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Scenic II preview

Struggling to get on the local radar with buyers, the French auto giant is launching new models left, right and centre with the latest, a new Scenic small people mover, due next month.

All this activity makes you wonder what else Renault has up its sleeve – plenty apparently.

The new Scenic II replaces a model that was Renault's top seller here so the pressure's on.

Though typically Gallic in styling, the earlier model was practical, economical and went fairly well for a small bus. There was also an all-wheel-drive RX4 model. None is mentiomned in the new model literature.

Scenic II needs to hit the ground running but that might be a big ask given the polarising "bustle-back" styling – a la Megane hatch.

Scenic II rearThe new five-seat Scenic II snuck into the public domain in a pre-release program through Renault dealers before Christmas. It caused barely a ripple on the vichyssoise (soup).

The pre-release was designed to showcase what Renault Australia says "is the Scenic II's sensational new design with its innovative interior and expressive exterior style."

It hits the showroom with a recommended retail price starting at $29,990, and is available in three variants: entry-level Authentique, mid-spec' Expression and range-topping Dynamique.

They all use a 98kW/191Nm, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine lifted from Megane with either a six- speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic. Five speed autos seem to be off Renault's agenda and auto adds $2300 to the price.

Scenic II offers a comprehensive range of features including aircon across the range.

The usual array of cruise control, power front windows, in-dash CD player and flexible rear-seating system is listed as standard equipment.

Where Renault makes no mistakes is with safety and Scenic II offers dual front and side airbags, curtain airbags and front and rear seatbelt pretensioners. There is also a range of important passive safety features such as ABS with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist.

The vehicle was awarded a European NCAP crash test rating of five stars – the highest, with a score of 34.12 points out of a possible 37.1.

This makes Scenic II one of the safest vehicles for occupant protection in the compact MPV class.

It's built on a Megane platform and there is room for a seven seat, Grand Scenic variant that will arrive later in the year sharing the same powertrain as the five seater. Sources say the third row in the Grand is tight and suitable for children only.

Renault Australia is reported to be looking at a turbo version of the Scenic II – for what purpose is unclear.

All models have a digital instrument display and a deep dash incorporating a gear shift or selector in the centre console.

Numerous interior storage compartments are dotted about the cabin.

Both rear seat rows fold flat for increased luggage capacity.

Reports out of France suggest a good ride with slightly more body roll than Megane hatch due to a higher centre of gravity but tidy dynamics overall. We'll have to wait and see on that one.

The suspension is a simple strut front, torsion beam rear.

Drive is to the front wheels and the steering has a leisurely 3.2 turns lock to lock.

The vehicle needs premium unleaded and is claimed to deliver about 8.5L/100km average fuel economy which might be optimistic given its 1400-1530kg weight depending on the model.

There is only one direct competitor, Holden's Zafira at around the same money. Hyundai's unloved LaVita was dumped some time back.

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