Review and road test of the Renault Scenic (2016 - 2020)
THE SCENIC ROUTE
By Jonathan Crouch
The fourth generation version of Renault's mid-sized Scenic MPV launched in 2016 offered a more up-market, sophisticated feel. There was styling that borrowed from the Crossover sector, along with a classier cabin that was filled with plenty of technology in most models. With engines borrowed from the Megane range, this car stacks up on the balance sheet too. In short, this is the versatile five-seat solution for families wanting flexible, everyday transport that a Scenic has always been, but in this form, there's an element of desirability here too. Let's check it out as a used buy.
5dr SUV (1.2 TCe petrol / 1.5 dCi, 1.6 dCi diesel) [Play, Expression+, Iconic, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav])
The Renault Scenic. It's the definitive compact five-seat MPV and originator of a segment that was once an option for almost every growing family. By 2016 when this MK4 model was launched though, many of these buyers had switched to Qashqai-class Crossovers. Which meant that five-seat People Carriers must become dramatically more desirable if they're not to become irrelevant. With this MK4 model, it was time then, for the Scenic to set the standard once more, in the form of this contender, the smarter, slicker and more seductive fourth generation version.
Designer Laurens van den Acker said at launch that if this car didn't sell, then models of this sort deserved to die altogether. This MK 4 model was very different from its predecessors, elements of SUV-ness having crept into the design, hence the 40mm increase in ground clearance, the more muscular bodywork and the shift to huge 20-inch wheels. At the same time, this MK4 model was wider and longer than before, so inside, there was much more rear compartment and luggage space than buyers could get in a comparable Crossover. Which of course helped greatly in delivering the kind of day-to-day usability that the Scenic had long been famed for ever since it first arrived back in 1996. Over the following two decades, more than 6.5 million customers took delivery and the recipe was subtly enhanced, first with the MK2 model of 2003, then with the third generation design of 2009. For most of that time, there was also a seven-seat Grand Scenic version of this car - as there still was with this MK4 design. It's the standard body shape though, that we're going to concentrate on here.
Historically, the Scenic has always been fundamentally based on Renault's Megane family hatch - and still was in this form. Which is no bad thing as it means that here, buyers got sophisticated elements borrowed from that car in its much improved fourth generation form - things like a much higher quality cabin and cutting-edge safety standards, while under the bonnet, there was the option of clever 'Hybrid Assist' diesel electric tech.
The original engines were replaced by a 1.3-litre TCe petrol and a 1.7-litre diesel in 2018. This MK4 Scenic design sold until early 2020 and wasn't replaced.
What You Get
You'd expect the brand that invented the compact MPV to define the way it should look. Is that what Renault did here? Many will think so. Laurens van den Acker and his stylists attempted what was in their words 'a more modern and sexier take' on a compact People Carrier of this kind, basing this model on the 'R-Space' concept car that appeared back in 2011. This MK4 Scenic doesn't have the innovative backwards-opening rear doors of that design, but it shares the same curving silhouette, set off by huge standard 20-inch wheels that are intended to make the roofline look lower.
They do - and it isn't. In fact, this car sat 40mm higher off the ground than its predecessor as part of Renault's attempt to imbue trendy Crossover cues into its design. But that only goes so far, the heavily raked windscreen still visually positioning this car very much as a People Carrier - and quite a large one by mid-sized MPV standards.
Behind the wheel, what'll you notice? Well the answer's obvious in a top Scenic - the 8.7-inch 'portrait'-style centre dash 'R-Link 2' touchscreen, there to bring a touch of Tesla to this humble family MPV. In the second row, you'll start to appreciate some of the benefits of buying five-seat MPV, rather than the sort of 5-seat Crossover model you might have had for similar money. That kind of car would give you the same sort of basic rear bench you'd get on any conventional family hatchback, perching the unfortunate middle rear passenger on some hard and narrow piece of bulging foam with legs astride a central transmission tunnel. Here, in contrast, you get a far more comfortable arrangement, with proper space for three adults, decent headroom (even with the optional panoramic glass roof fitted) and an opportunity to stretch your legs.
