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Do the digital heating controls over-complicate our Renault Grand Scenic?

Published: 15 November 2017

► Renault Grand Scenic long-term test
► We live with the new zeitgeisty MPV
► ...and put its practicality to the test

Month 7: the digital heating controls in our Renault Grand Scenic long-termer

The climate controls, which are split between screen and dials beneath, are driving me around the bend.

If you want to adjust the temperature, activate the recirculation or demist the screens there are knobs and buttons. But if you want to modify the fan speed or airflow you have to use the on-screen system.

Why not have all these functions grouped together, whether that’s on screen or physically? It’s crazy that this kind of system got the go-ahead in so many modern cars.

By Ben Whitworth


Month 6 living with a Renault Grand Scenic: maximum practicality testing

For a 1601kg bus, the Renault handles pretty tidily.

The steering is grumpy-teenager mute but the front wheels slice readily into corners and decent body control keeps wallow, lurch and float in check. Entertaining, for the driver at least.

Our Renault Grand Scenic in people-carrying mode

Problem is, when Uncle Klaus, Aunty Mandana and Ava Mae came to visit, squeezing the seven of us on board was tricky, cramped and uncomfortable. A full seven-up test next month.

By Ben Whitworth

Logbook: Renault Grand Scenic

Engine: 1600cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 128bhp @ 4000rpm, 236lb ft @ 1750rpm  
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive  
Stats: 11.4sec 0-62mph, 118mph 119g/km CO2  
Price: £28,445 
As tested: £31,080  
Miles this month: 2114
Total miles: 8439
Our mpg: 46.1
Official mpg: 61.4
Fuel this month: £241.75
Extra costs: £0


Month 5 with a Renault Grand Scenic: cycling, followed by spin cycling

As well as swallowing squabbling children, moulting dogs and endless gardening trugs of cut grass with ease, the rear of the Grand Scenic is also large enough to accommodate the Black Beauty – my gossamer-light carbonfibre Merida road bicycle.

I don’t have to part-dismantle it and remove the front wheel every time I want to head out for a leg-jellying slog over the South Downs. I simply flip open the boot (not forgetting to curse at how effectively its rubberised release button attracts road dirt and transmits it to my fingers), press the seat-folding button in the boot to drop the second and third rows, watch all five seats flip down flat in a deeply pleasing orchestrated sequence and then simply slide in the bike. Genius.

Cycling nirvana: our Grand Scenic plays riding support vehicle

I’ve already reported on how tricky and erratic the Renault’s key can be when it comes to entry and exit, but there’s no doubting the key’s build integrity. I inadvertently put it through a hot wash cycle this month, only realising it was still in the pocket of my jeans and rotating at 600rpm when I needed to collect one of my daughters from a friend’s house. An hour later, I nervously plipped the now squeaky-clean fob and... open sesame. Tres bien!

By Ben Whitworth

Logbook: Renault Grand Scenic

Engine: 1600cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 128bhp @ 4000rpm, 236lb ft @ 1750rpm  
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive  
Stats: 11.4sec 0-62mph, 118mph 119g/km CO2  
Price: £28,445 
As tested: £31,080  
Miles this month: 998
Total miles: 6325
Our mpg: 45.5
Official mpg: 61.4
Fuel this month: £117.40
Extra costs: £0


Month 4 living with a Renault Grand Scenic: witless keyless entry

Renault Scenic key

This month, a gripe about the Scenic’s key. It’s one of those fob-style units – slim, credit card-sized and made from tough plastics – that together with the dash-mounted start button entirely does away with a physical key. 

As you approach the car, the mirrors unfold and the lights illuminate. But then you go to open the door, and nine times out of 10, you have to pull at the handle three or four times before the Scenic reluctantly unlocks itself. It doesn’t get any less infuriating. 

The proximity sensor is also far too sensitive – if I get out of the car and walk around to its other side, the doors will lock and imprison any passengers. Cue further frantic tugging at the door handles to reopen the car. 

By Ben Whitworth

Logbook: Renault Grand Scenic

Engine: 1600cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 128bhp @ 4000rpm, 236lb ft @ 1750rpm  
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive  
Stats: 11.4sec 0-62mph, 118mph 119g/km CO2  
Price: £28,445 
As tested: £31,080  
Miles this month: 2003
Total miles: 6559
Our mpg: 47.1
Official mpg: 61.4
Fuel this month: £90.14
Extra costs: £0


Month 3 living with a Renault Grand Scenic: five reasons to love it

Renault Grand Scenic dashboard 2017

Fine view

All that goldfish-bowl glass means superb visibility – up to a point. The combination of narrow rear screen and a wiper that fails to clear the top quarter of the glass means the rear-view reversing camera is vital. It's a similar story with the front screen – yes, it's vast, but in wet weather the driver's wiper stops four inches short of the A-pillar to create a spot perfect for hiding oncoming cyclists and motorbikes.

