Volkswagen Golf SV
Sometimes more is just better and if you've ever got out of a Volkswagen Golf feeling you could do with a bit more space, the answer is right here in the chiselled form of the Golf SV. It's not the most committed of five-seat SUVs but there is more space in the back. Plus there's more technology on offer in this improved model.
Engine-wise, if you want petrol power, you'll get a choice of a pair of turbocharged TSI units, a 1.0-litre powerplant with 115PS or a 1.5-litre unit with 130PS or 150PS. Go diesel instead and there's a 115PS 1.6TDI or a 150PS 2.0-litre TDI flagship variant. Across the range, there's the option of DSG twin-clutch sequential transmission. The 2.0-litre diesel will punt the big-boned Golf SV to 62mph in 9.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 110mph, making it a more than adequate long distance cruiser.
On to design. Where the old Golf Plus was a bit of a half-hearted effort, the SV is a bit more of an attempt at incorporating MPV design functionality. The longer wheelbase is key. Volkswagen grafted another 54mm into the wheelbase to create the SV from the ordinary Golf hatch, which might not sound much, but makes a real difference to what you can do with the rear seats. The total length has increased by 83mm, adding extra luggage capacity at the back. The styling is crisp and handsome, even more so in this facelifted model, which gets redesigned bumpers, smarter halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, the option of full-LED headlights and standard LED tail lights on all versions.
Drop inside and it's largely familiar stuff from the front seats. The classy dash, peerless ergonomics and huge range of seat and wheel adjustability draw no complaints, but the SV gets a custom dash moulding. Facelift model cabin changes include new decorative trim, smarter fabrics and the option of classier leather for the seats. As for practicalities, well there's adequate storage up front with under-seat drawers and fairly sizeable door bins, but other MPVs ultimately offer more and better. The back seats miss a trick too, neither tumbling or being removable. The three-seat bench splits 60/40 and can fold and recline but the middle seat is hard and narrow. By contrast, you can fold the middle seat down in a Ford C-MAX or tumble the seats forward. Headroom and legroom are both excellent, and when the rear seat is slid forward to its furthest extent, boot space increases from a generous 500 litres to a cavernous 590 litres. Fold the rear seats down and you'll get up to 1,520-litres in there.
The fuel economy of all the diesel engines is excellent, with even the thirstiest capable of eking over 60mpg from a gallon of heavy oil. The 1.6 TDI delivers 67.3mpg on the combined cycle and manages 110g/km of CO2, which is good going for a family-sized MPV. Even the 2.0 TDI 150PS variant manages 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 113g/km of CO2. If you want petrol power, look at the 1.0 TSI variant, which returns 60.1mpg on the combined cycle and 108g/km of CO2.
Overall, this is a car that adds a dash of desirability to the business of owning what is, at the end of the day, nothing more than a practical family tool. It's about time that Volkswagen showed us what it's really capable of in this segment. The result is a car you could be proud of.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen Golf SV range
Renault's fourth generation Scenic range marries sleek sophisticated looks and clever technology in a surprisingly desirable family 5-seat MPV. This car's range of more efficient engines now includes a frugal new 1.3-litre TCe 140 unit and an uprated 1.5-litre Blue dCi 120 diesel and all the powerplants stack up well on the balance sheet. Plus this People Carrier remains nicely built, safe and very well equipped. All very good reasons to keep it well in contention against key rivals in the five-seat compact MPV segment.
You wouldn't normally approach a drive in an MPV with much enthusiasm, but with its big 20-inch wheels and purposeful demeanour, this fourth generation Scenic promises to be a bit different. In reality, there's nothing particularly enjoyable on offer here, but bodyroll through the bends is pretty well controlled, aided by the stiff, sophisticated 'CMF' platform this Scenic rides upon. And the electrically-assisted steering is precise and direct, even if it doesn't offer up a great deal of feel. As for the ride, well yes, it is quite firm, but no more so than it would be in a rival Ford C-MAX or Volkswagen Golf SV that would roll on much smaller rims. That's an impressive achievement Renault says has been made possible by the adoption of special 107mm high profile tyre sidewalls that are exactly the same as those you'd find used on 17-inch wheels.
The bulk of sales will to the recently improved 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine, which now puts out 120hp. Don't dismiss the alternative petrol engine option though if you're a lower-mileage buyer. It's a 1.3-litre Tce turbo unit that develops 140PS and is well worth a look.
There's some trendy technology to cheer you along the way too, in the form of a selectable drive mode system called 'Multi-Sense', one of those able to alter steering feel, throttle response, stability control settings and, where fitted, auto gearchange timings, all to suit the way you want to drive. Heck it even changes the engine note and alters the colour of the dashboard lighting in an effort to put you in either a more relaxed frame of mind or perhaps a sportier mood.
