First impressions are good. The Scenic and larger Grand Scenic are both attractive things in the metal and much more imposing than their rivals. There may be hints of SUV about the raised ride height, but the heavily raked screen still screams 'people carrier'.
Getting behind the wheel, the tech-laden interior of our high-spec test car was immediately apparent. Analogue dials have been banished and replaced with TFT displays for speed, engine temperature and fuel level. Scrolling through the five drive modes changes the centre display and the priority of the information displayed. It looks attractive enough but can’t show the variety of information that Volkswagen’s Active Info Display does.
Dynamique S Nav and top Signature Nav trims receive a colour head-up display to project speed, navigation information and other data. It looks good at a standstill but jiggles slightly on the move. It also seems an awful long way down the expansive dashboard.
The top two trims also get R-Link 2, Renault’s 8.7in portrait-orientated infotainment system. You certainly get plenty of functionality, including the ability to fold the rear seats down at the touch of a button. Unfortunately, the menus can be confusing to navigate and slow to respond – switching songs on a Bluetooth device, for example, takes a painfully long time.
The cabin is undoubtedly practical, however. The generous glovebox pops open like a filing cabinet, while between the seats is a cavernous centre console that can be slid backwards and forwards depending on your passengers' needs. Quality is also pretty good; there are cheaper materials but they’re largely in areas you won’t touch that much.
There’s a pair of USB ports and a 12V socket in the cubby under the front armrest, plus the same again on the rear of the unit for those in the back. It’s handy, but sliding the unit to where it works best as an armrest also hides the cupholders for front seat passengers.
Throw in underfloor storage, rear picnic tables for most models and a class-leading boot, and it’s certainly family ready, although three adults will face a squeeze to get on the rear bench, and even two relatively tall grown-ups may struggle for rear leg room.
To drive, the dinky 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine of our test car provides adequate performance two-up but needs working hard in order to cope with overtaking. It does at least remain smooth, even at high crank speeds, and is barely audible at a cruise.
Despite the sizable wheels on which it sits, the Scenic is certainly no worse than the majority of 17in or 18in alloy-shod rivals. It’s no paragon of comfort though; pockmarked urban roads are certainly felt, although the ride becomes more settled at speed. Of course, the French are much better at road maintenance than we are, so our definitive verdict will have to wait until later in the year when we get a right-hand-drive example on UK roads.
As far as handling is concerned, the steering feels precise with little correction required to keep the Scenic in a straight line. You’ll also find it’s easy to work out how much lock you need to get round a corner - there’s no need to take a couple of bites on every bend.
But is it communicative or fun? No, not at all. There’s a fair amount of body roll and the non-switchable traction and stability controls will prevent anything from getting too lairy. The styling might look exciting, but the driving experience will be familiar to the majority of MPV buyers across Europe: safe but ultimately dull.