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Renault ups its game for grander Scenic changes

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Today's new, fourth generation Scenic has more competition, but Renault has upped its game with a sharply designed and bigger vehicle, with increased comfort, more technology and even greater safety.

Not only has the new Scenic qualified for a maximum five-star rating in EuroNCAP tests, it comes as standard with a range of driver aids which means cheaper insurance - its official rating is down by several groups.

It is launched alongside the bigger brother, the new seven-seater Grand Scenic. Prices start from £21,445 for the new Scenic and £23,375 for the seven-seater. Both come with a range of two turbocharged petrol engines and three diesels, ranging in output from 110 to 160PS.

There are also 20-inch wheels (of interchangeable design), giving the overall impression of something a bit sporty rather than the practical family transport which it is.

It should certainly appeal to the driver in a growing family who doesn't want to sacrifice style for one of the more boxy Scenic rivals. It's clearly something Renault has considered in depth. The 20-inch alloys, for example, are shod with full-size tyres which help to cushion the ride, rather than the low profiles you'd normally expect on such big rims.

The new Scenic is 20mm wider and has a longer wheelbase with shortened rear overhang, aiding both driving dynamics and interior space. It can carry five adults in comfort, with a class-leading 572 litres of boot space. That increases to 1,554 with the second row of seats folded.

The Grand Scenic's boot space is slightly limited by the two third-row seats, as is the case with all seven seaters, at 235 litres. But remember you fold one, two or all of the passenger seats and you have the cargo capacity of a reasonable van.

Inside, the cabins of both Scenic and Grand Scenic have an upmarket feel. The fascia is tidy and uncluttered, thanks to a plethora of functions being managed from the smartphone-like central control screen, eliminating the need for a plethora of buttons and switches.

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For example, on higher grade models it includes the controls for the second (and in the case of the Grand Scenic, third) row of seats which can be folded flat at the touch of the button. The controls are also duplicated in the boot.

Those in the back haven't been forgotten, either.

There are seatback storage pockets behind the front seats as well as aircraft-style tray tables, plus a sliding centre console with USB and a power socket at the rear. With just two rear passengers, a centre armrest swivels down from the centre seat.

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Both Scenic and Grand Scenic ride smoothly, soaking up the effects of uneven surfaces, cruising almost effortlessly. They're quiet too, save for a little wind noise over the wing mirrors of the Scenic.

While dynamic handling isn't the raison d'etre of such as a car, both five and seven seaters feel stable and competent, with little body roll through faster corners which add to the relaxing ambience of the cars.

The test car was powered by what is likely to be a popular engine choice, the 1,600cc, 110PS turbo diesel. Acceleration is adequate if not earth-shattering (0-62mph in 12.4 seconds) but most owners will be more than satisfied at the compromise which offers them up to 74.2mpg and a low 100g/km of CO2. That equates to a benefit in kind tax liability of 20 per cent, while its new insurance rating is a low group 11.

The Grand Scenic tested, although heavier, was powered by the same engine uprated to 130PS, which makes its sprint time a second quicker. Fuel economy, though, is still impressive at more than 61mpg with a CO2 rating of 119g/km - pretty tax efficient for a seven-seater.

As with the Clio, there is plenty of opportunities to personalise the Scenic with different trim colours. The centrepiece of the fascia is the seven-inch colour touchscreen controller (8.7-inch on higher grade models) for the multimedia, communications and, where fitted, satnav systems, plus a wide range of car and driver assist systems.

Its use is instinctive for anyone with smartphone experience, and a 'head-up display' - showing current speed and speed limit, plus navigation instructions - is also available.

There are four trim levels, but all models have a comprehensive set of safety systems which include a new active emergency braking system which detects pedestrians as well as other cars. A coloured band - which changes from green to orange to red, serves as an extra reminder to keep for distance from traffic ahead.

A stability system with traction and understeer control is also standard, along with hill start assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic high/low beam lamps are also part of the package.

Automatic dual-zone climate control and a multi-speaker stereo system are also standard along with cruise control, speed limiter, tyre pressure monitor, automatic wipers, electric windows and mirrors.

Renault's dual-clutch automated gearbox is also available, and standard on top of the range models powered by the 160PS version of the 1,600cc turbo-diesel. The petrol options are two versions of the company's proven 1,200cc turbocharged unit, producing either 115 or 130PS of power.

A hybrid version will be available from next year, Renault's engineers and designs have done a good job of producing a sleek and sporty looking car which is actually more family friendly than its predecessors. Its looks belie the fact that it's also 40mm higher, giving driver and passengers more that 'command' driving position so beloved on compact SUV owners.

That's particularly important now as SUV sales are soaring at the expense of MPVs and hatchbacks so Renault is really 'on trend' here.

Both new cars are safer than ever, and competitively priced as well as offering the sort of practicality and flexibility that few rivals can match.

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