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First Drive: Renault Scenic E-Tech Electric – Famous nameplate returns on impressive family-friendly electric SUV

The original Renault Scenic was loved by families in the nineties and noughties, and now it’s been rebooted. James Batchelor has driven it.

What is it?

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

If you’re over the age of 30 you’ll remember the original Renault Scenic. It was a very rational and spacious-efficient car, and it pretty much created the small MPV concept that became so very popular during the nineties and noughties. People-carriers have fallen out of fashion over the last three decades though, leading Renault to axe the Scenic in 2019. Now then name is back – not on a practical though slightly dull MPV, but, you guessed it, on a fully-electric SUV.

What’s new?

Renault doesn’t call the Scenic E-Tech Electric an SUV, however. It prefers the term ‘family car’, but there’s no doubt it has SUV proportions and will rival other electric high-riders such as the Skoda Enyaq and the new Peugeot E-3008. Renault says the new one does channel the original’s fanatical attention to practicality with spacious rear head and legroom, and plenty of cubby holes dotted around the car. And while it doesn’t wear the original car’s ‘Megane Scenic’ badge, it is still the larger and more spacious sister to the Megane E-Tech in the French firm’s range.

What’s under the bonnet?

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

The Scenic sits on the same platform as the Megane’s but uses different motors and battery packs. There’s a 60kWh battery giving a claimed WLTP range of 260 miles, while the larger – and predicted best-seller – 87kWh battery should be good enough for 379 miles before it needs to be topped up. That’s comparable to most of the Scenic’s rivals, but some way off the new 98kWh Peugeot E-3008’s claimed 435-mile range.

The smaller batteried model gets a 168bhp motor while the 87kWh is powered by a 217bhp motor – both are front-wheel drive with no dual motor versions offered. In terms of charging, the Scenic gets 22kW AC and 150kW DC capability, while a heat pump comes as standard.

What’s it like to drive?

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

Electric cars are rarely lightweight and they nearly always weigh more than equivalent petrol and diesel cars. Tipping the scales at 1,730-1,890kg, the Scenic certainly isn’t a featherweight, but it weighs over 200kg less than its chief rival the Peugeot E-3008. That makes a huge difference to the way the Scenic drives, as it feels light and noticeably more nimble than the Peugeot. Sure, this isn’t an exciting car to drive, but it doesn’t need to be.

What it does extremely well is give a super comfortable and polished driving experience, with a well controlled ride, light steering, and lovely linear power delivery. It’s quiet – very quiet, in fact – and drives like a far more expensive electric SUV. That is at normal and motorway speeds, though – at a walking pace, the Scenic emits a pedestrian warning sound composed by the musician Jean-Michel Jarre, along with a whole host of other chimes and welcome greeting tunes. Again, you probably have to be over the age of 30 to know how cool that is.

How does it look?

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

There’s little evidence of the boxy lines that previous Scenics so proudly wore. Instead, Renault has gone for a more SUV-like shape to tempt the current wave of family buyers who favour SUVs over MPVs. Having said that, with a slightly elongated roof line and the wheels pushed to the car’s corners maximising the wheelbase, there is a nod to earlier Scenics’ focus on space.

It wears the latest version of Renault’s corporate face with the brand’s diamond logo repeated across the entire front end, and neat aero blades front and rear aid efficiency. It’s a rather good looking car, we feel, and doesn’t suffer from the bloated look so many electric SUVs tend to suffer from.

What’s it like inside?

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

If you’ve been inside the Megane E-Tech then the Scenic will feel very familiar. There’s a similar dashboard design that’s angled towards the driver, and the same quality feel – it feels really rather plush, actually. The large 12-inch portrait touchscreen is a cinch to use thanks to its Google operating system, and we love the physical controls for the air conditioning.

The Scenic also comes with a stunning opacifying sunroof instead of a traditional glass roof and sunblind combo. Different panels can be made opaque to give shade at a touch of a button, and it’s the type of feature you’d expect on a £100,000 limousine.

In the back, leg and headroom is very impressive – the latter improved, apparently by that roof not needing a cumbersome sunblind – and there’s a treat when you fold down the centre armrest. Open it and it reveals a couple of USB-C charging ports and swivelling cup holders with natty holders to place smartphones and tablets.

Boot space is good at 545-1,670 litres but you will need the optional moveable boot floor (expected to cost around £150), as without it you’ll need to see a back specialist after hauling heavy luggage over the huge load lip. The back seats fold in a 40/20/40 split but it’s a shame they don’t slide or recline or even remove like they did in the original Scenic.

What’s the spec like?

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

The Scenic is very well equipped. We’d imagine the entry-level Techno trim will be all that most buyers will want, especially with its standard-fit 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, 12-inch touchscreen and Google operating system, wireless phone charging, electric tailgate, rear camera, heated front seats and steering wheel, the clever rear armrest, ambient lighting, puddle lamps that show the Renault logo, and much more. The interior is at its best in mid-range Esprit Alpine trim with its blue carpets, flashes of alcantara trim and the odd Tricolore dotted around, while the top-spec Iconic adds luxuries like a Harmon Kardon sound system, the opacifying panoramic sunroof, a digital rear view mirror and hands-free parking.

The Scenic is keenly priced for an electric car, too, with the Techno pegged at £37,495 for the small battery and £40,995 for the larger one. The Esprit Alpine and Iconic come in at £43,495 and £45,495 respectively – that’s good value compared to some rivals’ offerings such as the Peugeot E-3008.

Verdict

(Source: Renault)
(Source: Renault) (Source: Renault)

Renault has managed to undercut a fair chunk of the Scenic’s rivals with some very keen pricing, but that’s not all that’s going for it. The Scenic is a handsome family SUV with a more than decent electric range for most families, and it has a lovely interior that feels plush and has a number of clever features. On this first impression, the Scenic could be the new electric family SUV benchmar

  • Model as tested: Renault Scenic Iconic E-Tech Electric 220hp Long Range
  • Price as tested: £45,495
  • Engine: Single electric motor
  • Power: 217bhp
  • Torque: 300Nm
  • 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 106mph
  • Range: 369 miles
  • CO2 emissions: 0g/km