Grand Scenic has loads of (v)room

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IOL mot pic oct18 Renault Grand Scenic 1

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What it lacks in proper cupholders it makes up for with great sound.

What do mommies want in a van? Space, space and more space. And, if a booming Bose sound system comes as part of the deal, that’s cool, too. Renault’s new top-of-the-line Grand Scenic has both, and more.

I say new, but this version of the French MPV that was launched in May is a facelift. Or, as Renault calls it, Phase II of generation three. It is quite a significant revision, though, including revised bumper and headlight treatments and two new turbodiesel engines. On test here is a flagship Grand Scenic 2.0dCi, which in our market comes standard with Bose sound and is badged that way on the front fenders.

But let’s start with that space. Renault has worked some sort of Alice in Wonderland magic here with packaging, and although it’s quite clearly a minivan on the outside, its exterior panelling offers little indication of how much interior room there is. The front two seats are mounted close to the floor, creating an enormous amount of head space and allowing for the slightly-raised second row to see over the heads of the front-seat occupants. Two sunroofs also add to the light and airy feel when the blinds are retracted, but I kept them closed for fear of death by UV rays.

HUGE LOAD BAY

The second (middle) row of seats get adjustable uppers that can either recline comfortably backwards or fold flat to allow for a huge, panel van-style load bay. This Grand Scenic, in comparison to a normal Scenic, also gets an extended wheelbase and a third row of (two) seats tucked into the floor at the very back; but be warned, these are for emergency use only. Not only do they take up almost every bit of boot space when erect, but they’re extremely small and have virtually no legroom. They are leather though, which I thought was a nice touch.

One complaint, and one that I know moms will agree with, is a lack of cupholders. There are two below the gearlever at the front, but they’re in such a stupid place that you almost can’t see them and they don’t allow for anything taller than a Coke can anyway. I had to prop a McDonald’s cup inside the centre console, where it tipped and spilled. The second row gets holders in two flip-out tray tables, but again they won’t fit a McDonald’s cup.

IOL mot pic oct18 Renault Grand Scenic 2

Two-litre turbodiesel gives the range-topping Grand Scenic punchy performance with reasonable fuel consumption.

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PREMIUM SOUND

This top spec model, as mentioned, gets a Bose premium sound system that is awesome, though it seems possibly out of place in a mommy-mobile. That is, until two of my passengers - fully grown I might add - bickered their way to Dullstroom and back on a weekend away. So Renault, I recommend changing your features list wording from “sound system” to “unwanted noise killing device” because that’s what this item works best as. One flick of the volume knob, and the driver is blissfully transported to Linkin Park or an Oasis or a Hotel in California, or whatever high fidelity place your iPod can take you to.

I also like that Renault included a special acoustic windscreen in this model which keeps wind and road noise down, but I was frustrated with the iPod interface. Track data is displayed on the dashboard’s centralised full-colour screen, but there’s no way to search through music files via the car’s systems and if you want a specific song, you must unplug iPod, find it there, and plug it back in again. Hassle.

NOT A QUIET RIDE

That full-colour, customiseable TFT screen is a nifty feature in itself that gives this MPV a very upmarket feel, and dads will dig it, but I do wonder why its main function is a fast and furious-looking rev-counter while a simple little petrol gauge is positioned off to one side. I’m sure mom would want these swopped around. I doubt her turbodiesel’s revs per minute are high on her list.

She could probably hear the revs anyway, as this isn’t the quietest diesel I’ve ever driven. Perhaps another reason for the Bose influence…

IOL mot pic oct18 Renault Grand Scenic 3

Large full-colour digital display is very Star Trek.

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It is quite strongly powered though, and once past a hint of turbolag there are 110kW and 360Nm to chug mom and six kids aroundeffortlessly. Power is fed through a six-speed automatic transmission that’s nothing fancy by modern standards, but shifts nicely enough for my liking. Our test unit showed a reasonable, if not all that great average fuel consumption of 9.9l per 100km on its trip computer – also displayed in full colour.

Another handy feature in this van, and almost all Renaults today, is a fully-integrated TomTom navigation device controllable by joystick in the centre console. I found it as easy to use as any handheld TomTom, which are known for their user friendliness, but the Live Traffic monitoring feature included as standard, did test my patience a little. It seems that common sense by the driver must still reign supreme when negotiating 5pm traffic, as the TomTom system led me more into than away from it for some reason.

VERDICT

At R380 000 this flagship Grand Scenic is priced towards the upper end of all MPVs sold in our market. There is plenty of value here, with a lengthy standard features list. Almost everything a mom could ask for. Except decent cupholders. - Star Motoring

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