Fleet News

Ford Focus C-MAX vs Renault Scenic vs Volkswagen Touran

Renault

Review

But this month's test features three new cars in the mini-MPV arena – itself a relatively recent addition to the car market.

Renault created the sector with the Scenic back in 1996 and has now launched a second generation model. Ford and Volkswagen have only got in on the act now, with their new Focus C-MAX and Touran models respectively.

All fit into the traditional mini-MPV mould – they have a high roof design, versatile five-seater layout and cubby holes and storage bins galore.

The models we are testing are towards the entry-level end of the range, with price tags of roughly £15,000. The only real difference is the Ford, which has a 1.8-litre engine while the other two have 1.6-litre units.

In practicality and usability terms, all three are evenly matched, but which vehicle offers fleets the most cost-effective proposition?

Over three years and 60,000 miles, it is the Renault Scenic in 1.6 Dynamique trim which will cost a fleet the least in wholelife cost terms.

Our figures show it will cost 27.18 pence per mile (ppm) to run, edging ahead of the Ford Focus C-MAX 1.8 Zetec on 27.64ppm and Volkswagen Touran 1.6 FSI S on 27.71ppm.

The Scenic scores well in the most important area of the wholelife costs equation – depreciation. It has the lowest front-end price of our test trio, costing £100 less on-the-road than the Ford and £520 less than the Volkswagen.

Allied to this, it has the second-highest residual value prediction of the three cars.

CAP Monitor estimates the Scenic will retain 36% of its cost new after three years/ 60,000 miles, compared with 34% for the Focus C-MAX and 37% for the Touran. This gives the Renault the lowest cash lost value over the traditional fleet benchmark, enough on its own to secure victory despite it not winning any of the other running cost sections.

In the other sectors, it is the Ford which will cost the least in fuel terms, returning an average of 39.8mpg compared with 39.2mpg and 37.2mpg for the Renault and Volkswagen respectively.

In servicing, maintenance and repair, the Volkswagen leads the way, costing a fleet £1,350 over three years/60,000 miles.

All three cars are pretty evenly matched in wholelife cost terms, and the only area where there is a big difference is in contract hire rates, with the Focus C-MAX and Scenic fairly close on £273 and £279 a month respectively, but the Touran is well adrift, costing £336 a month.

So it's a narrow victory in running costs to the Renault Scenic, although all three cars are very close.

But the true test for these cars is how they are to drive and live with on a daily basis. Read on to find out which one comes out on top.

Ford Focus C-Max 1.8 Zetec

IT has taken Ford a while but the C-MAX is a great-looking mini-MPV and good to drive. It only offers five seats but this is the most car-like vehicle in the sector

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £15,030
CO2 emissions (g/km): 170
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £145
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 39.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,100/34%
Depreciation (15.55 pence per mile x 60,000): £10,002
Maintenance (2.50 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,500
Fuel (9.59 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,754
Wholelife cost (27.64 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,584
Typical contract hire rate: £273 per month

Renault Scenic 1.6 Dynamique

NEW version of the car that created this sector back in 1996. Scenic has quirky styling and an unusual dashboard layout. Only five seats, with seven-seater model due next year.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £14,930
CO2 emissions (g/km): 172
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £145
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 39.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,275/36%
Depreciation (15.15 pence per mile x 60,000): £9,090
Maintenance (2.29 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,374
Fuel (9.74 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,844
Wholelife cost (27.18 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,308 Typical contract hire rate: £279 per month

Volkswagen Touran 1.6 FSI S

A late entrant to the sector, but the Golf-based Touran is a well-thought- out car, offering a huge interior, the option of seven seats and a wide range of engines

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £15,450
CO2 emissions (g/km): 182
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 20%
Graduated VED rate: £145
Insurance group: 7 Combined mpg: 37.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,725/37%
Depreciation (15.20 pence per mile x 60,000): £9,120
Maintenance (2.25 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,350
Fuel (10.26 pence per mile x 60,000): £6,156
Wholelife cost (27.71 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,626
Typical contract hire rate: £336 per month

Ford Focus C-MAX 1.8 Zetec

Ford started out in the mini-MPV sector with the intention of producing the best driver's car. It has done that: the Focus C-MAX, based on the next generation Focus chassis, feels the most planted, the damping copes with bumps best and the steering is more direct than its rivals here.

The 1.8-litre 120bhp engine gives it more shove than the 1.6-litre 115bhp units in the Scenic and Touran, although the Ford is noisy at high revs, and there is an annoying amount of wind noise around the doors.

Like all the cars here, the Ford is laden with safety features such as front and rear curtain airbags, braking assistance, electronic brakeforce distribution and ABS. The cabin quality is on a different level to the other two – better plastics, better layout and better built.

