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Renault Scenic

Broadcast date : 18th April 2004

Renault's Scenic pioneered the mini-MPV class here in South Africa six years ago and despite very conservative looks its practicality saw it establish Renault as a major player in the family car market, backed up by the strong success of the youth-orientated Clio hatch.

Now with Scenic II breaking cover, Renault's direct competitors must be shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot: the new Renault MPV can build on the runaway success of the radically-styled Megane hatch, and there is no mistaking the common styling themes enjoyed by the two cars.

The distinctive rear end of the Megane hatch was initially quite something to wrap your head around, but familiarity in this case has bred deep content for thousands of people out there. The Scenic II also has "the look" but it is softened ever so slightly with gentler lines to the tail lamps and boot-lid accent, giving the people-mover a more sober look.

To bring out the best in the new Scenic design, it needs to be finished in one of the brighter colours in the Renault range. The examples on the launch ranged from white through solid reds to metallics in gold and green, and our least favourite was the grey-charcoal example, which gave the Scenic II a very pedestrian appearance. The bright metallics are best at accenting the dramatic styling, and in this line of thinking, so are the alloy wheels fitted to the top Privelage trim levels.

To get the Scenic range in clear perspective, it helps to know that it is offered in three trim levels, with three engine choices.

The Authentique 1.6 16V is the base model and comes only with the petrol 1,6-litre motor developing 83 kW. This motor has variable valve timing to produce good mid-range torque and even at Dullstroom's altitude of above 2 000 metres and three people plus luggage on board, the 1,6-litre acquitted itself well in the overtaking department.

The Authentique model lacks some of the novel features of the more expensive models in the range but nevertheless is well equipped with air-conditioning, a CD/RDS radio with remote control rain-sensitive windscreen wiping which proved invaluable in Mpumalanga over the weekend past. It also has a massive glovebox linked to the air-con system to keep things cool. Frontal and lateral airbags are provided for the driver and front passenger, while curtain airbags provide side protection front and rear.

The Authentique is identified quickly by its black door handles and mirrors, grey protection mouldings and rather plain hubcaps on 15-inch steel wheels.

The Expression is the next trim level up, and this comes with both the 1,6-litre petrol and the excellent 1,9-litre dCi turbodiesel motor.

The 1,6 petrol motor is offered in Expression form with the five-speed manual fitted to the base model or a four-speed automatic 'box. The diesel version comes only with a six-speed manual.

The relaxed gait of the diesel lets you appreciate the attributes of the new Scenic to best advantage. Most noticeable from a driver's point of view is that the Scenic II's wider track and lengthened wheelbase offer improved high-speed stability, and speed is all too easy to achieve in this Renault.  We noticed the new digital speedo creeping above the 150 km/h mark all too often without trying to hustle things at all.

All the new Scenic models offer increased leg room thanks to a wheelbase of 2 685 mm, while headroom in front is more generous, as is elbow room thanks to the wider body. Rear headroom is a little on the low side for tall passengers, thanks to that sloping rear roof line.

All the models have had lots of attention paid to stowage and convenience for long journeys. There are four underseat drawers, two underfloor compartments for stowing important items and various pockets and boxes in the doors, armrests and in the 430 litre boot. And the rear seats can be individually removed, tumbled up against the front backrests or folded flat.

The Expression trim level offers the fold-down front passenger seat which transforms into a table, as well as the sliding function for the outward rear seats, one-touch electric window lifts and lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat.

The Expression models still come with the steel wheels as standard, although the 1.9 dCi diesel can be ordered with 16-inch alloys.

The Expression is otherwise identified by colour-coded door handles and mirrors on the flanks and attractive metal-look "gunflint" impact strips on the front and rear bumpers.

The top two models in the range are the Privelage 2.0 16V six-speed manual and four-speed automatic. Like the 1,6-litre Expression auto, the 2,0-litre auto also employs sequential "flick shift" gear-changing if so desired.

The two-litre petrol motor is the new-generation high torque 16V already seen in the Megane range. It develops a fairly modest peak output of 98,5 kW at 5 500 r/min, but it offers impressive torque which is ideal for an MPV. There is 191 Nm on tap at 3 750 r/min and Renault claims as much as 170 Nm from 2 000 r/min upwards

In addition to the Expression trim levels, the Privelage comes standard with 16-inch alloys or 17-inch alloys as an option, while gunflint side mouldings and chrome door handles identify the top models further. The interior is finished in a combination of cloth and leather, while the steering wheel and gear knob are leather bound.

There is also electronic climate control, speed control, electrically foldable wing mirrors and an opening tailgate window.

Listing all of Renault's innovations is not easy in a report of this size, but it is worth mentioning the new automatic parking brake. This is located on the dash to the right of the steering wheel and consists of a combination button and pull-lever. It is a one-action operation to secure the brake, and when pulling away it is automatically released as soon as forward motion is detected. This you have none of the roll-back angst you get with a Mercedes, for instance when pulling away on an incline.

Pricing for the Scenic is very competitive, as Renault has made a big effort to hold its pricing down for this new model which offers a lot more than its predecessor. All Scenic II's come with a three-year/60 000 km maintenance plan as standard, a three-year 100000 km warranty, while service intervals are 15 000 km for the petrol models and 10000 km for the 1.9 dCi

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