The styling is based on Renault's R-Space concept car, key features like the steeply-raked windscreen and short bonnet heightening the elegance of its MPV silhouette. Uniquely, big 20-inch wheels are fitted to all versions. At the same time, the three-part screen combines a panoramic view with improved side vision. At the front, there's a more distinctive lighting signature. Depending on version, the C-shaped front headlights benefit from LED PURE VISION technology, while Edge Light technology provides the taillights with a 3D effect. As before, the mainstream Scenic range comes in two sizes: this standard Scenic with five seats. And a Grand Scenic body style with seven seats: it's the standard version we look at here, a car that claims best-in-class stowage capacity.
The boot of this fourth generation model boasts a volume of 572-litres and around the car, there's total additional stowage capacity of 63 litres. Take the 'Easy Life drawer', which faces the front passenger seat and offers a storage area of 11.5-litres. That's three litres more than a conventional glove box. Lit and chilled, it opens via an electronic sensor and automatically locks when the vehicle stops. Plus, as before, there are four underfloor compartments. In the back, this Scenic is equipped with folding tables that open to reveal a small storage area that can accommodate a mobile phone, a gaming console or perhaps crayons, whilst it is also possible to attach electronic tablets of different sizes. The two USB ports at the rear of the centre console mean electronic devices can be used without time restraints.
Renault's fourth generation Scenic is here to remind us that there's still a place for the traditional five-seat compact mini-MPV in a modern market stuffed with other, more high profile alternatives. It's practical, spacious, well built and decently equipped, as every car of this kind must be, but in this case, each of these criteria has been ticked off with a thoroughness that reminds you just who invented this market sector in the first place.
Is it all enough to keep the market's original five-seat mid-sized MPV as the best choice for frugal families? Perhaps. Many might be surprised at just how thoroughly this French contender can now meet their needs. One thing's for certain. As a more versatile spin on spacious five-seat family motoring, the Scenic model line has a lot of life in it yet.Click here to find out more about our Renault Scenic range
The Ford C-MAX compact MPV has been treated to a wash and brush up. Cleaner styling and engines are a big draw, with the introduction of a Focus-style dashboard and a 1.5-litre diesel powerplant that'll be the big seller here in the UK. Refinement has been improved and there are a stack of high-tech options to consider.
The C-MAX was always an easy pick for anyone who enjoyed driving. It was by far the best car in its class when showed a B-road. Now that the Golf SV is around, that superiority is no longer quite so cut and dried, but it's still a class act. Particular attention this time round has been paid to improving refinement. Noise, vibration and harshness have been improved through the use of thicker side glass and more absorbent seals around the tailgate and rear view mirror. The engine bay heat shield has been filled with acoustic damping material to reduce powertrain noise and diesel variants are equipped with extra acoustic seals to further reduce noise intrusion. A re-tuned dual mass flywheel helps to reduce shaking forces when the engine is under load, while revised engine mounts offer improved refinement during Auto-Start-Stop operation.
The star of the engine line-up is the 120PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine, seen for the first time in the C-MAX, replacing the old 1.6-litre unit. Power goes up by five per cent while emissions drop by six points. There are also the multi-award winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines, offered once again in 100 and 125PS outputs. The big capacity diesel in the range is a revised 2.0-litre 150PS unit.
The design of this C-MAX is evolutionary, with many of the details being brought up to date to reflect contemporary Ford thinking. The dynamic styling delivers a stronger, sleeker front end, featuring Ford's distinctive inverted trapezoidal grille. The washer jets have been hidden underneath the windscreen to give a cleaner look while the tailgate has been given a smoother and more sophisticated one-piece appearance.
Inside, you'll find a dash that's a lot less fussy than the previous model, reflecting the customer-led design refinements that have already been executed on the Focus. There are fewer controls and switches, while the new black satin trim and chrome detailing contributes to a cleaner look. Functions are simpler to use, such as the air-conditioning controls that now feature buttons that are easier to recognise and distinguish from each other. Practicality improves too, with a redesigned centre storage console. The seats still tumble down individually in one motion to create a flat floor, with over 470-litres of space with all five seats in place.
In truth, Ford didn't need to do a whole lot to the C-MAX to keep it right at the head of the pack. The improvements to the interior and the big efficiency gains leveraged by the 2.0-litre diesel, as well as the introduction of the 1.5-litre diesel, are all worthy updates but the overall look, feel and appeal of the C-MAX hasn't been markedly altered.
Still, the arrival of new entrants into this market, most notably the Volkswagen Golf SV, means that if Ford had been content to rest on its laurels it could well have seen the C-MAX rapidly slip from grace. As it stands, this much improved second generation car looks to have what it takes to keep its rivals on its toes for some time yet. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.Click here to find out more about our Ford C-MAX range