Long term test report: Renault Grand Scénic Dynamique TomTom dCi 130
James Marchington finds much to commend the Grand Scenic that recently arrived on his driveway, but would enjoy it a whole lot more if he could leave ‘mummy’ behind.
After a couple of months running the Renault Grand Scénic I’m convinced we were never meant for each other. It’s not the Renault’s fault; it’s a great car – economical, practical, versatile. The trouble is, I’m Dennis the Menace, and this car was designed for Walter the Softy.
You’re never alone in the Scenic; mummy is along for the ride, reminding you to buckle up, change gear – she even insists you agree to drive safely every time you start the engine. Perhaps this gives some people a warm, protected feeling. Me, I’m snarling “Oh do get knotted!”
But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back and take an objective look. I’m running the Grand Scenic Dynamique TomTom dCi 130. It’s the top model in the range, with an on-the-road sticker price of £22,200. The standard spec includes more bells and whistles than I knew existed. This one has another £1,740-worth of extras including electric panoramic roof and a ‘Convenience Pack’ – and not, as you might think, a portable WC, but parking sensors all round, a sliding central cubby box and adjustable headrests.
On the outside, the shape is streamlined and modern, with a short, steeply-angled bonnet and large bulbous windscreen, narrowing towards the rear before flaring into that slightly bulbous Renault rear end that women find so endearing for reasons I dare not speculate about. This one is finished in Extreme Blue, a ‘metallic’ option costing an extra £455. Door handles and foglight housings are in a silver-grey plastic that, to my eye at least, cheapen the overall effect. Inside the Grand Scenic feels spacious, carrying five adults in comfort and still leaving a capacious boot with two folding child-sized seats. On one recent trip, the loadspace swallowed up a good sized chest of drawers, and the lack of any sill allowed me to slide the piece in easily. My old labrador with the wonky leg appreciates the easy access too.
The vehicle’s spec sheet promises pretty impressive fuel consumption figures that, after 4,000 miles, are beginning to look like wishful thinking. I can usually beat any vehicle’s ‘combined’ figure by driving like a granddad and ignoring the infuriated honking behind me. Try as I might in the Renault, I’ve been unable to crack 50.9mpg – a long way short of the promised 64.2mpg. But I can live with that. What I find harder to accept is the extraordinary degree of ‘help’ provided by mummy from the moment you start the engine. Some of this comes from the built-in TomTom navigation system – the nag screen about safe driving, and a warning that you are exceeding the speed limit. Still more unwanted assistance comes from the vehicle itself – an idiot-lamp picture of a gearstick when it’s time to change down, as if I cannot feel the poor engine shuddering.
And oh good grief, they’ve taken the handbrake away! It is many years since I grew out of doing handbrake turns in the station car park, but a manual handbrake is an important control allowing you to pull away with precision and finesse. This flappy switch thing takes some getting used to. It’s either on or off, and most of the time it even makes that decision for you. I’d like to see Renault’s designers try it on a busy day up the spiral ramp in the Kingston-upon-Thames multi-storey. There’s also no key, just a magical plastic token like a fat credit card. Frightfully clever, it unlocks the car as you approach and allows the start button to operate. Then it locks the car and arms the alarm system as you walk away – leaving your daughter locked in a screaming car while you pop in to collect the takeaway curry.