Slick interface

That screen looks great, and it's big and crisp like a good poppadom. Once you get your head around its over-wrought menu system, it's intuitive. The sat-nav is fast to react, and the split-screen layout means plenty of useful info. Downsides include splitting functions between analogue and digital – for example you adjust temperature using dials, but tweaking airflow means going into two menus.

Fine for five

As the owner of a new Seat Alhambra – you know, the boxy one with the sliding rear doors – I feel well placed to pass judgement on the Renault's people-carrying qualifications. As a five-seater the Grand Scenic excels. The seats are superbly comfortable, there are generous levels of lounging space, oddment storage capacity is plentiful and the boot is cavernous. But the two third-row seats are small, cramped and best reserved for children who need ferrying short distances. A full seven-seater? I'll take the Alhambra.

Got gear

Some of the equipment is worth its weight in gold; some of it, well, not so much. The standard-fit, full-length glass roof is a joy, flooding the cabin with light. And when it connects to my iPhone the £500 Bose stereo is outstanding. On the downside the driving modes seem gimmicky – a sports exhaust note on a 1.6-litre diesel bus? 
Pur-LEASE.

It goes well

Initial get-up-and-go from the 130bhp 1.6-litre diesel is laid-back at best, but once it's up and running the 1601kg Renault cruises along at a decent clip. Steering is lifeless but quick and direct, so you can point the big Renault accurately into corners with a surprising lack of arm-twirling. The ride quality is relaxed and languid but on broken blacktop, those big 20-inch wheels make for jittery progress.

By Ben Whitworth

Logbook: Renault Grand Scenic

Engine: 1600cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 128bhp @ 4000rpm, 236lb ft @ 1750rpm  
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive  
Stats: 11.4sec 0-62mph, 118mph 119g/km CO2  
Price: £28,445 
As tested: £31,080  
Miles this month: 2003
Total miles: 4556
Our mpg: 45.9
Official mpg: 61.4  
Fuel cost overall: £258.62
Extra costs: £110


Month 2 living with a Renault Grand Scenic: pothole woes hit our MPV

Renault Grand Scenic 2017 long-term tyre bulge

I hit a nasty pothole, resulting in the sidewall of the Grand Scenic's driver-side front tyre bulging horribly.

My nearest Renault dealer in Portsmouth wasn't answering its phones that day and the local Kwik Fit wanted a steep £161 and a week-long wait for a new Goodyear Efficient Grip 195/55 R20.

Eventually mytyres.co.uk came up trumps at £96 with a 48-hour delivery. ATS Euromaster took 25 minutes to fit the tyre and balance the wheel for £14. The council repaired the hole the same day.

By Ben Whitworth

Check out all Renault cars for sale

Logbook: Renault Grand Scenic

Engine: 1600cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 128bhp @ 4000rpm, 236lb ft @ 1750rpm  
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive  
Stats: 11.4sec 0-62mph, 118mph 119g/km CO2  
Price: £28,445 
As tested: £31,080  
Miles this month: 1626
Total miles: 2553
Our mpg: 46.4
Official mpg: 61.4  
Fuel cost overall: £124.43  
Extra costs: £110 (tyre)


Month 1 living with a Renault Grand Scenic: welcome!

Renault Grand Scenic 2017 long-term welcome

This is the fourth Renault I’ve run as a long-term test car over the last decade or so, and it couldn’t be more different from those that went before it. The first was the brilliant Clio Trophy in 2005, followed by the effervescent Renaultsport Twingo in early 2009, with the idiosyncratic Laguna Coupe arriving a year later. And now a Grand Scenic sits on my driveway.

The pioneering Espace may have blazed the MPV trail, but it was Renault’s smaller and more affordable Scenic that truly ignited the family MPV market when it made its debut 20 years ago. Yup, the Scenic arrived in 1996 – that made me feel a bit old, too.

Drawing heavily on Anne Asensio’s sci-fi concept from the 1991 Frankfurt motor show, the Megane Scenic multi-purpose vehicle became the car we all suddenly needed.

