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If you've read this far you'll know the new Grand Scenic is largely a success. It is bigger and better all round compared to the outgoing model and benefits from a well specified infotainment system with an intriguing TomTom navigation twist, even if it does suffer a few flaws involving the control interfaces and display quality. The car's handling has also been tightened up, though somewhat at the expense of ride comfort. What's more, Renault has successfully lifted the latest Grand Scenic up a notch or two in terms of perceived quality inside and out.
However, we do have one major bone to pick. Every single test car at the launch event had a manual gearbox. On the 1.4L petrol turbo model which starts at £17,595 in entry-level Expression trim, that's just about acceptable. But we find it hard to imagine many customers purchasing the 2.0L diesel model would really want to change their own gears - this is a family MPV, not a sportscar, after all. And for £21,495, we don't think they should have to.
For the record, therefore, if we were buying a new Grand Scenic, our preference would be to go with the seven-seater Privilege TCe 130 with the impressive new 1.4L petrol turbo engine, which comes with bi-zone climate and parking sensors as standard. To that we'd add the Comfort Pack with the panoramic sunroof and TomTom nav for £900, bringing the on the road price to £20,695. We'd probably have a go at convincing our Renault dealer to throw in the leather seats gratis. The resulting car would be an effective and comfortable family workhorse.
Or at least it would be if it was available with an automatic gearbox. But it's not. The only non-manual options are the decidedly sub-optimal 140hp non-turbo 2.0L petrol with a CVT box or the painfully expensive 2.0L diesel, detuned to 150hp and mated to a conventional automatic transmission. The latter starts at £23,695 in Privilege trim, which is pretty astonishing for a car based on a Megane platform.
Admittedly, the pricing and availability of the Grand Scenic's automatic and CVT gearboxes are very much in line with the competition in this segment. You'll pay dearly if you specify the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso or Vauxhall's Zafira with one of the few non-manual gearbox options available on either. Nevertheless, we reckon the first company to break the deadlock and make a more affordable automatic option available will be onto a real winner.