2016 Renault Scenic at Geneva

The minivan or MPV has been with us for three decades, defined by images of the Chrysler/Dodge minivans (1984) and Renault Espace (1984).

2016 Renault Scenic: source
2016 Renault Scenic: source

According to Renault who have been market leaders in this category, they have redefined the class. Renault have tried this before in their redesign of the current Espace which is aimed not at very large families but at executive motorists looking for something different. Though not for sale in the UK, it has been a quite successful entrant in its price class. This meant a marked increase in the styling quotient and a much less rectilinear look.

They have applied the same thinking to the Scenic, revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show. The Scenic has for a long time been a successful entrant in a market crowded with the likes of the Citroen C4 Picasso, VW Touran, Ford C-Max and the Opel Zafira. BMW entered the fray recently with their front-drive, Mini-based Activity Tourer. It’s quite a serious business this and Renault’s styling chief, Laurens van den Acker hopes that their new car will make “parents fall in love again.”

I am in doubt as to whether any car can make up for the demands of parenting. More realistically, they hope the new style will keep them competitive and mark their car out from space-enclosing entrants from their peers and BMW’s vehicle which is equipped with an attractive badge front and back. What Renault have done is compromise the carrying capacity of the MPV shape by cross-breeding with the popular cross-over class: bigger wheels and an elevated ride. The roof is lower and those 20 inch wheels reduce the Scenic’s impression of being a useful box on wheels.

The badge is now an even larger element of the front end treatment and, to compensate, the rear overhang has been reduced. In between is more wheelbase. So, essentially, Renault are adopting the dictum of Harley Earl: longer, lower and wider. In doing this Renault are engaged in the new habit of rubbishing their earlier work which they say lacked flair and style.

2016 Renault Scenic and a wobbly window line: autocar.co.uk
2016 Renault Scenic and a wobbly window line: autocar.co.uk

This development raises the question of whether people want this kind of vehicle as much as they say they do. The existing estate car is long and low and they are as popular as dentures. And hatchbacks already have the same kind of profile as the Scenic is taking on. Cross-overs are already there as raised hatchbacks and are credited, along with classic MPVs, with stealing the market of the once-popular estate.

What we see here is convergence towards the hatchback: most estates have sloped rear decks to make them less voluminous but more attractive; CUVs are blending hatchback profiles with the raised ride of SUVs and cars like the Kadjar are as much hatchback as cross-over.

The superficial styling of the Scenic is such that without a badge it would be hard to identify it as a Scenic. It could equally be the Kadjar’s bigger brother (which is perhaps the intention). There is a very marked haunch over the rear wheel arch (which will make the view out worse for the car’s smaller users) and the bodyside is marked by deeper sections and a more pronounced step from the lower door to the DLO.

The rear hatch has a complex, space-eating profile and a window wrapping around to the raked C-pillars. When the hatch is opened non-functioning black triangles remain in place on the body, indicative of an aperture shaped by styling and less by the need to get huge objects in to the loadbay. On the Geneva show car the black roof and blacked-out a-pillars reduce the impression of the car’s height and disguise the profile.

That’s the redefinition of the MPV for you: according to Renault their users want a car that is less obviously about carrying kids and stuff and more about that enigmatic thing, “lifestyle”. In all likelihood it will be as successful as its peers, indicating that the market these days is less concerned about function and more about form. Turning the future, one wonders how Renault will criticize this car as they have done the predecessor. Will the 2016 car be seen as frumpy and boring in 2023, with those pronounced coke-bottle hips, huge wheels and even huger badge?

(I will probably be doing a review of the colour trends at Geneva: this car is notable for its rich gold-orange paintwork. As ever, the interior is shown in Ghia brown which no-one will buy, sadly.)

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

34 thoughts on “2016 Renault Scenic at Geneva”

  1. Every time a designer opens their mouth, my goodwill towards them usually disappears. But, putting aside the patronising bullshit from the plimsoll king, and agreeing entirely with Richard’s appraisal of the illogical situation where all cars morph towards a metre high 2 door coupe, the Scenic will probably do OK for itself.

    Depending on the vagaries of fashion, women have been wearing stiletto heels for over 70 years. They put up with the impracticality and discomfort because they judge there is an upside. This might be in the approval it gets from others or, to put a post-feminist slant on it, “because it makes them feel good about themselves”.

    For the same reason we will end up putting up with the poor loadspace and other compromises. Yet, perversely, people will still buy it instead of a big hatchback because it is a ‘family car’, so ticks certain conflicting boxes about their self image.

    Putting them all on 20″ wheels means that at least there’s no chance of being taunted by the thought that if you’d bought the cheaper version the ride would be better.

    1. Are all all 20″ wheels? Really? People might put up with less practicality to make a statement but will they put up with paying €350 a tyre? I don’t think so. This means any Scenic over two years old will be on cheap rubber that’s about as grippy as skis. At least the front passengers no longer have the huge fly window taking up half their glass.

    2. Indeed, van den Acker’s team are very proud that they successfully lobbied to have 20″ wheels throughout the range. As designers insisting that their concepts are honoured this is admirable. But I assume they have never scraped an expensive alloy on London’s ill kept kerbstones.

      On the cost thing, it’s reasonable to assume that, when demand rises as others follow suit with 20″ wheels, then costs will fall. But it’s pretty silly really. Wheels are essential and practical items, and should be best suited to purpose, not ponced up to appeal to drivers who think that size is everything.

  2. In fairness to LVdA though, there hasn’t a natural progression and Renault hasn’t long dropped practicality and maximum usable space as the primary virtues of the Scenic:

    1. I really like that earlier Mk2 Scenic – which is classic Le Quement. It was less practical than the original, with a smaller boot (why?), but a really cohesive and striking design. The Mk3 looks like a smoothed-over, less original looking uber-lifting.

