It’s hard not to see the Renault Scenic XMOD as an afterthought. Commendable as the current-shape Scenic MPV was when it arrived on these shores back in 2009, continuing a line of compact MPVs popular in the UK since the mid-Nineties, the cars shipped over had missed a metaphorical boat. Families were hopping out of dumpy people carriers in droves, drawn to the bluff attitude of SUV crossovers like the Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai and Honda CRV.
Renault’s now making up for lost time by offering the Captur crossover, and this faux-off-roader Scenic too. The XMOD sops to go-anywhere utility, but retains all the usual Scenic practicality nowse that’s made it a household name for safe, no-nonsense family transport. Master stroke, or too little too late? Read on for the CAR review.
Is the Renault Scenic XMOD a proper off-roader?
Certainly not. It’s got plastic body cladding, sill guards and chromed roof bars, but there’s not a millimetre of extra ride height, nor any all-wheel drive system. Don’t expect the MOD to be bulk ordering XMODs any time soon, then…
How dare the Scenic XMOD pretend to be a soft-roader!
Hold on – there’s technology at play here. Much like rival Peugeot’s ‘Grip Control’ interface, the Scenic XMOD offers ‘Grip Xtend’. While the Pug offers five settings, here there’s only ‘Road’, ‘Loose Ground’ and ‘Expert’ to choose via the dashboard’s rotary dial. As you’d expect, each trims the Renault’s throttle sensitivity and traction control settings, and despite our cynicism, the differences are actually perceptible on a gravel or rutted dirt track.
How’s the drive?
Our test car sported a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine, developing 113bhp and 140lb ft. Connected to a vague six-speed manual gearbox, it makes rather wheezy, lethargic progress – and the 130bhp version is barely any quicker. Renault promises a not-ambitious 46.3mpg, yet our test car only managed 34.7mpg.
All the more reason, we’d argue, to pump for the 1.5-litre diesel: it’s brawnier, more frugal, with a 68.9mpg claim, and cheaper to tax too. It’s likely to be more nose heavy, but with our petrol test car exhibiting light but numb, disconnected steering, you’re not missing out on any dynamic treats.
But it’s practical, right?
Very much so. The boot offers between 470L and 1870L of space (trouncing a Qashqai buy beaten by the Citroen C4 Picasso) and the cabin feels hardy and up to the job of being a mobile playroom-cum-school bus.
Compared to the touchscreen-centric Citroen, it’s far less arch-modern, but the more conventional approach makes up in usability what it lacks in showroom wow factor – something which could the Scenic in contention for some buyers who prefer utility to party tricks.
At £20,250, the Scenic XMOD costs exactly the same as its regular (non-XMOD) sister – which is just as well, because the tuneable traction control and plastic body addenda isn’t enough to justify a premium.
If you’re after an honest MPV, rather than the arch-funky Renault Captur, the Scenic (regardless of XMOD trim) is still a plausible (if unfashionable) choice. However, Citroen’s C4 Picasso poses a deadly threat for 2014 and beyond, by combining people-carrier commodiousness with a dusting of outside-the-box thinking.