But two million sales later they have had to take account of powerful new competition for the latest incarnation of the Scenic.
With heavyweights such as Volkswagen and Ford now joining the fray with the Touran and Focus C-MAX respectively, Renault's latest car needs to show significant improvements over the trailblazing original – and it does. Based on the new C-segment platform destined to spawn a record seven variants of the Megane range by this time next year – not to mention a few more models from Nissan, the French company's alliance partner – new Scenic moves the MPV goalposts by offering more room, greater versatility and better driving characteristics.
Renault UK fleet and LCV director Keith Hawes, said: 'I think we have redefined the sector we created when the first Scenic concept was shown back in 1991.
'Even though it still doesn't feature on the typical company car policy list, this vehicle is attracting more interest from people who need practical family transport that also caters for various lifestyles.
'The current car is opening up a new area for user-choosers who want an affordable multi-activity vehicle and the new model will help us develop that. We've already had some very encouraging feedback from key corporate purchasing executives who had a preview in Paris recently.'
Speaking at the international launch of the new range in Sweden, Hawes said that research had shown an increasing number of company car drivers wanted the benefits of a full-size MPV but were put off by the relatively high purchase cost.
'We think that putting the choice of five and seven-seat versions of the Scenic into the showroom provides the answer to that problem. Between them, these cars will reinforce and consolidate Renault's position in the compact MPV segment,' he said.
Despite Renault UK plans to sell more of the attractively-styled and higher quality second generation car in the retail sector when it becomes available in September, Hawes expects it to account for 15,000 fleet registrations next year in five-door form, with the seven-seat Grand Scenic adding a further 3,000 sales.
He added: 'Our aim is to maintain these numbers over the next three years and we'll do it with sensible transaction prices that strike the right balance between profit and maintaining good residual values. Unlike some of our rivals we have no plans for massive discounting. We have no intention of compromising ourselves on the residuals issue by working to sell the most product. We're more concerned about our credibility in terms of wholelife costs.'
Initially, the Scenic will come with 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines producing between 98bhp and 136bhp and a choice of 1.5 and 1.9 dCi turbodiesels developing 80bhp and 120bhp. Early next year, a 165bhp unit will be added to the petrol line-up and the diesel range will be expanded to include 100bhp 1.5-litre and 140bhp 1.9-litre versions.
Unlike the total of 65 Scenics on offer at present, choice of the new models will be limited to 20 – a move the company claims will simplify the purchasing decision – and, like other Renaults, they will have Authentique, Expression, Dynamique and Privilege trim levels.
All will be available with options that include climate control, leather upholstery, tyre pressure monitoring, roof bars and a massive panoramic tilt and slide glass sunroof. All are packaged in groupings under comfort, luxury, handling, climate and convenience bandings and offering savings of up to £350 over individual equipment prices.
Every version of the new car will feature the Renault card remote locking and ignition system, variable power assist steering, a height adjustable driver's seat, reach and rake-adjust steering wheel and trip computer, and all but the entry-level Authentique will also boast a handy automatic parking brake.
Significantly, fitting removable aluminium cross members to absorb damage from impacts at up to 10mph at the front and rear has helped place the range in insurance bandings that start at 4E for 1.4 and 1.5-litre models, two groups lower than the current 1.4-litre Scenic.
Hawes added: 'This car is the best in its class for ease of repair and 18,000-mile service intervals also contribute to improved wholelife running costs. We're setting the pace again on several fronts and I'd like to think the Scenic will come to be regarded as the generic MPV.'
Behind the wheel
It has become almost de rigueur for manufacturers to promote each new MPV as having the driving qualities of a regular family car.
But because it sits on a wider track, uses a 105mm longer wheelbase and has its wheels pushed further toward each corner of the bodywork, Renault's new Scenic gets closer to delivering the stability and handling that fully deserves to be described as car-like.
Angling the steering wheel to be more upright also helps defy some of the physics involved when the seating position of the driver is somewhat higher than in the average saloon.
Even though its 80mm longer body provides more headroom, extra elbow room, the potential to carry up to 480 litres of luggage and bristles with novel ideas in storage space, the grown-up Scenic feels nimble out on the road.
Less affected by crosswinds than before, it corners in confident fashion but still rides smoothly while improved suspension mountings also do a better job of filtering out vibration over coarse surfaces.
Despite its tallness and having the biggest windscreen in the sector, the new model manages to feel like a compact saloon from behind the wheel and has the agility to go with it.
In six-speed manual transmission form, the most powerful petrol and diesel cars have a good turn of speed, easy cruising ability and an upmarket air, but the 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel models prove to be more impressive. Each comes surprisingly close in both performance and manner – and use a lot less fuel in the process.
A lot of effort has gone into improving the perceived quality of the car, and mounting the gear lever on the dashboard assists interior packaging, while the cable-operated gear linkage also helps isolate another source of vibration.
Because the gear lever and brake are no longer on the floor, room is freed up for a large centre storage unit. Featuring armrests, courtesy lighting, cupholders and a power point, it slides between the front and rear to provide useful extra stowage space.
There's little doubt that Renault's new Scenic is the best-looking vehicle in its sector, but will it be the car that will be bought from choice rather than need? After putting 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol versions and the two diesels through their paces on Sweden's smooth, sweeping and blissfully traffic-free roads, it is clear that Scenic II is a major step forward from its predecessor in driver satisfaction.
|Scenic II fact file|
|Model||1.4||1.6||2.0||1.5 dCi||1.9 dCi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||98/6,000||115/6,000||136/5,500||80/4,000||120/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||93/3,750||112/4,200||140/3,750||136/2,000||221/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||108||115||121||103||117|
|Combined economy (mpg):||38.7||39.2||35.3||56.5||48.7|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||175||172||192||135||154|
|Guide price:||£12,850 - £16,350|