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The Scenic route
By Ghaith Madadha - Dec 24,2012 - Last updated at Dec 24,2012
AMMAN — A pioneering MPV (multipurpose) maker, Renault could be credited with the evolution of the segment from converted minivans to a purpose-built car-like family MPVs, starting with the revolutionary 1984 Espace. A stylish, modern, versatile and refined car with no direct rival in its time, the Espace was followed by the 1997 European Car of the Year winning Renault Scenic that again created a new niche in being the first compact MPV.
Riding on the Scenic’s success, Renault’s quasi-MPVs like the 2001 Avantime MPV-coupe and Vel Satis executive-MPV didn’t quite take off, but the Scenic struck a chord with buyers and became one of the most popular European family vehicles.
Refreshed inside and out
First introduced in 2009, the third generation Renault Scenic has been mildly face-lifted for 2012 and now features a more assertive front bumper treatment and more generous use of chrome detailing.
A smart and well proportioned compact MPV, the Renault Scenic hides its size and height well, with strong pronounced sills that now feature chrome strips, and flowing design lines. Fitted with alloy wheels across the range, the Scenic also now features a re-worked front bumper with chrome ringed housings for its LED running lights, air-splitter like bumper edges and louvered air intakes. From the rear, the Scenic’s L-shaped lights receive a clear vertical element.
New to the Scenic and Renault range in general, the 1.2 TCe 115 engine featured on the demo model tested is one of the French maker’s most modern and efficient power-plants, with easily accessible and generous torque and punchy low rev power.
A turbocharged and direct fuel injection engine, the Scenic’s 1.2-litre four-cylinder TCe engine develops 5bhp and 29.5lb/ft more torque, and is 20 per cent more efficient than the model range’s longer serving naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine.
Refined, smooth and quiet, the Scenic 1.2 TCe is low-revving for a petrol engine but with a quick spooling turbo, it is useable, flexible and suffers minimal lag, with a generous 140lb/ft over a broad 2000-4000rpm range for confident overtaking.
Impressively responsive for a fuel efficient compact MPV with such a tiny engine, the Scenic 1.2 TCe’ is confident on-the-move on highways and B-roads, and feels like it is being driven by an engine more powerful than the 113.5BHP it develops at 5500rpm.
Happy to rev quickly to its maximum power, the Scenic’s slick shifting 6-speed manual gearbox allows one to easily keep it on the boil at its rev range sweet spot for brisker driving along country roads.
With respectable performance figures including an 11.7-second 0-100km/h time and a 180km/h maximum, the Scenic 1.2 TCe also delivers impressively frugal 5.9l/100km combined fuel economy and 135g/km CO2 emissions.
Almost diesel-like in terms of mid-range muscle and fuel economy, the Renault Scenic 1.2 TCe is, however, a smooth and quiet petrol engine MPV offering effortless and user-friendly driving. Fitted with a stop-start system, the driven vehicle saved fuel by automatically shutting down the engine when stationary in neutral, and seamlessly re-fired when its light and intuitive clutch pedal was depressed.
The Scenic 1.2 TCe also features a kinetic energy recovery system that harnesses braking energy and stores it in the battery and then de-couples the alternator on throttle to reduce engine load. A compact “square” engine with reduced friction components, and other fuel saving tech, Renault predicts that 85 per cent of their European petrol engine vehicles will use TCe engines by 2015.
Smooth and supple
Based on the same suspension platform as the superb Renault Megane family hatchback, the Scenic inherits much of the agility, grip and reassuring stability of its smaller sibling. Refined with an up-market feel the Scenic’s 195/65R15 tyres and suspension have a typically French sense of supple fluency over imperfect roads, yet deliver good body control through corners. A comfortable and spacious MPV, the Scenic is surprisingly agile and eager for its size and height in corners, with body roll evident but much less than its height would suggest, while lateral grip is impressive and its steering is accurate and light but with decent feel.
Driven through French B-roads the Scenic’s suspension recovered well from dips and crests, and on open roads was very refined in terms of noise, vibration and harshness suppression. Where one does notice a difference with the Megane hatchback with which it shares architecture is in high wind high-speed straights or through fast sweeping corners, where the Scenic’s tall roof makes it susceptible to crosswinds and means that one more instinctively takes such corners at a lower speed than with the Megane. With tradition of both sporty cars and high safety levels in recent years, the Scenic’s stability controls are light touched but effective.
Space and safety
Understated but stylish and seemingly well put together, the Scenic’s interior is uncluttered and user-friendly, with the button count kept to a minimum. With a somewhat high seating position, thick steering column jutting away from its long dashboard and big glass area, the Scenic offers good views and an airy ambiance. With much use of brushed aluminium-like surfaces and details decorating its subtle cabin, the Scenic has a classy feel to it, while traditional dials are replaced by a large instrumentation and infotainment screens under a wide cowl and placed in a more central position. Comfortable seating and adjustable steering are complemented by a high positioned centre console and gear lever for easy reach.
Spacious, comfortable and versatile inside, the Scenic offers excellent head and legroom for front and rear passengers and voluminous cargo carrying capacity. With a low and wide rear sill to make loading convenient, the Scenic’s boot fits a minimum 437 litres of cargo, while its rear seats can fold down or be removed and its front passenger seat folds down too to improve cargo space.
Maximum luggage volume is 1837 litres. Well equipped and safe, the Scenic features a Bose 9-speaker stereo system in addition to standard safety equipment that includes front, rear curtain and lateral airbags, Isofix child seat points, rear parking sensors and electronic stability control, brake-force distribution and brake assist functions. Optional features include a lane departure warning and automatic main beam headlight activation.
Engine: 1.2-liter, transverse in-line turbocharged 4 cylinders
Bore x stroke: 72.2 x 73.2mm
Compression ratio: 10:1
Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, variable valve timing, direct injection
Gearbox: 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 113.5 (115)  @ 4500rpm
Specific power: 94.7bhp/litre
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 140 (190) @ 2000rpm
Specific torque: 158.6 Nm/litre
0-100 km/h: 11.7 seconds
Top speed: 180km/h
Fuel capacity: 60 litres
Fuel economy, urban/extra-urban/combined: 7.2/5.2/5.9 liters/100km
CO2 emissions: 135g/km
Track, F/R: 1545/1547mm
Overhang, F/R: 907/757mm
Ground clearance: 120mm
Kerb weight: 1410kg
Weight distribution, F/R: 63.7/36.3 per cent
Headroom, F/R: 968/901mm
Shoulder-room, F/R: 1445/1436mm
Luggage capacity, min/max: 437/1837 litres
Loading height: 602mm
Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
Turning radius: 11.05 meters
Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts, 25.2mm anti roll bar/semi-rigid axle
Brakes, F/R: 296mm ventilated disc/260mm disc
The second to last vehicle in Kia’s entire line-up to receive a Peter Schreyer makeover and new corporate “tiger grille” since 2007, the just launched fourth generation Kia Carens compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) is an altogether better looking, more spacious, better driving and more spacious yet smaller offering than the car it replaces. First introduced in 1999 with a rather anonymous design, successive generations tightened up the Carens’ styling considerably, but the latest and most handsome newly launched version takes its game up several notches and is well placed to compete with stylish European mini-MPVs like the Renault Scenic and Ford C-Max.
The all-new 1.2-litre TCe ‘Energy’ engine powered version of Renault’s recently face-lifted Megane range is a compellingly convincing all-rounder in the hotly contested family hatchback segment.
Exactly the sort of vehicle that many Jordanian buyers need, the new Kia Carens is however only one of very few compact and affordable MPVs with 7-seat seating available on the local market.
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