Road test: Fascinating new direction for Renault Scenic

Renault Scenic XMOD
Renault Scenic XMOD

Renault’s original ground-breaking Scenic seems to have been around for ever but it isn’t a model that can afford to sit on its laurels

Times have changed and a plethora of rival models have made it imperative that the Scenic moves on.

So here’s something ultra smart that helps Scenic move with the times and make its own design statement at the same time.

Enter the XMOD - the clue’s in the name as a modified version of Scenic, a more rugged variant of the French brand’s iconic MPV.

And Renault have certainly made sure it stands out in a crowd and turns heads.

XMOD, priced the same as the equivalent Scenic, boasts unique wheels and striking front and rear bumpers and black roof bars, plus something called Grip Xtend Control - not a true 4WD but advanced traction technology at the driver’s fingertips with a single twist of a rotary dial.

This makes it more capable than a regular Scenic on loose or slippery surfaces, aided by chunkier ‘mud and snow’ tyres which offers improved traction and bridge the gap between regular rubber and extra-grip winter tyres.

I have been driving the new Scenic XMOD with optional Bose+ Pack, which packs in a huge amount of user-friendly technology with a meaty, legendary sound system featuring nine speakers and a digital amplifier.

Renault has done an astonishingly good job of making its multi-media system easily accessible. The driver can navigate his or her way around using touch screen technology, joystick control on the centre console or voice commands.

The dashboard therefore remains completely uncluttered. The fascia is a slabby chunk of plastic, which tends to make the driver feel out of touch with the front of the car, even though the high driving position offers excellent all-round views.

But let’s quickly add that the quality of Renault interiors has vastly improved. Soft touch surfaces are very tactile and the blend of black, grey and matt silver combines for a classy look.

XMOD opts for a pioneering digital speedo in the centre of the dashboard with ‘virtual reality’ rev counter. Not everyone’s choice but highly accurate and certainly a stronger visual reminder of the speed at which you are travelling.

A friend who is prone to speeding mostly through carelessness rather than devilment openly admired it and coveted the system.

The compact but incredibly roomy XMOD has a clever card up its sleeve with a design whereby rear seats are set higher than the front ones, affording passengers an unrivalled panoramic views.

True to Renault tradition, all seating is highly comfortable and supportive and ride quality is in a class of its own.

Two-stage rear seat folding isn’t the quickest conversion around but reveals a huge amount of maximum luggage space and Renault also builds in plenty of oddment nooks and crannies.

Another big plus point is that the Scenic is more car-like to drive that much of the opposition, with decently involving steering, a slick six-speed manual gearbox and strong cornering.

It all adds up to a fascinating new direction for the Scenic, which continues to excel in whatever class it competes.