Renault’s aptly named Scenic II is perfectly tailored to travelling whilst observing. Riding in it feels like you’re somehow on a scenic lookout. It’s not tall like an SUV, because you still feel like it’s a car, but it’s a car on tiptoes trying to sneak glimpses of a more distant horizon.
The horizon certainly won’t be appearing at speed, though, because the two-litre engine musters only 98kW. What it does do with flair, however, is transport lots of people (well, up to five of them), animals and/or stuff.
The front and rear bumpers have been redesigned, with the grille gaining more prominence. Headlights and taillights have been brought up-to-date (i.e. LEDs), and the equipment and interior trim levels in our test ‘Dynamique’ model are an improvement. More sound deadening means you can enjoy the six-disc in-dash, MP3-compatible CD player, and there are the driver assists such as steering column-mounted audio controls, light and rain sensors, and climate control. Safety is also good with six airbags and a five-star NCAP crash rating.
In the rush hour test it performed boringly well. It was exceptionally comfortable and the seating position gives a superior view of the surrounding traffic. To escape the tedium I took it to a windy road and again, it coped better than I expected. All its digital trickery (Electronic Stability Programme, Electronic Brake Distribution, etc) prevented me from falling into the scenery. If only it had another 40kW to play with, it would be a really fun drive.
Its extreme practicality must make it the favourite of many an upwardly mobile breeding female with family dog and accoutrements — up to 400 litres of them in the boot, which is easily enough to pack a camping holiday. In fact, there’s almost enough room to have a revolution in there. Renault have thought about who will be travelling in this car, so there are lots of friendly features for rear passengers. As well as sunblinds on the passenger windows, on the back of the driver and passenger seats there are fold-down trays with cup holders. The tray is airline-style, and big enough for a small laptop, or a kid’s book. There’s even a fold-down mirror in the front so you can keep an eye on the little tykes.
Each rear seat is independently movable — it will slide forwards or backwards — and the seats can be individually completely removed from the Scenic giving you a huge load space. One niggle is that you can’t easily drop the back seats forwards via the boot — you have to open the passenger door to get at the handle. Fold down a seat, though, and it will comfortably fit several snowboards. There are also a reasonable number of cubby holes under seats and in doors, but none of them fit a water bottle except for the enormous central binnacle.
Starting the Renault is a function hampered by security. Insert the black credit card-sized key into the dash to disable the immobiliser then press a button to start the engine. This sort of process has a certain (tolerable) presence with an Aston Martin, but as the Scenic’s engine bursting into life isn’t accompanied by eight cylinders piercing the tranquillity it seems tiresome.
The Scenic II is a trendy looking car, and its ‘bottom’ (a contentious styling issue on the Megane) has had some nip and tuck. It is practicality packaged with a little French design flair, and for a smidge under 43 grand, it’s great value for money.
Price: from $42,990
What we like:
- It’s quiet
- Brakes are keen
- It’s tres practical
- Price is good
- User controllable speed limiter
What we don’t like:
- Lack of power (exacerbated by the gear ratios)
- Engine harshness between 100-110kph
- Difficult to get a comfortable seating position without being quite upright
Words and photos Darren Cottingham