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Car reviews - Renault - Scenic - dCi 5-dr people-mover

Our Opinion

We like
Economy storage compartments under floor and seats individually adjustable and side-sliding rear seats safety equipment four one-touch up/down power windows
Room for improvement
Engine coarseness and low-down performance four-speed auto cruise control steering

27 Feb 2008

IF THERE was a greater level of logic and commonsense to the new-car market then more Australian families would be driving around in vehicles like the Renault Scenic instead of contributing to the world’s ills with bigger, thirstier and more polluting SUVs.

And that equation has just become even more stark with the release of a turbo-diesel version that is way more economical and faster, without losing much in terms of refinement – and for less than $2000 more than the equivalent petrol-engined Scenic.

Of course, the Scenic dCi will still not win any awards for dynamic performance, but it is smooth, quiet and comfortable. It also has innovative packaging that you would only expect of a much bigger and more expensive people-mover.

As well as all the usual pockets and cubbyholes, you get substantial compartments located under the driver’s legs, the front passenger’s legs and another pair under the rear passengers’ feet, not to mention side pockets all-round that can hold a full-size drink bottle and a few overhead storage spots as well.

Then there is the sliding centre console/armrest/storage compartment, which quickly and easily moves forward to provide ample legroom when you have a passenger sitting in the middle back seat.

But that’s not the best bit. Underneath all four outboard seats are individual slide-out drawers for even more stuff – so even the kids get their own set of storage compartments in the back, as well as fold-down aircraft-style trays.

The rear seats can also slide fore and aft individually, and can all be removed completely to create a huge cargo area.

Furthermore, the centre rear seat can be removed on its own and the two outboard seats slid sideways slightly inboard to provide wider and more comfortable seating for those times when you only have two passengers in the back. Clever stuff.

And this is all in the base Expression model, which is priced from $33,990 for the five-seat petrol model with six-speed manual gearbox and $37,990 for the new dCi turbo-diesel model with a standard four-speed automatic transmission - prices that are comparable with many compact SUVs.

The 1.9-litre common-rail injected diesel engine is no gem – it is sluggish down low and then gets a bit coarse and thrashy as it gets into its stride mid-range – but you do not get much diesel clatter inside the cabin. What you do get, though, is a bit more road noise than desired.

The steering is also lifeless and the ageing four-speed auto is sluggish by modern standards – and you are reminded of its modest offering of gears by the fact that the dash read-out goes up to six because the auto in the petrol Scenic is a six-speeder.

Comfort in the front is excellent, though, with nice supportive seats and well-placed armrests, while all the accommodation variations in the rear should ensure that your passengers are also happy for long stretches.

And we like the fact that all four electric windows have one-touch operation, both up and down.

However, the cruise control – vital in this day and age – disappointed, not only because it does not brake down hills (not so unusual) and the speed read-out blanks out the tripmeter.

Critically, the cruise control can only be adjusted in 2km/h increments and then (just because it’s French?) randomly misses an increment, so our test vehicle could be set at 100 or 104km/h but nothing in between, revealing a very critical gap for Australian drivers.

Despite these gripes, though, the Scenic dCi was nevertheless an enjoyable conveyance both around town and on country roads. We expect most families would be happy with one.

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