When the second-generation Scenic bowed in six years later it introduced us to the larger seven-seat Grand Scenic. With its longer wheelbase and two extra child-sized foldaway rear seats, it allowed Renault to thumb its nose at the seven-seat Zafira and plug the gap between the smaller Scenic and top-dog Espace.

Has the new Renault Scenic reinvented the MPV?

Today’s Grand Scenic looks to have taken a huge leap forward in terms of design and desirability. I love the way this car looks. Its creased and curved sheet metal, glossy-black glassed roof, technically intriguing lights and huge 20-inch alloys all cohesively work together to create concept car looks on the high street.

Renault’s design boss Laurens van den Acker and his team have done an outstanding job of adding a healthy dash of sleek SUV coolness to the prosaic job of lugging about families. 

At 4634mm long, 1866mm wide and 1655mm high, the Grand Scenic lives up to its name, but the fast roofline, high shoulders and heavily sculpted flanks do a great job of camouflaging the Renault’s bulk, making it look taut and sleekly desirable.

Renault Grand Scenic cabin

There are 18 models in the Grand Scenic’s UK line-up, and we’ve shied away from the top-spec Signature variants and opted for a mid-range Dynamic S Nav. We said non to the sluggish 110bhp and the auto-only 160bhp dCi diesel engines and chose the mid-range 1.6-litre 128bhp dCi, hooked up to a manual six-speed gearbox – we’re promised 61.4mpg, 119g/km CO2, 118mph and a leisurely 11.4-second stroll to 62mph. 

All in, that’s £28,445. If that strikes you as a bit punchy, then cast your eye down the list of standard equipment: those massive intricate alloy wheels, full sunroof, dual-zone climate control, head-up display, numerous alphabets of acronymed safety features that will do their best to cocoon you from the scenery, electric everything, programmable driving modes and a sophisticated infotainment system are all standard features. Bon.

To this we’ve added £545 worth of Sky Blue metallic paint; full LED headlamps at £500, the £500 Premium Parking Pack that adds hands-free parking, 360-degree parking sensors and blind-spot sensors; the £500 Premium Safety Pack with adaptive cruise control, Safe Distance Warning and Active Emergency Braking System; and the £500 Bose upgrade that includes seven speakers, a subwoofer and a digital amp. Last on the options list was a £90 emergency spare wheel, for a total of £31,080.

I feel well placed to critique the Grand Scenic. Our family car is a Seat Alhambra, which within my modest motoring budget I truly believe to be The Best Family Car In The Word. It’s boxy and big, sure, but it has seven full seats, a huge boot, cavernous interior, an acceptably decent performance-parsimony ratio, plenty of safety and entertainment trinkets, and – here’s the knockout feature – sliding rear doors. You’ll know the advantage if you’ve ever tried to shoehorn a large family car into a minuscule parking space and then extract children from the rear seats without bruised offspring or scuffed doors. The Alhambra’s flush sliding doors make entry and egress in even the tightest of spaces a doddle. Conventionally hinged doors? Who needs ’em?

As any parent knows, when your daily drive has to deal with children, dogs, bicycles, the school run, DIY projects, trips to the tip and the odd camping holiday, its strengths and weaknesses shine through very quickly. The Alhambra undertakes every task with unruffled aplomb. 

So can this slinky French interloper with its chic metalwork, supercar-size wheels and funky cabin layout handle the melee of family life? The next six months will be telling.

More Renault reviews by CAR magazine

We opted for the £500 Full LED Headlamps on our Renault Grand Scenic

How we specced our Renault Grand Scenic

£500 Full LED Headlamps (above)
High-tech LED lights on a mid-range family lugger? For £500? Excellent value from Renault.

£500 Bose Pack
Pumping seven-speaker Bose audio system complete with digital amp and subwoofer. Shakes our windows.

£500 Parking Pack Premium
Combines kerb-friendly hands-free parking, 360-degree parking sensors and blind spot warning.

£500 Safety Pack Premium
Bundles together Active Emergency Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control and Safe Distance Warning

Logbook: Renault Grand Scenic, Dynamique S Nav dCi 130

Engine: 1600cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 128bhp @ 4000rpm, 236lb ft @ 1750rpm  
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive  
Stats: 11.4sec 0-62mph, 118mph 119g/km CO2  
Price: £28,445
As tested: £31,080  
Miles this month: 927  
Total miles: 927  
Our mpg: 45.76  
Official mpg: 61.4  
Fuel cost overall: £124.43  
Extra costs: £0

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

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