And the boot? A little surprisingly, Renault didn't follow the trend in offering buyers an optional powered tailgate, but this one's fairly light to lift and raises to reveal a big square aperture and a reasonably low load sill that sits flush with the boot floor. If you need more space, you can drop the base panel to a lower position, which contributes to a 572-litre total cargo capacity with the back seats still in use. If you need more room, you can of course push forward the rear seats - and do so very easily providing you've avoided entry-level trim, thanks to the 'One-Touch' electric folding system that works either via provided buttons.
What to Look For
Most MK4 Scenic owners we came across were pretty satisfied, but inevitably, some issues were thrown up by our survey. We came across a number of glitches with the R-Link2 infotainment and sat nav system - things like out-of-date maps and issues with DAB drop-out. examine for flaking of paint on the bumpers and check that the air conditioning works and that the pixels on the centre display are all good. Also check for rear bumper scrapes. Also check that the Bluetooth pairs reliably with your phone handset. Whatever variant you're looking at, check tyres, exhausts and front suspension alignment carefully and try to establish if the previous keeper was diligent in the car's upkeep. Look for parking scratches on the alloys and evidence of child damage on the interior plastics and upholstery. All of these issues are common and could give you scope for price negotiation.
(approx based on a 2017 Scenic 1.5 dCi ex VAT) Day to day consumables for the Grand Scenic are in line with what you'd expect. An oil filter is around £5-£11. A pollen filter is around £19-£25. Front brake discs sit in the £92-£103 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £54 to £35 bracket for a set; rears are £12-£55. A water pump is around £45-£77. A thermostat is in the £13-£78 bracket. A wiper blade will cost around £14. A headlamp is around £272.
On the Road
You wouldn't normally approach a drive in an MPV with much enthusiasm, but with its big 20-inch wheels and purposeful demeanour, this MK4 Scenic promises to be a bit different. In reality, there's nothing particularly enjoyable on offer here, but body roll through the bends is pretty well controlled, aided by the stiff, sophisticated 'CMF' platform this Renault rides upon. And the electrically-assisted steering is precise and direct, even if it doesn't offer up a great deal of feel. As for the ride, well yes, it is quite firm, but no more so than it would be in a rival Ford C-MAX or Volkswagen Touran that would roll on much smaller rims. That's an impressive achievement Renault says has been made possible by the adoption of special 107mm high profile tyre sidewalls that are exactly the same as those you'd find used on 17-inch wheels.
The engines on offer were largely carried over from the previous generation model. Most buyers will choose the entry-level 1.5-litre dCi 110bhp diesel, which is offered with either manual or EDC automatic transmission. As an option, this powerplant could originally be ordered in 'Hybrid Assist' form, in which guise the dCi unit was 'Assisted' by a 48-volt battery topped up by energy recovery under deceleration and braking. That can lead to efficiency improvements of up to 10%, though even in standard spec, the 1.5-litre diesel is quite frugal, capable of 70.6mpg on the combined cycle and 104g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). You won't get anything like that if you opt for either of the 1.6-litre dCi diesels - there's the single-turbo 130bhp unit or a twin-turbo 160bhp auto-only model. As for petrol power, well the choice is between 115 and 130bhp versions of Renault's familiar four cylinder 1.2-litre TCe unit. The original engines were replaced by a 1.3-litre TCe petrol and a 1.7-litre diesel in 2018.
Renault's MK4 Scenic was launched to remind us that there was still a place for the traditional five-seat mid-sized MPV in a modern market stuffed with other, more high profile alternatives. It's practical, spacious, efficient and decently equipped, as every car of this kind must be, but in this case, each of these criteria was ticked off with a thoroughness that reminds you just who invented this market sector in the first place.
Fundamental changes were needed to revitalise the appeal of a model of this kind and Renault was braver than all its segment contemporaries in making them. As a result, this fourth generation Scenic showed us that when well executed, a five-seat mid-sized MPV can be as relevant today as it was when Renault first invented this kind of car back in the Nineties.
Renault Scenic (2016 - 2020) review by Jonathan Crouch