You have to hand it to Renault. After the success of the original Espace, it didn’t sit on its laurels. The Scenic that followed had an even greater impact and had the kudos of being a truly original concept (the Espace owed more than a little something to Chrysler) while the Kangoo was designed as both a van and a car and is a massive success at the budget end of the market. With long wheelbase versions of the both the Espace and Scenic offering even more space, it was only a mater of time before the Modus got “Granded”.
The Modus hasn’t been the hoped for success, has it?
It did well when it was launched in 2004, but it then took the double hit of an increased number of rivals of which several were noticeably roomier. Since the Modus we have had the Meriva, Fiat Idea, and of course, the Modus platform-sharing Nissan Note. Even Ford’s miserable Fusion offers a packaging advantage over the Renault. There’s also the point that this market segment hasn’t taken off in the same way as it did for the Scenic. Even now just on in six supermini sales are mini MPV, with Fiat quietly dropping the Idea from its UK line up.
So how is the Grand Modus different to the regular one?
The big deal here is – no surprise – the extra length. Renault has added 160mm to the body, both by extending the wheelbase and adding more to the back end. But it’s not the anticipated direct lift of the Note’s underbody, for the Modus’s wheelbase is still 25mm less. There’s an extra set of windows along the side behind the rear doors and the tailgate it curvier which also adds to the luggage capacity in the regular Modus, which gets a facelift at the same time.
It’s more practical, then?
Significantly so. Luggage space with all the seats in place is up 50 percent over the short wheelbase car. There’s the same fold the backrest onto the cushion and then fold the whole lot up behind the back seat arrangement for maximum capacity, but there are easier, less physically demanding systems from other manufacturers. Indeed, the seat folding in the new Clio Sport Tourer is much easier and Renault admits that it’s this car that will have more appeal to those wanted to lug stuff around in a small car. Of equal importance is the legroom issue. Sliding rear seats are standard but you can only get the maximum rear legroom in the regular Modus in the optional four-seat configuration. With Grand Modus there’s the space to slide the rear seats right back and still provide room for three in the back.
The concurrent face-lift gives the Modus a new front end with punchier headlights, broader bumpers and that more rounded rear end. Not much but enough to look different. And this is proper MPV driving, with a seating position much higher than a Clio which should, in theory appeal to all those who like the dominant driving position of an SUV but don’t want or like the connotations of a 4x4. Renault’s 100bhp 1.2 turbocharged engine '“economy of a 1.2, power of a 1.4, torque of a 1.6') handles the Grand Modus’s bulk well, though dream on if you think you can achieve all these claimed targets in the same journey. Still, it does cost at least £800 less than the cheapest diesel.
Has Renault finally cracked this mini MPV thing?
It’s not so much Renault, it’s the fact that this sector hasn’t really taken off as expected. It certainly make some sense on paper. A mini-MPV offers almost all of the agility in town and easy parking of a supermini but with a commanding driving position, more space and loads more practicality. The Grand Modus offers all the things you’d expect form a bigger MPV – underseat storage, massive glovebox, easy access – plus clever details like the passenger front seat that flips forward to reveal a well for a handbag. There was never any real doubt that Renault was the real innovator when it came to MPVs, but it’s just that, in this particular sector, there are too few customers.
With just a £600 premium for the Grand Modus over the standard model, there are few reasons not to pick it. Indeed, pricing for the Modus in either form makes it look a bargain alongside a five-door Clio. The short wheelbase Modus is actually cheaper, the Grand just a few pounds more. And it’s a nice car. Not one to provide much in the way of driving entertainment, but it’s decent enough even in that department and thoughtful in most others.