It's along the sensible lines of the Touran, rather than trying to be glitzy like the Scenic, but there is a dash more style than the more sombre Volkswagen. Getting the rear seats in and out is a trying experience. They are heavy, bulky and awkward to unlatch.

We fail to see the advantage of the 'sliding three seats into two' system as well (the middle seat can be folded into the boot). What advantage is there in being able to have fewer seats in this sector, where versatility is key? A touch more legroom perhaps – but offering the option of seven seats would have been more useful, as the Touran and Vauxhall Zafira do. The Focus C-MAX is the best-looking of the cars here – less boxy than the Touran yet more elegant than the Scenic.

A mini-MPV that's attractive? Stranger things have happened.

At a glance

For

  • Great to drive – for an MPV
  • High quality feel to cabin
  • Best-looking mini-MPV

    Against

  • Lack of seven-seat option
  • Rear seats difficult to remove
  • Wind noise

    Renault Scenic 1.6 VVT Dynamique

    There are two schools of thought on the Scenic. Customers will either love the sci-fi styling or think Renault is trying far too hard to be modernist-cool here – and failing. We're in the latter camp. It seems like you are viewing the Scenic through a cracked mirror, such is the mass of convergent lines and awkward angles. It looks like a mini Espace, but is more gawky and lacks the elegance of its bigger brother.

    On the move, the ride is the most jittery of the cars on test, while the brakes feel over-servoed and the engine power tends to kick in suddenly at low speeds through an overly-sensitive throttle pedal. The engine pulls very well though, although it is short-geared, which helps.

    The interior echoes the thinking on the outside. The indicator stalks are stubby and odd and the electronic display in the middle of the dash makes Blackpool illuminations look conservative. It is confusing and you keep having to look left and take your eyes off the road to see what speed you are doing.

    The Renault excels at nooks and crannies for storage, and there is a huge compartment between the front two seats because of the space freed up by the electronic parking brake.

    In the rear, space is fine and the seats are easier to remove than the Focus C-MAX, but lack the simple logic and solidity of the Volkswagen's seating system.

    Although seven seats are not available in this Scenic, a Grand Scenic is due in 2004 to address this. Boot space is the equal of the other cars here, although Renault's trademark bulbous rear end means that volume is limited above the window line. At a glance

    For

  • Lots of storage space
  • Easy-to-remove rear seats
  • Nippy acceleration

    Against

  • Over-fussy styling
  • Jittery ride
  • Garish, messy display readout

    Volkswagen Touran 1.6 FSI S

    The first thing that strikes you from the driver's seat of the Touran is how functional it is compared to the Scenic and C-MAX.

    There's not a splash of colour or soupçon of flair to be seen anywhere, although that means all the dials and switches are clean and clear.

    As it appears from the outside, the furrowed-brow Touran has one single purpose: to carry people in the most efficient and Volkswagen-like way possible. Not a bad credo to live by in this sector.

    Less Volkswagen-like is the interior build quality, which in a number of places such as the lower portion of the dashboard and the lid on the top are well below what is expected of the brand. So much so that the Ford trounces it on that front. When has that happened in recent memory?

    However, it has the most boot space thanks to its utilitarian shape, and the rear seats are by far the easiest to lift out and move around. It really is the most practical of the three, especially as seven seats is a £500 option.

    The ride is adequate – it is less settled than the C-MAX but better than the Scenic.

    The FSI engine and six-speed gearbox just about cope with lugging the big Touran about, but acceleration in the lower gears is particularly slow.

    However, the extra gear means this car is the most relaxed motorway cruiser. The Touran also suffers by having a steering wheel which doesn't adjust low enough to avoid it feeling like a van to drive.

    The Touran won't excite drivers or passengers, but is is the most spacious car here – and it has that VW badge.

    At a glance

    For

  • Most relaxed to drive on motorways
  • Best for interior space
  • Seven-seat option for £500

    Against

  • Poor build quality in places
  • Slow acceleration
  • Van-like driving position

    Verdict

    IT IS very rare to have three cars so closely matched. Depending on a driver's priority, all three could make a case for being the first choice: for driver appeal and looks the Ford is best, the Scenic leads the way on wholelife costs while the Touran is the most spacious and practical model. However, as an all-rounder, the Focus C-MAX takes a narrow victory. The driving experience is so much better than the others that a company car driver could enjoy doing business miles during the week yet still do the job for the family at weekends.

  • WINNER: FORD FOCUS C-MAX 1.8 ZETEC
  • Second: VW Touran
  • Third: Renault Scenic
  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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