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Road Test


Renault Grand Scenic

by Ian Barrett

3rd December, 2007


Renault Grand Scenic 
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Renault's recent TV commercial for their new Scenic is one of the more enjoyable and memorable television advertisements. Accompanied by some catchy music and featuring a baby elephant flanked by two adoring children in the rear seats, it turned out to be just a dream for a hapless jumbo, stuck in a circus trailer at the traffic lights. But surely here was a vehicle with plenty ofinterior space for a growing young family? Yes, in that regard, the Scenic doesn't disappoint. We were fortunate enoughrecently to spend a week with its slightly bigger 'brother', the Renault Grand Scenicwagon. And yes, this particular vehicleturns out to be surprisingly spacious.

On offer is somethingabove and beyondthe regular Scenic - two extra seats, which will enable the kids to bring along a couple of extra friends. It's a great design which carries up to seven people, in a car with exterior dimensions no greater than a conventional 4-cylinder wagon. Very reminiscent of Holden's now defunct Zafira, Renault have come up with aclever seating arrangement which makes the Grand Scenic a Clayton's people mover - the one you have when you don't really want afull-sized thirst. In our energy conscious times, thatseems likeavery smart move for smaller families.

The Grand Scenic sits on a longer wheelbase than the regular Megane-based platform, so the extra seats are not just jammed in. Normally they are hidden away neatly in the boot floor, without taking up any of the generous 610-litre boot. But in a cleverdemonstration of space efficiency,theyindividually foldout if needed,to accommodate smallish children. We do mean small, though. Baby jumbos need not apply!

Thecargo bay is easily loaded thanks toa low floor.But versatility is the name of the gamewith the GrandScenic. The second row of seats are able to be individually folded forward or removed altogether, so it can become a four or three seater, or even a very stylish cargo van. And a very comfortable one at that!

Renault Grand Scenic 
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Driver and passengers sit high in firmly padded and verysupportive seats with unusual fore and aft adjustable head restraints. All round vision is excellent. There is good seat travel,withthe driver's adjustable for height. The leather-bound steering wheel is also height/reach adjustable, so all sizes and shapes are catered for in Renault's attractively styled Grand Scenic. As mentioned, one unique and very practical feature is the individual adjustment for eachsecond-row seat, both fore/aft and backrest angle. This makes for very comfortable rear passengers, providing they are not too big. The seats, particularly in the middle,area touch on thenarrow side for larger adults, but head and legroom are good. Second-rowpassengers also score fold-out picnic tables on the front seat-backs.

TheGrand has very high equipment levels. Includedare 17-inch alloys,cruise control, trip computer, climate control air-conditioning,6-stack CD player, remote central locking, a chillable glove box, power windows and mirrors.It has a swag ofother usefulconvenience features, including a sliding centre console, rear side-window pull-up sun blinds, electric parking brake, light sensitive auto headlights (with see-me-home function), andrain-sensitive wipers. Options include leather trimfor $2,500 and a panoramic electric sunroof for $2,000. Like others in the Megane 'family', the Scenichas an amazing numberof nooks and crannies for oddment storage, including a centre console 'bread bin' large enough to store A4 files, front door armrest bins, slide-out drawers under the rear seats and the 'coup de grace' - underfloor bins front and rear large enough to hide handbags, shoes, make-up packs, cameras and videos etc. Just the thing for "Mum's Taxi"!

Instruments are in a central digital display containing a lot of information in graphic format. The overall effect israther 'busy' and apart from the 'speedo',isn't easyto read at a glance. Call us old fashioned, but we think there's reallyno substitute for conventional instruments in front of the driver. Control stalksare alsoa littledifferent in the time-honoured French manner, but are close at hand andfunction well. Just don't expect to figure everything out intuitively - you may need to refer to the owners handbook initially, but that's what it's for!

If you're concerned about safety - and we trust you are -the Grand Sceniccomes with a 5-star safety rating. The Grand Scenic includes ESP with understeer control, ABS with EBD, and 6airbags (front, side and curtain).Handlingand steering arevery good, much more car-like than most larger people-movers in the marketplace. Ride is firm but compliant and passed our 'cobblestone test' well enough, which means it can soak up most of what Aussie roads can throw its way.

Renault Grand Scenic

Is there a down sideof the Renault Grand Scenic? Overall performance from the 2-litre 16-valve 4-cylinder engine is ordinary. In the fuel department, PULP is recommended for best results.Quoted outputsof 98 kW@ 5,500 rpm and 191Nm @ 3,750 are nothing to write home about for this size power plant, although claimed fuel consumption of 8.8L/100km (combined) is very reasonable. But the weak link withthe Grand Scenicis really the standard 4-speed ' pro-active' automatic transmission. Not only did it sap performance from the engine, but gear changes were all over the place. Left to its own devices in 'Drive'itstruggled a little to find the right gear at the right time! Arguably one redeeming feature was its automatic down-shifting under braking, although this means that care needs to be taken to adjust brake pressure accordingly.

On the whole the Grand Scenic impresses as a compact and stylish European alternative to the larger and more popular people movers. It's easy to drive and park,with good steering andhandling, and is smooth and quiet atcruising speed.It comes with a 3-year/100,000 km warranty and at$39,990 fills a useful niche forsmaller familieswanting a safe and luxurious part-time 7-seater, with versatility second to none.

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Other Renault content: here.

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