2008 Renault Scenic Expression Review

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2008 Renault Scenic Expression dCi Review & Road Test

Incredibly versatile, remarkably innovative and supremely practical.

Innovative & Flexible Interior, Good Fuel Economy, Safe Family Motoring

Vague Steering Feel, Average Four-Speed Auto, Coarse Engine Too Slow Down Low

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- by Matt Brogan

Take a family vacation to Europe and you're pretty much guaranteed one thing - the car rental company will hand you the keys to a Scenic - it's one of those unwritten rules.

Scenics are prevalent through out the EU, as popular as that blonde from high school with the big, umm... personality, but why is it so? Well it's because the Europeans have caught on to an idea we seem to have lost in the 80s which is that a convenient and practical family vehicle doesn't necessarily have to equal owning a cumbersome SUV.

There's good reason for this. European registration, insurance and fuel costs are frightening in comparison to ours, and space (especially for parking) is a lot more limited, so getting the most from your family car isn't all about keeping up appearances. It's about being sensible, practical and responsible in terms of your budget. This is where the Scenic excels.

To me at least Scenic looks like a Megane (which it is based upon) after a course of steroids, or that lanky kid who grew too quick, but what it is in reality is a car that has been built from the inside out, foregoing some of it's beauty to make for an incredibly versatile, remarkably innovative and supremely practical family vehicle.

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It's a smooth and rather quiet ride, the seating is comfortable and furthermore it can be rearranged in seemingly endless combinations to suit just about any formation you should require. Both front and rear seats slide fore and aft, and the outboard rear seats can also slide slightly inboard (with the centre seat removed) to make things a little more roomy if you're only carrying four passengers.

The centrally mounted instrument panel, which is both practical and rather funky, does feel as though it may be aimed at the passenger seat in a remaining effort from Scenic's left hand drive birth, as have the windscreen wipers (notice the vertical side finishes in front of the passenger). I'm also not a fan of the horrid plastic steering wheel.

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It's a great idea and fits well in your pocket or purse. The capless refuelling system consists of a stiffly sprung stainless steel valve and large rubber grommet which have eliminated the need for a screw type cap.

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There's not too many vehicles I can think of with this level of versatility and thought for clever and convenient stowage of your stuff, though the tail gate (especially the latch) doesn't allow much head room, and I'm 5'8"! If the internal storage room isn't enough, you can also option roof racks and a 1,000kg (braked) tow pack!

Although you're not likely to win any races, the Scenic's performance is quite adequate for its intended role and is a capable cruiser with the fuel economy of a small hatch back. ADR tests claim 7.1L / 100km (combined average) though my week with the Scenic saw slightly heavier usage at 8.0L.

The speed proportional power steering is reasonably quick to respond at car park speeds but unlike the Megane seems to lack any real feel at speed. It's not terrible, but by the same token is far from perfect.

The suspension carries lateral loading quite well and although there's a little body roll (as you'd probably expect), the handling is manageable, compliant, and provides little in the way of losing its personality when fully loaded - something not too many people movers can attest to. You will however notice a little understeer and the vehicle is susceptible to cross-winds at highway speeds.

Braking is strong, and loaded with electronic kit (Bosch 8.0) to keep things safe, but to me the pedal feel lacks uniformity and seems to present itself differently at each application. Nonetheless Scenic stops with little fuss and I'd dare say will out-brake most rivals.

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On the safety front all you really need to know is that it's a Renault. That should mean enough, but in case it doesn't then let me fill you in. Renault has more five-star NCAP cars in their showroom than any other manufacturer, and of course the Scenic is one of them.

Seat Belt Pretensioners with Load Limiters (and ISOFIX Preparation for booster seats and capsules) and adjustable head restraints all help keep you safe in your seat where the cabin's smart design can do its best to protect you should something nasty happen.

ESP featuring understeer control is standard and also comes with traction control and engine torque overrun regulation which stops the driven wheels from locking when throttle pressure is released when slowing on wet roads.

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How does it go:

  • Engine: 1870cc four-cylinder OHC common rail eight valve turbo diesel
  • Power: 96kW @ 4,250rpm
  • Torque: 250Nm @ 1,600rpm
  • Driven Wheels: Front
  • Top Speed: 190km/h
  • 0-100km/h: 11.3 seconds
  • Safety: ABS; BA; EBD; ESP; TCS; Front, Side & Curtain Airbags
  • ANCAP Rating: Five Star
  • Turning Circle: 10.7 metres
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
  • Fuel Consumption : 7.1 litres / 100km (ADR combined average)
  • Fuel Type: Diesel
  • Wheels: Steel 16" x 6.5" (with full size spare)
  • Weight: 1,438kg (Tare)
  • Towing Capacity: 1,000kg (Braked)
  • Warranty: 3 years / 100,000kms