POTHOLES are the ultimate car confessional. After the initial impressions of build quality, the first road bump you hit reveals a host of hidden messages about a car’s build quality.
A rattle here or squeak there, or feeling the suspension send the impact crashing through the cabin, all tell an immense amount about a car’s ability to stand up to the test of time.
As part of the Renault Commitment 2009, the French firm is focusing on build quality as part of its renewal programme and if the revised Scenic is an example of what it can achieve, then things are going well.
The Scenic factory in France churned out more than a million Scenic IIs before the revised model arrived in October and continuing to meet this exceptional demand can easily create forced errors in build quality. But the Scenic on test showed no signs of errors creeping in yet.
From the moment you drive off it is clear that Renault is on the button for quality with this car. Road noise is muted and bumps are dispensed expertly, and inside the quieter cabin there were no rattles or squeaks at all which, to be honest, was a pleasant surprise.
The exterior design is an evolution of the last model, but has been updated with a new grille, redesigned front and rear bumpers and new headlights. The rear light clusters are also new, and get LED bulbs.
There is a soft-touch dashboard already seen on the latest Laguna and Clio, and extra soundproofing in the cabin and around the engine bay to provide this quieter experience.
If you leave the children behind, it’s pretty handy on country lanes, as the front tyres grip and pull the car into line effectively, albeit with the body roll you might expect from a vehicle designed to carry people rather than racing drivers.
The 150bhp dCi engine is the new flagship for the range and brings the diesel engines closer to the refinement and rev-happy nature of petrol units. There is still a diesel clatter, but it’s muted inside and outside the car.
Despite the extra power it’s economical; returning a claimed 48.7mpg, but still offering a sub-10 second 0-62mph time.
But the latest keyless entry system is an interesting step backwards, as the car opens automatically as you approach it and doesn’t need an ignition key, but when you leave the car, you have to push a button on the door handle to lock it, rather than just walking away. Apparently drivers feel more comfortable physically locking the car, but I liked the completely hands-free choice.
The majority of fleet sales will be to user-choosers looking for an alternative to an estate car, although how many opt to pay around £20,000 for the top-of-the-range model tested here remains to be seen, especially when you look at the poor residual value prediction.
P11D value: £21,242
CO2 emissions (g/km): 154
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 20%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £5,600/26%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £435
We don’t like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
WITH the most powerful diesels and top-spec trim levels, none of these cars are cheap. All offer seven-seat capacity, except the Honda with its two rows of three seats. The FR-V looks very good value, with leather seats, satellite navigation, privacy glass and 17-inch alloys as standard.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
DESPITE having 150bhp the Scenic packs a clean punch with the lowest emissions of the group at 154g/km. It will cost a 22% taxpayer £79 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. The Zafira will cost the same taxpayer £85, the Honda £88 and the Ford will cost £90.
WITH Vauxhall’s focus on low-cost motoring and by sheer benefit of volume, it’s the cheapest here in servicing, maintenance and repair costs over three years/60,000 miles. The Ford runs it close, but the Renault and Honda are off the pace and will cost £1,000 more.
Zafira: 2.90 (pence per mile) £1,740 (60,000 mile total)
S-MAX: 3.13 £1,878
Scenic: 4.25 £2,550
FR-V: 4.66 £2,796
AS its low emissions suggest, the Scenic is the most frugal here, returning a claimed 48.7mpg, resulting in a fuel bill of nearly £5,600 over 60,000 miles. The Zafira manages 45.6mpg, while the FR-V on 44.8mpg and the S-MAX on 44.1mpg aren’t far adfrit.
Scenic: 9.32 (ppm) £5,592 (60,000 mile total)
Zafira: 9.95 £5,970
FR-V: 10.13 £6,078
S-MAX: 10.29 £6,174
THE Honda offers the lowest depreciation, reflecting its keen list price and RV prediction of 36% after three years/60,000 miles. Vauxhall and Ford fight for the middle ground, but the Scenic falls down with CAP predicting it will retain just 26% of its cost new.
FR-V: 22.52 (ppm) £13,512 (60,000 mile total)
Zafira: 23.17 £13,902
S-MAX: 23.24 £13,944
Scenic: 26.07 £15,642
DESPITE is frugal engine, the Renault finishes bottom of the running costs battle, mainly because of this model’s premium price not being reflected in higher residual values. Just £300 separates the Ford and Honda, with the Vauxhall the cheapest by nearly £400.
Zafira: 36.02 (pence per mile) £21,612 (60,000 mile total)
S-MAX: 36.66 £21,996
FR-V: 37.31 £22,386
Scenic: 39.64 £23,784
RENAULT should get as many sceptics about build quality as possible into a Scenic to show what it can achieve, but at this high-specification level the running costs argument just doesn’t stand up. The FR-V is very well equipped and competes fairly well on costs, although it is more expensive on benefit-in-kind tax. This leaves the two big players, Ford and Vauxhall, to slug it out for top honours. With Zafira being cheaper in all areas, including on a driver’s pocket, it beats the Ford into second place.