Long term test report: Renault Grand Scénic Dynamique TomTom dCi 130
James Marchington is starting to enjoy driving the Grand Scénic – or at least he was, until a rather unexpected shower dampened his enthusiasm
The Grand Scénic continues to impress and infuriate me in equal measure. On one hand I’m not keen on its looks, and the performance and handling are hardly exciting. But on the other hand it’s hugely practical, economical and – so far at least – totally reliable. Touch wood quick.
Looks are subjective, but some things are simply not right. Hop in the car after a shower of rain, for instance, leave the window ajar for fresh air – and a cupful of water will land on your right elbow at the first left-hand bend. Some of this water inevitably disappears into the electric window switches, which may ultimately have unfortunate effects; time will tell. Another thing: the handbrake switch, leaving aside my preference for a proper manual handbrake, is just too far forward to reach confortably from the driving position. It’s quite a stretch to apply it when you pull up on a slope at a red light.
I am still discovering strokes of pure genius around the interior of the vehicle”
And yet I am still discovering strokes of pure genius around the interior of the vehicle. Like the natty little drawers beneath the front seats. And the even nattier hidden compartments under all four footwells – front and back. They would be ideal for smuggling contraband across the Channel, except I suspect French Customs may have encountered the Scénic before, what with it being French and all. Still, it should fool the average opportunistic thief peering in the windows.
And there’s more, much more. Airline-style fold-up tables for the rear passengers; roller-blind sun blinds in the rear doors; rear seats that not only fold and tip but can be removed entirely. Unfortunately they cannot be folded to provide a full-lenth flat loadbed, but I think that may be mathematically impossible. In the load area at the back, two folding child seats are ingeniously stowed beneath the floor – pull on the loop of red webbing and they fold out and click into place. James Bond meets Yummy Mummy. There’s even a roller-blind type load cover stowed in yet another secret compartment just inside the tailgate. I’m quite sure there are yet more hidden compartments waiting to be discovered; I’m deliberately not going to check the handbook because it would spoil the fun of finding them.
After several thousand miles, I feel I am now qualified to comment on what the Scénic is like to drive. In a word, it’s bland. It’s hard to drive this car badly, but equally hard to drive it well. The gearbox doesn’t lend itself to a lot of showy chuck-it-down-a-couple-of-gears-and-power-through-the-roundabout kind of stuff. Even if it did, the suspension would take all the fun out of it. But then this vehicle is better suited to school runs and shopping, so perhaps I should just grow up. It certainly copes well with longish motorway hauls, although it’s a little noisier than I’d like.
My efforts to improve the fuel consumption have proved an abject failure, at least so far as the dashboard readout is concerned. From a high of 50.9mpg, I have now dropped to 50.6. I’m putting this down partly to the extra drag of wet roads; it certainly couldn’t be my fault, good heavens no. And I am launching a forensic examination of mileage records and service station receipts to prove that I am actually doing much better than the figures suggest. I will report the results in due course, unless they fail to show me in a good light, in which case they may be suppressed as quickly as a footballer’s injunction.
At least I have now grown used to the Scénic’s preference for plenty of revs when engaging the clutch. Moving from a throaty Isuzu pick-up, which would happily pull away at tickover speed, I repeatedly stalled the blasted Scénic much to the delight of my wife and daughters. “Daddy I thought you said you could drive.” Yes, yes, very funny. At least the automatic, polar bear saving, stop-start trickery enabled me to restart the engine simply by depressing the clutch. “How did you do that, Dad?” “Ah, magic.” A tiny degree of respect regained. Every little helps.
Date arrived: 27th September 2011
Mileage to date: 7,985miles
Fuel consumption: 64.2mpg (official combined) / 50.6mpg (on test)
The Grand Scénic is proving itself to be practical and reliable. It’s never going to be an exciting drive, but it gets me and my stuff from A to B and back again with minimal fuss. After three months of running the vehicle, I am still discovering ingenious design features inside – like the hidden compartment in the driver’s footwell, perfect for concealing a small camera or pair of binoculars. Worryingly, however, I fear the Renault is wearing down my resolve. No longer do I shout “Who’s driving this thing?” when it nags and bleeps or smugly turns off the engine at the lights. The other day a light came on to remind me to change gear and I caught myself muttering a meek “Yes, dear”. What still gets me ranting in the street, though, is the ridiculous magical key fob token thingy. It must have seemed such a good idea in the design meeting, but I’m guessing none of those present had dogs. To lock the vehicle without arming the volumetric sensor inside, you must slide the magic token in and out of a slot twice, jump out of the vehicle, shut the door and lock it – all within ten seconds. That’s enough to have passers-by looking at you a bit funny. When the expected three beeps fail to sound, and you begin shaking your fist and shouting, they shuffle into doorways and reach for their mobile phones. If I’m not here next month, the men in white coats have got me.
Mileage to date: 5,946miles
Fuel consumption: 64.2mpg (official combined) / 50.7mpg (on test)
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.
But, 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. It has another £1,740-worth of extras including electric panoramic roof and a ‘Convenience Pack’ – 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. 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.