Driving report: Renault Scenic: Change of scenery

Renault continues to focus on converting its model range to SUV shapes and has a new compact crossover in its range from next year, the electric Scenic.

Driving report: Renault Scenic: Change of scenery

Renault continues to focus on converting its model range to SUV shapes and has a new compact crossover in its range from next year, the electric Scenic. First the Megane mutated into an SUV, then the Espace followed and soon the new Scenic will arrive, which has undergone the same transformation. Silhouette, cabin concept, drive type... almost everything is new on this crossover, which was once an offshoot of the Megane family. The Renault Scenic is 27 cm longer, 10 cm wider and 6 cm higher than the Mégane and shines with proportions that are familiar from competitors such as a Volvo XC40 or a Kia e-Niro.

The new Frenchman - running on the variable CMF-EV platform - has two versions to choose from: one with a 60 kWh battery and an engine output of 125 kW / 170 hp and a larger one with 87 kWh and 160 kW / 218 hp . The drive takes place exclusively via the front axle and, somewhat surprisingly, there is no 4x4 version to follow. Both battery packs with nickel/manganese/cobalt chemistry are manufactured by supplier LG Chem and offer a six percent improved energy density compared to the Megane. When the navigation system is active, the battery preconditions itself to reduce charging times. The maximum range of the two battery packs is 425 and 625 kilometers until it goes to the next charging station. However, the maximum charging speed is manageable at 150 kilowatts.

The interior is very similar to that of the Megane - but more airy, which is also due to the fact that the buttons for the driving modes, the on-board ambience and the gear selector lever have been placed on the front of the steering wheel, freeing up the area between the driver and front passenger. The digital instrument screen and the infotainment display are practically the same size (12.3 and 12.0 inches, respectively). The outdated satellite control, which is mounted behind the steering column, appears as a foreign object in this modern interior, as does the lack of a head-up display or the driver's poor rear view. At least a digital interior mirror and a reversing camera help with handling. Better: the comfortable seats with sufficient lateral support. The intuitive Android operating system is also used here, and you quickly get used to the Google functions if you don't already know them.

The space in the second row of seats is very generous: for a 1.80 meter tall rear passenger, an outstretched palm fits between the bent knees and the backrest of the front seats and there is also space over the head up to the inner roof. It is also possible to order a panoramic roof with variable light transmission, which can be more opaque in the first row and more transparent in the second row or vice versa. The numerous shelves and storage spaces with a total volume of 39 liters offer plenty of space. A functional armrest stands out in the second row, with a shelf for smartphones or tablets, two cup holders and two USB-C sockets. The trunk has a capacity of 545 liters, which can be expanded by folding down the rear seats.

The 4.45 meter long front-wheel drive car is anything but a powerhouse, but thanks to 300 Nm of torque you can move quickly. At least up to 170 km/h, because here the urge for action is slowed down all too early. No matter what speed you are traveling at, the steering feels too light and too imprecise, regardless of the driving program selected. While the difference in engine response is clear between the Eco and Comfort programs, there is hardly anything noticeable between Comfort and Sport. The suspension is tightly tuned; an effect that is further enhanced in electric cars by the heavy weight of the battery and promotes stability. This is underlined not least by the optional wheels in the 235/45 R20 format, which compensate for the loss of comfort with advantages when driving in a sporty manner. But with a family model it might be a bit more comfortable.

Another aspect that is not convincing is the response of the brakes. There is hardly any delay in the first quarter of the pedal travel and the right bite only comes after this threshold. In addition, the pedal feel of the stately 1.8-ton Renault Scenic is spongy in its four energy recovery stages. Consumption on the almost 100 kilometer long test route was significantly higher than the French announced: even with a reduced section of the motorway, the journey ended with an average of 22 kWh/100 km, which is well above the 16.8 kWh specified by Renault. Instead of the planned 625 kilometers, there would be just 500 kilometers before it goes to the charging station. Prices for the new Scenic are not yet known, but the version with a 60 kWh battery is expected to cost around 3,000 euros more than the Megane, which means an entry-level price of around 40,000 euros.