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Renault Grand Scenic 2.0 dCi 160 Dynamique review

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The new Renault Grand Scenic is more spacious, better equipped, with higher quality; it's safer, more recyclable and cheaper to run than the previous versions. If those reasons to buy don't impress cost conscious families - nothing will.

With the British re-finding reasons to stay at home for their holidays, the horribly named 'staycation', there is more reason to opt for a versatile and well equipped family vehicle where comfort and space are priorities and good looks desirable. Not just for holidays but for everyday life as well.

The new Renault Grand Scenic is a seven seat, five door, medium sized MPV with prices now starting from £15,795 and wide ranging up to a high £24,245 due to the comprehensive range of petrol and diesel engines and because there is a very wide choice of trim and equipment levels, plus lots of extra cost options as well.

The French are good at MPVs, Peugeot and Citroen have loads of them as do Renault who offer the box shaped but practical Kangoo, the stylish new five seater Scenic, the posh seven seat Grand Scenic and the huge Grand Espace.

Modern families may not need seven seats for everyday use but occasionally the children want their friends to tag along or more likely modern families want four/five seats and lots of load space. The Grand scenic with its three rows of seats does just this.

With seven seats in use there is 208-litres of space, fold away into the floor the rear row and that space increases to 564-litres and because it is a box shape with an upright rear tailgate all the space is useable so the family dog will be happy.

For an active couple fold down the rear two rows of seats and there is a massive 2,063-litres of room for recreational toys and tools. And for good measure the 40 stowage spaces add another 83-litres of space for drinks bottles, snacks, maps, books and family clutter. Just remembering where everything is can be a problem.

This is the second generation Grand Scenic and the third model to be launched in Renault's latest Megane family, following the Hatch and the Coupe. Compared to the previous Grand Scenic the new one is longer (+62mm), taller (+9mm), wider (+26mm) with a longer wheelbase (+34mm).

Increased cabin dimensions ensure more room for everyone on board, with best-in-class space for second and third row passengers say Renault. While the third row of seats fold easily in and out of the floor, the middle row, all individual seats with independent fore and aft slide functions, do not fold completely flat.

So the load floor in the middle of the vehicle is not totally flat and it is also difficult to get these seats in and out of the vehicle should you feel so inclined.

There are currently seven engine options, three petrol and four diesels, ranging from 1.4 to 2.0-litres. All the engines are new or revised to offer generally more power, less CO2 emissions and more mpg.

There are two all new units, the 1.4 TCe (Turbo Control Efficiency) 130 and the 2.0 dCi 160 FAP, plus the recently introduced 2.0 VVT 140 petrol unit with CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) as standard. Renault's first DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) will appear in 2010.

For the tax conscious driver the 1.5 dCi 106 has lowest CO2 emissions of any seven-seat compact MPV, at 135g/km so road tax will cost £120 a year until next April when it drops to £110. Business car users will also like the low 18% BIK charge. Overall the new and revised engines offers savings of 20 to 30% in running costs over the previous ones.

The Grand Scenic has four equipment grades, Extreme, Expression, Dynamique and Privilege but high standard equipment includes; stereo sound system with RDS, CD, and MP3 functions, air conditioning and importantly electronic control stability or ESP.

At the top-of-the-range Privilege offers, dual-zone climate control, electric folding mirrors, rear parking sensors and sliding centre storage unit. There is also a wide range of equipment options, including the debut of the integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system, rear parking camera and adaptable front and rear headrests.

Further options include 17 and 18-inch alloy wheels, Arkamys audio system with six-CD multi-changer, Bluetooth and 3D full colour DVD satellite navigation, electric panoramic sunroof and xenon headlights.

So there is a wide range of engines and equipment levels to suit the family budget or if it's a company provided car the tax burden the driver wants to take on. Generally MPVs do not get changed every three years like a car, they stay in the household longer and so the choice is all about a long term investment that suits the needs for now and in the future.

The Nissan Qashqai, not exactly an MPV but it doubles as one plus it has the styling of an SUV (4x4) even if the majority only have two wheel drive, really resurrected public interest in these types of vehicles and the Renault Grand Scenic offers a really good alternative.

It impressed me with its vastly improved styling, more user-friendly space, certainly its better quality interior trim and the drive has improved. The roadholding is more controlled, less body roll, more front end grip and a firmer but comfortable ride. The steering doesn't offer much feedback to the driver and was very keen to constantly self-centre.

The engine felt strong and responsive in gears up to and including fourth. Fifth and sixth gears are 'tall' ratios to get the best official mpg and lowest CO2 figures, so lots of gear changing is required at mid range speeds.

The electronic instrument display, which includes a digital speedometer, looks good and is easy to read, all adding more reasons that today's MPV isn't just about multiple seating. Pride of ownership and style are important facts for buyers even in these recessionary times.

It doesn't 'shout' family minibus at you and whether the new Renault Grand Scenic is used for business, leisure or pleasure it does a very good job. Expect to see lots of them carrying the kids to school, carrying the Christmas tree and festive shopping, carrying the family on their UK 'staycation' and probably heading for the ski slopes this Winter.

Renault Grand Scenic MILESTONES

Renault Grand Scenic 2.0 dCi 160 Dynamique

Price: £22,045. (£22,405 with TomTom option as tested)

Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbodiesel, 160bhp, 380Nm from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual

Performance: 124mph, 0-62mph 10.1 seconds, 42.8mpg combined cycle, (35.8mpg actual), CO2 173g/km, VED Band H £175, BIK tax 25%

Insurance group: 14

Dimensions/capacities: 7-seats, L 4,560mm, W 2,077mm, H 1,645mm, load area 208 to 2,063-litres

For: Stylish yet versatile, upmarket family transport that doesn't shout 'children carrier' at you, 5-star safety rating, much improved interior quality, good to drive

Against: Recent price increase, middle row of seats do not fold into the floor, rear visibility for parking is difficult, tall fifth and sixth gearing means lots of gearchanging on A/B roads