The Renault Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist features a small electric motor and an additional 48V battery with the aim of capturing and storing energy when decelerating, in order to deliver improved economy, lower emissions, and better performance; so does it work?
We’ve already tested the Renault Grand Scenic, which offers seven seats and a stylish design. However Renault has now introduced the Scenic with ‘Hybrid Assist’ technology, aiming to improve economy and cut emissions without the normal levels of extra cost that come with a full hybrid system. Is this effective?
The Renault Scenic’s 1.5-litre diesel engine (mated to a six-speed manual gearbox) has Hybrid Assist technology. So what does ‘Hybrid Assist’ mean? A 10kW electric motor/generator located under the bonnet helps to recover energy during deceleration. This energy is transferred via 48V cabling and stored in a 48V, 150Wh lithium ion battery which sits behind the second row of seats in the case of the Scenic, or in the spare wheel housing in the boot in the Grand Scenic. The stored energy can be re-used to assist with acceleration. There’s also the normal 12V battery.
Design may be a subjective thing, but we think the Renault Scenic looks good. A key reason for this is the set of huge wheels – 20-inch in the case of our test car. And rather than having a boring people-carrier body style, the Scenic has styling that is more MPV merged with SUV.
There’s lots of room inside; although the Renault Scenic only has five seats compared to the seven seats of the Grand Scenic, the three rear seats are wide and flat – ie. ideal for child seats. There also a large, well-shaped boot.
The central storage area between the two front seats can slide back (thereby reducing legroom for the central rear seat occupant) to reveal two cup holders that are otherwise hidden underneath the gear selector, and the outer rear seat occupants have trays on the back of the front seats, and sun screens for the side windows.
The first observation from our test of the Renault Scenic, which was in winter, was that it seemed to take an incredibly long time for the engine to warm up – and therefore for the windscreen to demist.
The next observation was that the six-speed manual gearbox wasn’t the slickest-shifting transmission that we’ve tested, and there wasn’t a huge amount of performance from the 1.5-litre diesel engine, which could easily sound strained. This was despite the Hybrid Assist system theoretically providing extra torque – potentially up to 70Nm – mainly at low revs. Perhaps the extra torque was present, and it was this that contributed to occasional wheel spin from the front tyres when pulling out of wet junctions.
But perhaps the biggest change we noticed with the Scenic compared to our review of the Grand Scenic was the poor ride quality. Our test of the Scenic took in more urban journeys, and consequently more poor road surfaces, and the 20-inch wheels and low profile tyres provided little in the way of cushioning from pot holes. Our week with the Grand Scenic was over longer motorway journeys when the ride quality was less of an issue. The large wheels and tyres were also no doubt a contributing factor to noticeable levels of road noise.
If you drive a Scenic for the first time you’ll notice a button with what looks like a flower petal on it. If you press it, you’ll realise that it’s a drive mode selector, bringing up on the touchscreen the ‘multi-sense’ options of sport, comfort, eco, neutral and ‘perso’.
While we’re on the subject of the touchscreen, as reported in our Grand Scenic review, there’s a strange selection of shortcut buttons to the right of the screen. If you press the house symbol, you would assume that this takes you to the home screen, but in fact it takes you to a screen which has a menu option, and you have to press this button to be taken to what is effectively the real home screen. So you have to press two buttons rather than one to get to the home screen. And you also need to go into the touchscreen to access heating-related controls such as fan speed; in our opinion heating controls should always be separate to the touchscreen so you can get in a car and adjust the temperature and fan settings within a second or so. Even the volume control for the radio/media is hidden away – behind the right-hand side of the steering wheel, so passengers aren’t able to control this at all.
There’s another issue to report on that is again shared with the Grand Scenic: the trim surrounding the gear selector digs into your left leg when you’re driving.
And finally, if you approach the car and open the door to put a child in the passenger side, the car will unlock itself automatically. If you then walk round to the driver’s side the car will lock itself automatically, locking the child in the car and locking you out – the quickest solution then seems to be to open the door using the button on the key.
The Renault Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist Dynamique S has an official combined NEDC fuel economy figure of 80.7mpg, equating to 94g/km CO2 emissions. This is an improvement of more than 10 per cent over the standard dCi 110 engine, and an impressive figure for this size of car. But how did it fare in real-world driving? The good news is that on A and B-roads, at average speeds of 50-60mph, the Renault Scenic averaged 61.4mpg. The bad news is that after a week of extensive testing in built-up areas, the urban economy figure ended up as 31.5mpg. We were hoping that the Hybrid Assist technology would result in a much higher real-world economy figure, but it didn’t happen. After a week of mixed driving, our overall average was 45.9mpg. This is well short of the official NEDC 80.7mpg average.
We would propose a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the test was in the depths of a UK winter, which will not help good economy figures (the stop-start system didn’t cut in very often, presumably because of the temperatures). Secondly, it’s likely that the Hybrid Assist system is engineered to perform well on the NEDC test, but it doesn’t perform as well in real-world driving. That’s also likely to mean that it won’t perform as well in the forthcoming WLTP cycle.
The Renault Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist Dynamique S costs £26,555. Our test car had a number of options: metallic paint (£550), Safety Pack (£400), Look Pack Premium (£1250), emergency spare wheel (£110), BOSE Pack (£500), LED headlights (£500), Parking Pack Premium (£500), Nappa steering wheel (£95) and 20-inch wheels (£100) – taking the total price to £30,560.
The dCi 110 Hybrid Assist versions are priced at £1,000 more than the equivalent dCi 110 variants in the Scenic range (the technology is available on both the Renault Scenic and Grand Scenic).
The Scenic and Grand Scenic dCi 110 HYBRID ASSIST range is available in three trim levels – Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav.
The Renault Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist Dynamique S looks good and offers lots of space. It has a very impressive official NEDC economy figure of 80.7mpg, along with low CO2 emissions of 94g/km. When we lived with the seven-seat Renault Grand Scenic dCi 130 for a week, with more motorway journeys than urban driving, it averaged 47.3mpg in real-world economy, and was very practical. Our real-life economy of 45.9mpg with the Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist is significantly less than its official figure, and less than that of the (non-Hybrid Assist) Grand Scenic. Colder weather and more urban driving are likely to be factors in this. And very careful driving will result in impressive fuel economy from most hybrid powertrains. However we’re left with a feeling of disappointment after hoping that the 48v Hybrid Assist technology would be a cost-effective way to improve economy and reduce emissions in normal driving.
And then there are the various other issues with the Scenic such as the poor ride quality, the less than slick gearbox, the non-intuitive touchscreen user interface, and the trim around the gear selector that digs into your left leg. You’re left with a feeling that the design process was focused more on form than function. So as much as we wanted to get on with the Renault Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist, it didn’t really happen. However, we rate many other Renault models highly, including the Clio, the Kadjar, the Twingo and the Twingo GT, and of course the all-electric Twizy – and especially the ZOE EV. In the meantime the Renault Scenic dCi 110 Hybrid Assist ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.