1 May 2001
ARGUABLY one of the most influential vehicles of modern times was the 1996 Renault J64 Scenic – a hatchback-based wagon with a more versatile interior.
It has spawned competitors such as the Mazda Premacy and 5, Daewoo Tacuma, Kia Carens, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Holden Zafira, Ford C-Max, Citroen Picasso, Toyota Verso and VW Touran.
But that was over in Europe. Australians have been less keen to adopt the space and eco-efficient ways of this style of car.
Nevertheless Renault has persisted since May 2001 with the Scenic.
Initially the front-wheel Scenic arrived, in facelifted Series II guise rather than the original ‘pointy nose’ design, in three specification levels, starting with the entry-level Expression, powered by a 1.6-litre 79kW/148Nm four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
The Expression 1.6 only lasted until the end of 2002, when it gained the Dynamique and Privilege’s 101kW/188Nm 2.0-litre engine, offered with a four-speed automatic transmission as well as a five-speed manual option.
All Scenic models come equipped with air-conditioning, remote central locking, refrigerated storage compartments, trip computer, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and dual front, side and curtain airbags.
Lap-sash seatbelts are standard all-round and headrests standard for all outboard passengers.
The Dynamique adds climate control air-conditioning, fog lamps, alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, front armrests and single in-dash CD player for the audio system. The Privilege adds leather seat trim and a rear sunshade.
The 101kW/188Nm 2.0-litre only and five-speed manual-only RX4 was only available in Expression (until July ’02) and Privilege specifications (until July ’04, when the slow-selling model was axed).
Although clearly Scenic derived, the RX4 boasted mechanical changes made to reflect its dual-purpose all-wheel drive nature.
The front MacPherson strut front suspension was strengthened to withstand off-road driving, while the independent trailing arm rear suspension was a new design, replacing the Scenic's torsion bar set-up.
Ground clearance rose to 210mm, the suspension travel lengthened and more off-road oriented 16-inch tyres were adopted.
However, the viscous couple 4WD system did not employ low-range crawler gears, instead relying on traction control on the front wheels to help it tackle obstacles.
Visually the RX4 differs from its donor Scenic with contrasting body cladding and a redesigned tailgate door containing a separate-opening window and spare wheel mount.