The Scenic is decent enough to drive; the diesel cars are the best
Looks fairly smart but the stereo is too fiddly
Decent safety provision includes curtain airbags along the whole cabin and Isofix on the front seat as well as in the back
Sturdy cabin and the Scenic's reliability record is improving
Spacious for occupants and their luggage but not as versatile as it could be
Everything you'd expect
Whichever engine you go for, the Scenic has enough oomph for everyday chores, but for extra punch go for the 128bhp 1.6 turbodiesel. The Scenic's tall body stays nicely upright round corners and it feels well planted on the road. However, it feels jittery at all speeds and you can hear clunks from the suspension when you go over potholes round town, although on the whole the cabin is quiet enough until it gets to 70mph - at which point wind and road noise become noticeable. The steering feels a bit vague but it's light at low speeds, which helps make the Scenic easy to manoeuvre round town.
The Scenic's tall, airy cabin looks pretty smart on the whole and there's lot of adjustment to help the driver get comfortable. Rear visibility isn't great, though, and the system that controls the radio and Bluetooth has poorly marked controls and overly complicated menus.
All five seats provide plenty of head- and legroom, and each of the three rear seats individually slides and reclines suit to each occupant. A flat floor in the rear means the centre rear passenger has plenty of room for their feet (not the case in some rivals), but whether the centre passenger will be truly comfortable depends on their size; the centre seat's two seatbelt buckles don't leave as much space between them as in some cars, and adult passengers may find the buckles dig uncomfortably into their behinds. The same limited space means some child seats won't fit here, either; the booster cushion we tried sat on top of both of the buckles, making them unuseable, though our narrower Group 2/3 high-backed booster seat just about fitted between them. The boot is pretty big, but if you regularly need to carry furniture or other large items, bear in mind that although the rear seat backs fold down, the seats don't fold flat as in more practical rivals; to make more space you need either to tumble the seats forward or, if you want to use every available inch behind the front seats, remove them completely, which is hard work.
The Scenic includes plenty of details intended to make family life easier, including a child-view mirror so you can see what the monkeys are up to in the back; small, high-up pockets for knick-knacks on the back of the front seats; and aircraft-style fold-down tables on the backs of the front seats - though in the models we've tested the fold-down tables didn't fold down enough, so anything placed on them would have slid off, or at least out of reach, and a drink bottle would be tipped forward in its holder, too.
The single trim level, Dynamique TomTom, comes with alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and, as you may have guessed, TomTom sat nav. You get Isofix on each of the three middle-row seats (each with a top-tether point), but they're not as easy to access as in some MPVs as they're positioned too far behind the gaps in the upholstery that they're positioned in, as well as being higher up from the seat base than in many other cars.
Traditionally, Renault doesn't do that well in reliability and customer satisfaction surveys, but in the 2012 JD Power survey the Scenic did okay, and a standard four-year warranty - including free servicing and roadside assistance - brings peace of mind. As far as safety goes, every model includes stability control and curtain airbags for all the side windows.
Competitive manufacturer prices and some good dealer discounts make the Scenic reasonable to buy, while efficient engines and a comprehensive four-year warranty package mean running costs are affordable too, although these have to be weighed against comparatively weak re-sale values.