Renault’s rugged Scenic XMOD rocks

Renault Scenic XMOD combines crossover styling with multi-purpose vehicle versatility.

Renault Scenic XMOD combines crossover styling with multi-purpose vehicle versatility. - Credit: Renault

Renault has boosted its Scenic range with a new crossover-inspired XMOD version.Motoring editor Andy Russell tries it out.

Just when motorists find their niche in the ever-changing motoring scene car-makers have a canny back of blurring the boundaries to come up with new variations in a fresh bid to woo buyers.

Renault has always been pretty creative in this field, identifying gaps in the market and creating new trends and opportunities.

With the original Scenic back in 1996 the French car-maker was at the forefront of the compact multi-purpose vehicle movement that went down a storm with families and people looking for practical, versatile holdalls.

Now such vehicles have serious rivals from the blossoming crossovers – hatchbacks with sport utility vehicle styling cues – so Renault has tried to be clever with a crossover-inspired version of its facelifted Scenic.

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Called the Scenic XMOD, it's not Renault's first such foray, having previously had all-wheel drive RX4 versions with off-road capability and, more recently, a Conquest special edition version of the five-seat Scenic.

Priced the same as the equivalent standard Scenic, the beefed-up XMOD variant looks good value given its extra features and equipment. Lookswise, this beefed-up, body-clad model gains special alloy wheels shod with all-year round mud and snow tyres, new bumpers and body protection mouldings and black roof bars but it also debuts Renault's all-new Grip Xtend advanced traction control system which, via a rotary knob, has 'road', 'loose ground' and 'expert' modes which vary braking and engine torque control to adapt to different driving conditions.

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What the XMOD doesn't lose is the Scenic's renowned versatility, practicality and all-round ability and appeal.

A wide choice of petrol and diesel engines gives something for everyone with 110hp 1.6 petrol and 115 and 130hp 1.2-litre turbo petrol and 110hp 1.5-litre and 130PS 1.6-litre turbo diesels but the pick for me is the smaller diesel. A sign of its popularity is that it is the only engine that is offered with the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox.

This engine does everything you ask of it – nippy off the mark and when you need to overtake, able to cruise comfortably and quietly at motorway speeds and, in the cut-and-thrust of everyday commuting, returned 55-60mpg.

The ride is composed and settled on good roads but not quite supple enough to soak up poor surfaces when it feels a little sensitive to defects. It's a similar story in the way it drives – confident and composed on winding country roads, although the steering lacks feedback. Push it harder and body roll and understeer build but then this is multi-purpose vehicle, not a sports hatchback.

Once aboard, the family-friendly cabin certainly ticks all the right boxes with the three individual rear seats sliding back and forth to vary legroom and boot space and boasting reclining backs, so giving plenty of space and adjustment to stretch out and get comfortable.

With all the seats in use there are up to 555 litres of boot space – at the bigger end of the class – and with them tumbled forward and upright this rises to 1,637 litres. Unfortunately, for the maximum load capacity of 1,870 litres, the three rear seats have to be removed and the operation is fiddly and the seats bulky so the Scenic loses out to rivals where the seats just drop flat to create a long flat load bay floor.

The interior features quality materials when it matters and I really like the central, high-level fascia with its digital readouts, straightforward controls and uncluttered view in front of the driver. Families will also appreciate all the cabin storage opportunities.

Unlike the Scenic and seven-seater Grand Scenic, which come only in Dynamique TomTom trim, XMOD is also offered in Expression+ but the higher-spec version is the one to go for with gains including dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers and satellite navigation.

The XMOD brings an interesting twist to the Scenic line-up, combining crossover looks with practical carrying capacity. While it won't be to everyone's taste the XMOD stands out from the crowd and should appeal to a wide cross-section of potential customers.

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