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Renault Scenic 2005 review

For the Scenic seems very French; or at least, very different to the average mid-sized five-seater hatch currently on the market in this country.

And without claiming any expertise in voitures Francaise there's a lot to like about the French philosophy of motoring as expressed in the Scenic.

The first thing to like is the easy interior. The visibility all-round is excellent; the inside trim on the Expression test model, stylish and uncluttered; the electronic instrumentation bright and easy to read.

Behind the wheel, the differences between this car and – say – a Holden Astra, are instantly obvious.

For one thing, there's no key as such.

This car uses a credit card-sized "smartcard" to activate the ignition, the door locks, the remote entry, the boot.

To get underway, you push the card into the slot on the dash – it's a bit like going to the ATM – then press the starter button, just like in the old days.

But the drive is anything but old-fashioned.

A collection of very neat technical "tricks" in the Scenic add a great deal of enjoyment to the motoring experience. The six-speed manual transmission on the test car was smooth, and the clutch action light and forgiving.

The gear shifter itself is cleverly integrated into the dash rather than poking up from the floor, which makes for more leg room in front and a more functional layout.

Braking nowadays is something you don't tend to think about – you just expect that it will be good – and on the Scenic, the feel through the pedal inspires confidence.

The car stops easily with minimum pedal pressure, conveying the sense that it would pull up very smartly indeed if an emergency stop was required.

On the subject of brakes, the automatic parking brake took a bit of getting used to – but once you get the hang of it, it's a thing you'd want on every car you drive. Activate the little brake handle on the dash to the right of the wheel and the old juggle of brake, throttle and clutch to execute the perfect hill start is a thing of the past. In the Renault, the parking brake is automatically released when the car starts to move forward, so every hill start should be perfect.

Designed as a genuine family car, the Scenic has tons of appeal. There's storage space absolutely everywhere – in the doors, under the floor, in the dash, between the front seats – and the luggage compartment is surprisingly cavernous.

On a weekend running around the city – including a trip to Homebush with four members of a marching band, plus their instruments (okay, trumpets and clarinets rather than tubas and drum kits) the accommodation was ample. Plenty of head room, leg room, stretching out room, places to put your book down, places to put your can of soft drink – terrific.

And everywhere, a new, tricky piece of innovation, like the moveable storage bin between the front seats, the fold-away arm rests, the fold-down tray tables.

Finding them all was half the fun.

Performance-wise, the Scenic was very hard to fault. The 2.0-litre, 16-valve engine was smooth and responsive, providing reasonable torque across the rev range – even with the band members on board.

It's quiet, smooth-riding, and comfortable; it all works. Just a good thing all round.

All it really needed was a view of the Eiffel Tower out of the front window to make the experience absolutely parfait.

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