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Renault Scenic 1.6 review (1999-2003)
Engine: 1.6 in-line 4-cyl
Fuel Type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of Test: June 2002
What is it?
The original mini-MPV. Renault invented the MPV class with the Espace back in ’85, so it was only natural that the French giant should invent yet another sector 11 years later with the Scenic. Based on the company’s family hatchback, the Megane, comes in a single bodystyle, and offers various petrol and diesel engine options. The mid-range 1.6-litre petrol powerplant offers a well-rounded mix of performance and economy.
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Where does it fit?
Renault’s Espace and Grand Espace cater for those seeking the ultimate people carrier, with the Scenic focusing more on the family man or woman. Unlike Vauxhall’s Zafira and Honda’s Stream, it doesn’t offer a seven-seat option. Renault argues that most people really only use five individual seats, and an extra two would be an expensive waste. The Scenic is one of the market’s most keenly-priced models, though there are more expensive variants, and even a semi off-roader’ model, the RX4. The popular 1.6-litre model is the middle ground in the Scenic world.
Is it for you?
Renault’s bewildering line-up of models means there’s bound to be a trim to suit, even if it may take a while to discover it. All Scenics possess the same neat styling, passenger-friendly interior and generous standard spec, though. The 1.6-litre engine is no fireball but does the job, while the multi-function front and rear seats make it a true ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, which can be used to carry both passengers and large loads at the flick of a lever.
What does it do well?
The Scenic may be getting on a bit, but it still rides very well, ensuring a comfortable ride for passengers. They’ll also enjoy a versatile interior, with comfortable seats and plenty of equipment; space is generous – and unlike larger MPVs, you get a generous boot too. Equipment levels are extensive, with even base models containing all the essentials, while the 1.6-litre engine range offers you the chance to go as opulent as your budget allows.
What doesn't it do well?
Age manifests itself in greater levels of road, engine and wind noise than rivals, and in a driving position that, even allowing for the inevitable MPV compromises, is awkward – the steering wheel, pedals and controls all seem out-of-kilter and oddly-angled. The dash is looking dated too, even though the rest of the interior remains a lesson in practicality. Really, it’s just a little dated overall, with more modern rivals showing how the game has moved on over the past few years.
What's it like to live with?
The Scenic is a friendly, happy car which owners seem to enjoy driving, despite its compromises. Renault dealers are a reasonable bunch too, though servicing could be tricky as they’re said to be struggling to cope with demand; luckily, service intervals are long. Fuel economy is good from the 1.6-litre engine and insurance should be cheap for this mid-range model. And although this is a mass-market Renault, depreciation is also a little better than average, too – certainly more impressive than the Megane saloon it’s based upon.
Would we buy it?
We like the Scenic, but there’s no avoiding the signs of ageing. If you’re in the market for a good-looking mini-MPV which is easy to drive and jam-packed with equipment, we’d understand why you’d be attracted to it. However, against the excellence of Vauxhall’s Zafira and Honda’s underrated Stream, the Scenic’s cracks are beginning to show, and there’s new model only just around the corner. But, bearing all that in mind, strike a good deal and it’ll make a cheerful family car.
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