, combined with light springing, gives me ankle cramps after an hour on the motorway. My wife doesn't notice it, so it seems to be a personal thing.
Running costs are reasonable - 40 mpg and 18,000 mile service intervals won't break the bank, although I intend to change the oil at mid point between services as accepted wisdom suggests the longer intervals were more to appease fleet managers than out of any concern for engine longevity. The previous owner of the car did the same thing, as do a lot of owners of Renaults of this vintage. Interestingly, these intervals were later shortened, which speaks volumes.
We had the 36k "major" service done at the local Renault dealer (the car is still under warranty until October), and the engine hasn't used a drop of oil in the 5,000 miles since. Major services are about £250-£300 and minors £150-£175 depending on what needs doing. The 36k came in at £260. The cambelt service is due at 72,000 and costs around £500 at a main dealer, or £300 at an independent. These are very reasonable prices and around half what we were quoted by VW dealers for similar work on a Touran.
That's it. Sorry if it's a bit long winded, but those are my thoughts after 6,500 miles with the Spaceship. It's a characterful, capable car which is overall a joy to live with. Despite some reservations over build quality, I would recommend it thoroughly based on its performance so far.
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