Families will enjoy the Scenic, writesGRAHAMSMITH
FINDING the best transport for your family has always been difficult. Once there was the stationwagon, until it became better known as a rep’s car. Then there was the four-wheel drive, until most of us worked out it was too expensive to run and often wasn’t big enough anyway and, of course, there was the people-mover, which felt like driving a van.
Family transport has never been cool, at least not until carmakers realised there was a need for cars capable of carrying a family while being safe and appealing.
The Renault Scenic is one of these. It will swallow a family, it isn’t huge and unwieldy to drive and, being based on a Renault passenger car platform, has decent road manners.
THE Scenic was a runaway success when launched in Europe in 1996 and in no time at all imitations were everywhere.
It was essentially an upright-styled miniwagon built on a sedan platform.
Inside, the Scenic really came into its own. With a flexible, and adaptable seating arrangement it could accommodate five, or seven in three rows of seating that could be split and folded, even removed, to suit the number of people who needed to be transported and the gear to go along with them.
It was sensible transport, but with a touch of French flair to take some of the edge off it.
At launch power was delivered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine putting out 79kW and 148Nm, but this was replaced in 2003 by a 2.0-litre unit developing 101kW and 188Nm.
It could be linked to a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto, with drive through the front wheels. A high-riding 4x4 model had all-wheel drive.
Renault offered three levels of equipment and all models had plenty of standard features.
The base Expression had airconditioning, power windows and mirrors, central locking, tilt-adjustable steering wheel and height- adjustable driver’s seat, trip computer and a chilled storage compartment.
Add climate-controlled airconditioning, a CD player, leather and alloys and you had the Dynamique. At the top of the range the Privilege had remote central locking, rear sunshade and a central armrest.
In a 2002, roof rails were introduced on all models, and twin sunroofs on the Privilege.
ON THE LOT
START the Scenic journey with the Expression at $8500-$17,500, move on to the Dynamique at $9500-$20,000, and complete the trip in the Privilege at $10,000-$22,000.
The 4x4 can be had from $11,000-$18,500.
IN THE SHOP
BEFORE buying any Renault, check where you can get it serviced, and it’s worth finding out how competent they are, perhaps by talking to an existing customer. Renault isn’t well serviced by dealers outside the main cities and it’s important to know those wielding the spanners really know the make.
Too many owners report having serious engine damage because the cam-timing belt has snapped while they’re driving.
The Scenic’s interior tends to wilt under the Australian sun so look for signs of wear and tear on the trim and broken or buckled plastics.
IN A CRASH
THE Scenic has front and side front airbags for both occupants. Anti-lock brakes were standard, along with electronic brakeforce distribution for added safety under braking.
AT THE PUMP
THE 2.0-litre engine is economical in general use, so expect to get 8.0-9.5 litres for 100km, depending on the type of driving.
DANIEL Hale bought his 2001 Scenic 4x4 18 months ago and enjoys it very much. The handling is great, no matter the quality of the road, and the 4WD is good for light off-road work. Though the 2.0-litre engine won’t win any speed contests, he has pulled a laden trailer with no problems. It is roomy and he likes the ability to individually pull out the back seats.
He says it gets 8.2 litres/100km on the highway and 9.2 litres/100km in town. The cam belt once snapped after being incorrectly installed and the engine had to be rebuilt. Apart from that, there have been few mechanical problems and it’s now done 170,000km.
THE BOTTOM LINE
ROOMY interior with flexible seating makes the Scenic ideal family transport.
Family friendly: the Scenic looks good and transports up to seven people in comfort — and (below) the high-riding all-wheel-drive model.