But although five seats have been the preferred number of most MPV buyers, the Vauxhall Zafira did well from having the seven-seat sector of the market pretty much to itself, with the petrol-only Honda Stream making little impression in the UK and the five-seater Peugeot 307 SW having a seven-seat option.
But new entrants are after a share in the seven-seat market, with the new Volkswagen Touran offering customers the choice of upgrading to seven seats for free, while the next generation Toyota Corolla Verso will have seven seats as standard.
As the creator of the niche, Renault has responded with the Grand Scenic, complete with three rows of seats, which will go on sale in the UK on April 2.
The Grand Scenic has an extra two inches in the wheelbase over the standard Scenic as well as seven extra inches in the rear overhang.
The extra space accommodates two individual seats in the boot, and tilting one of the outer seats in the middle row accesses the third row. When not in use, the seats fold flat into the floor.
Renault claims that in its seven-seat configuration the Grand Scenic provides the largest luggage space in its class at 200 litres – competitive with many superminis. In five-seat configuration, the luggage volume can be varied from 550-605 litres depending on the position of the second row of seats.
Meanwhile, with the middle row of seats removed, luggage volume increases to a maximum of 1,920 litres, while the maximum load length increases to nine feet with the front passenger seat backrest folded forward.
There are additional storage compartments throughout the cabin, with a total of 104 litres of volume.
The Grand Scenic will be available in four trim levels – Authentique, Expression, Dynamique and Privilege.
All have Renault Card remote central locking and ignition, a trip computer, reach and rake adjustable steering, electric front windows, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, six airbags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and emergency braking assistance.
Air conditioning is available for £500 on Authentique models and is standard from Expression upwards. Expression also adds a CD player, electric rear windows, an electronic parking brake and a chilled glove compartment.
Dynamique models add 16-inch alloy wheels, an alarm and leather-covered steering wheel, while Privilege variants have the hands-free Renault Card, six-CD autochanger, part-leather trim and electrically-folding door mirrors.
Options packs – where a group of options can be selected at a lower price than choosing them individually – include the climate pack (climate control, heat reflecting windscreen and heated seats), comfort pack (electric panoramic sunroof with sun blind, hands-free Renault Card and electrically-folding door mirrors and six-CD changer), convenience pack (parking sensor, sliding centre storage unit and roof bars) and handling pack (electronic stability programme with traction control, understeer control and a tyre pressure monitor). There is also a luxury pack which adds full leather trim, the electric panoramic sunroof and roof bars.
Renault says that the Scenic and Grand Scenic combined offer customers the ability to choose the size of car they want and the possibility of having seven seats if necessary. The company also points to the fact that the Grand Scenic is based on the Scenic which achieved five stars for occupant protection in the Euro NCAP tests.
Renault also believes the Grand Scenic does well compared to its main rivals. A Grand Scenic 1.6 Dynamique priced at £16,113 on-the-road is close to the Vauxhall Zafira 1.6 Design on price at £15,995. However, it offers electric rear windows, side and curtain airbags, an electronic parking brake and alloy wheels.
The Volkswagen Touran 1.6 FSI SE comes close on equipment levels, but is priced at £17,540 on-the-road.
Behind the wheel
THE Grand Scenic disguises its extra length well and its size doesn't really become obvious until it is parked next to a standard Scenic.
Renault is proud of the fact that the Grand Scenic is the seventh body style produced from the Megane platform, but overall the design of the Scenic is less that of an outsize Megane than of a petite Espace.
The interior is very much in the same vein as the Espace, with a wide LED instrument panel and airy cabin. It feels rather different from cars like the Zafira and Touran, which appear more like MPV versions of the hatchbacks that share their platforms – the old Astra and the new Golf.
Renault provided 1.9 dCi versions of the Grand Scenic for testing on a 50-minute route that included motorway and country roads.
At one point, the road was quite twisty for an MPV test and the Grand Scenic drove far better than you would expect for a vehicle of its proportions.
While the feedback from the steering left much to the imagination, body roll was well contained and the car rode smoothly.
The 1.9 dCi engine must be the best diesel available at this level of power output. It is astonishingly quiet, but offers a healthy 221lb-ft of torque as well as nearly 50mpg on the combined cycle.
The extra seat arrangement is hassle-free. They fold flat into the floor when not needed, freeing up a considerable luggage compartment. If adults are occupying the middle row of seats, however, the third row is really for children, although the individual seats in the middle row can slide forward if extra leg room is needed in the rear.
RENAULT was first to the market of the new generation small MPVs with the original Scenic and probably knows more about the sector than any other manufacturer. Now, with five and seven-seat options and a vast range of engines and equipment levels, the company will be a formidable force in the small MPV market.
|Model:||1.6||2.0||2.0T||1.5 dCi||1.9 dCi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||115/6,000||136/5,500||165/5,000||100/4,000||120/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||112/4,200||141/3,750||199/3,250||148/1,900||221/4,000|
|Max speed (mph):||115||122 (auto:118)||130||107||117|
|0-62mph (secs):||12.9||10.9 (12.1)||9.6||14.3||12.7|
|Fuel economy (mpg comb):||38.1||34.4 (32.8)||34.9||53.3||48.7||CO2 emissions (g/km):||177||196 (205)||194||140||154|
|Fuel tank capacity (l/gal):||60/13.2|
|Transmission:||5-sp man||6-sp man||optional 4-sp auto (2.0)|
|Service interval (miles):||18,000|
|On sale:||April 2|