Road Test: Renault takes the Scenic route for a modern family car
Model: Grand Scenic
Date Reviewed: June 24, 2013
Renault is trying to kill the people carrier. No, I have no crystal ball and there’s nothing in my prediction other than educated guesswork. Still, the trail of evidence and motive is undeniable. Renault effectively created the people carrier (MPV) with the original Espace (yes, I know, Chrysler and Fiat both technically got there first), but now it seems determined to bump the segment off.
Not only has Renault confirmed that the next Espace will be as much an SUV as it will be an MPV, so too has it sounded the death knell for the Scenic. The seven-seat Grand Scenic will continue unabated, but the standard five-seat model will be progressively replaced by this new XMOD model, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that, when the next-generation Scenic arrives, there will only be a seven-seat version. The five-seat model will likely be replaced entirely by a standalone SUV-style car. Which is rather a shame.
Why? Because the XMOD has thrown out the form-following-function ideal that all MPVs should cling to. A facelift of the entire Scenic range has brought a new, bolder, grille with a huge Renault diamond plonked in the middle and some other exterior and interior tweaks. But the XMOD goes further, with phony undertray bash plates and stick-on grey plastic panels in an attempt to convince you that, yes, it really could go yomping its way across the Serengeti.
It couldn’t. It’s a front-wheel drive diesel MPV. And the ironic thing is that all of the things that are good about the Scenic XMOD have absolutely nothing to do with the XMOD part. The interior is an obvious strong point. It’s spacious, the seats are very comfy and everything looks and feels suitably well built. The all-digital dashboard is nice to use and to look at, and the equipment levels are high, including electronic child locks and a kick-ass Bose stereo.
Individually adjustable rear seats
In the back, there are three individually adjustable seats, which means that you can fit three child car seats abreast in there, a major consideration for families these days. The boot, a 472-litre space, can be enlarged by sliding those rear seats forward a touch. In addition, there’s a sense of airiness and light to the cabin which makes it a very pleasant place to be. By accident, not design, I ended up taking the XMOD on three round trips between Dublin and Galway in the space of a week, and never once felt tired or bored of the car.
The engine plays a big part in that, of course. Renault’s long-serving 1.5 dCi diesel has always been a good unit, and it’s still going strong in the XMOD. It’s not exactly serving up staggering power outputs, but it gets out of its own way, cruises quietly and returned a very decent 5.9-litres per 100km in my hands. CO2 emissions are pegged at 105g/km, so you’ll pay just €190 a year in road tax.
You will pay quite a lot to get into one like this, though. €29,000 is the sticker price, although a cheaper, less well-equipped petrol XMOD kicks off at €26,000. It does seem a bit pricey for a family car, though, at a time when few families have money to be splashing around.
Surprisingly, though, the XMOD quite enjoys being chucked around. A bit, anyway. It’s not quite got the chassis deportment of the Ford C-Max, but with well-weighted steering and decent body control, it’s the better of the likes of the C4 Picasso and the Peugeot 5008.
You may not get up early on a Sunday to take it for a thrash, but you won’t feel short-changed driving it in normal circumstances.
As a family man, the appeal of the XMOD is undeniable. The cabin, with all that space and adjustability, means it’s a doddle to get the kids in and off to school or for a weekend away; the fact that it’s decent to drive and has a very good engine adds to the appeal.
But all the XMOD badging and stick-on parts just leave me cold. I accept that MPVs are just not generally seen as desirable cars and that trying to chuck in a bit of SUV glamour might at least draw in a few more customers, which is a good thing. But that original Espace, and the original Scenic, were just so good at demonstrating that making form follow function is a worthwhile thing.
Faddish 4x4 imagery may give the XMOD a sales boost, but those of us who prefer our cars to be intellectually honest will see it as an unnecessary adornment.
1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 110bhp @ 3,600rpm, 260Nm @ 1,750rpm
0-100km/h in 12.5secs
Claimed 4.1 L/100km (68mpg)
105g/km (motor tax €190)
From €26,090 (as tested €29,390)
The best bits are already in the basic Scenic. XMOD tack-ons add nothing