  3. This car also has the merit of being reasonably true to the R-space concept presented 5 years ago:

  4. But for the most part I agree that there is an increasing discrepancy between the reason people put forward to justify their choices, and what they end up with. A case in point in the limited number of sales VW achieves with the Golf SV, which nothing more than the all the car a samll family could possibly need, with a higher roof and extended load space added.

    1. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Golf SV. It looks well-built, spacious, comfortable, nicely appointed with good visibility. No chance.

    2. I know, very sad. If I was in the market for a brand new car that would probably be my choice right now.

    3. Wouldn’t you feel very exposed Laurent? I mean, people could look in and see you. And you’d have all that outside distraction, all those cars and cyclists visible over your shoulder. Oh no, far too much glass I’m afraid. And, on the orange one, it’s not even privacy glass. What were they thinking?

    4. There are lots of Golf SV’s in my area and it would be on our shopping list if the boot were larger. It’s neat and smart in the VW-stylee, but not exactly desirable in an emotional sense. The new Touran has grown unnecessarily in my view, so that it is in the Sharan’s proximity, and people are buying the SV to replace their Tourans.

    5. Sean: yes I’m sure it would require some adjustment on my part but I’m sure it would be worth it.

      SV: The boot is bigger than on a standard Golf, no? Or at least it can be made bigger by sliding the rear seats forward if I’m not mistaken.

    6. Laurent: the boot is quoted at 500 litres, bigger than a Golf, and one can increase that by using the sliding seat, but that’s no help when you want to go camping and carry 2 teenage kids. The now semi-ancient Xsara Picasso is shorter in length, bigger inside (albeit with hard rear seats), and has 550 litres in the boot. The just replaced Touran was just a little longer than the SV is now, but had a boot of 640 litres as a 5 seater! Hence, when the time comes, I guess we’ll be looking for a decent 2nd hand Touran. The new Scenic is reported as having 570 litres of boot space, but there is no news on its length. It must be that my wife is very picky, but she demands as short an MPV as possible, with deep side windows, and a boot no smaller than the Xsara Picasso … It’s tough out there!

    7. I feel for you. For me the SV is almost perfect, although in reality maybe I should really be considering a mid-size estate.

  5. Is the Golf SV the replacement for the Golf Plus?
    Laurent: the Renault concept car has an ingenious rear door and the wavy line terminates in a sharp junction. The production car has lost that. It looks melted.

    1. I really liked the old Golf Plus, but seem to be in a minority. It was a friendly shape for a VW and had a nice interior. It needed a bigger boot, though 🙂

    2. I liked the idea of the Golf Plus but it looked a bit dumpy and wasn’t that much more practical than the standard model. That they have managed to address both issues with the new model is quite an achievement in my opinion.

  6. I think the new Scenic is quite smart (both in terms of appearance and concept). For entirely stupid reasons, the market has decided that SUVs are aspirational and MPVs are for losers. Renault probably had to react or die. I will be interested to see exactly what compromises have been created by the raised ride height and less boxy profile but, if this new platform uses high strength steel to create more interior volume, as VW’s MQB and GM’s new platform do, then it will potentially be able to carry at least as much as the previous generation model. Is that good enough? Probably.

    The 20″ wheels are also dumb, but that’s market forces again. I have been hoping in vain for some years that smaller wheels would become cool, with the hipsters creating a new trend. But, alas, this seems unlikely.

    1. Hipsters have limited interest in cars, which is probably just as well in the long run.

    2. Unfortunately I think the car hipsters have fixated on old custom cars, hot rods and cafe racer motorcycles – things they can work on (or look like they work on) and fit with their barbershop buzz-cut, beard n tattoos aesthetic. The design dandies still like rollin’ on dubs.

  7. I’ve not read anywhere the dimensions of this car – it looks quite a bit longer than earlier versions. I think it was inevitable that MPVs started to look more like SUVs given recent sales trends. This Scenic really does blur the lines. The wobbly side window line is clearly an attempt to help the rear passenger environment, and is not too dissimilar to what GM Europe did with the later Meriva, Citroen with the C4 Picasso ,etc. I’m not saying it will solve the problem, but at least it’s an attempt.

    I think it’s a modern, attractive looking car which presents some compromises to practicality in favour of style. I can’t feel I can blame Renault for that given the decline of the MPV market.

  8. I would like to my voice to the small chorus in favour of this new Scenic. It is certainly the first MPV I have ever felt a positive emotive response towards. Whilst it will be interesting to see whether interior space has been reduced to achieve the svelte outline, a part of me is not overly concerned as long as the package remains practical. Often it is not the volume of food that makes a meal memorable, but the flavour.

    1. You are cruelly forgetting the Fiat Multipla, amongst others, which certainly provoked an emotive response – although, I grant you, not always a positive one.

    2. Well, I liked it. But then I went and bought its Japanese copycat, the Honda FRV, so I’m weird.

  9. I just wonder when we will see the day a manufacturer will hybridise the three-across-the-back MPV with a pick up truck, all in a footprint that won’t dwarf the average British modern semi detached house. Those will truly bring the End Of Days.

  10. My Audi A2 had peculiar tyres – narrow yet with big (standard) rims. So they were ALWAYS difficult to source even when you had the time to do so. Sourcing one of these weird ,narrow 20″ jobbies in rural France when on holiday with a totalled tyre? Good luck with that I say. You’ll be having your holiday in the nearest auberge for two weeks and not in the south of France as you might have planned.

    I digress. I like this car very much inside and out. That yellow colour is lovely too. Sadly I’ll never buy one since it has a fish-bowl sunroof that can’t open. Which is an utter no in my book on any car.

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