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Renault Scenic wagon 2005 review

It's a compact wagon with lots of space, excellent flexibility, solid performance and prices from as little as $29,990.

The Renault has incredible space and flexibility for a family of up to five. It looks more like an oversized hot hatch than a Tarago-style mini-bus.

It would be better if it had three rows of seats, but the stretched Scenic in Europe will probably come Down Under as part of the total rework on the Megane, which has had a big II added for punctuation.

The Scenic II is unproven as a secondhand deal, and unlikely to reverse the slippery slide in Renault's resale figures, but that's one of its few shortcomings.

We do wonder about long-term quality and the durability of some of the cabin finishes, but that's about it.

On the plus side, the Scenic II has everything you need for family motoring – from an eager two-litre engine and a full list of standard equipment to pricing that puts it clearly into the affordable range of family wagons.

There are three models and even the basic Scenic II Authentique comes with airconditioning, cruise control, electric front windows, CD sound and Renault's flexible rear seat system – which means a three-way split with folding backrests and the ability to remove the seats for load carrying.

The Scenic II is a top scorer, too, on safety and won a five-star rating in European NCAP tests.

It has twin front airbags, curtain side airbags and emergency brake assist, which Renault believes will be the next safety breakthrough as it allows people to avoid a crash – or crash at a lower speed.

The original Scenic didn't do much in Australia, despite a huge following in Europe, but that was probably down to its quirky looks and the timing of its arrival.

It was a member of Renault's comeback family in Australia, at a time when the brand was struggling for any sort of acceptance and forging a new local link with its global partner, Nissan.

The Scenic II is bigger and, to our eyes, better looking than the original and Renault has done a great design job.

You see it in everything from the four storage compartments in the floor to back seat benefits that include pulldown sunshades, fold-down desks and unique two-buckle safety belts.

It has grown from front headroom to boot space, and Renault says it is much more refined.

The 2.0-litre four with variable-valve timing produces 98kW and 191Nm, fed to a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

The suspension has MacPherson struts in the nose with a torsion beam in the rear, a bonus for rear floor space, and the brakes are anti-skid four-wheel discs.

The model line-up runs from the basic Authentique up through the Expression to the Dynamique, with prices that take the automatic flagship to $37,690.

The only options are a $1990 panoramic sunroof on the Dynamique and metallic paint for $650.

IT IS easy to get engrossed in the Scenic II's gadgets. There are storage bins everywhere and a super-flexible set of seats. Even the wipers are set on a pair of giant sweeping booms.

But that would mean overlooking the car's real strengths: comfort, easy driving and plenty of space for a family.

The Scenic II is a great way to get around. It will easily meet the needs of most Australian families on everything from a short sprint to the shops to a long interstate haul.

The seats are comfy, there is incredible storage and, even though the Scenic is labelled as a multi-purpose vehicle, it drives as well as or better than most mid-sized family cars.

Now that many brands, including Toyota with its Camry, have finished producing or importing wagons, there is a big gap for the Scenic to exploit.

We did our test time in an Expression automatic, which means a bottom line of $33,690. But it has everything you need in a new car, from excellent automatic aircon to cruise control and even steering-column buttons for the sound system.

The Scenic is surprisingly lively from the lights and it also cruises along nicely.

The fuel economy is good. We tried it on both premium and standard unleaded and could not notice any real difference.

The ride and handling are excellent, either one-up or with a family on board.

The brakes are great, the headlamps are good and it is surprisingly easy to park.

We could write a small book about the flexibility of the Scenic, but it's something you really need to see for yourself.

It is hard to fit the car into a convenient category, at least to set it up against its rivals, and it's not even classified as a people-mover.

So it's a five-seat mid-sized wagon, meaning it should be shopped against everything from a Subaru Liberty wagon to a Chrysler PT Cruiser.

But it sits on its own in many ways and scores well, particularly the big cabin, regardless of what you see as its rivals.

WE WERE not sure what to expect when we collected the Scenic, but we are sure now that it is one of our first favourites in 2005 and a car that should be winning lots of friends in Australia.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Dynamique 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $2,900 – 4,950 2005 Renault Scenic 2005 Dynamique Pricing and Specs
Expression 2.0L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,900 – 4,950 2005 Renault Scenic 2005 Expression Pricing and Specs
II Authentique 2.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $3,800 – 6,160 2005 Renault Scenic 2005 II Authentique Pricing and Specs
II Dynamique 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $4,200 – 6,820 2005 Renault Scenic 2005 II Dynamique Pricing and Specs