Keen readers of Motor Mouth will be familiar with the tribulations faced by the editor of this magazine when it comes to his wheels. With a growing brood - a 15-year-old plus two rugrats under three - he flogged his crumbling turbocharged Saab 9-3 to a copper last autumn but then lost it completely when he purchased a three-year-old ex-Motability scheme Ford C-Max as a replacement. The shame of it means he drives around town with his face hidden inside a paper bag.
I don't like to see my paymasters suffer so I gave him a couple of proper family wagons to try: the seriously smart Mercedes E 250 Cdi estate, costing just under fifty grand, and the more modest Renault Grand Scenic at just over twenty.
The E-Class is a highly desirable machine but the big drawback with the estate is, despite being the classiest of drives provided by the highest quality engineering and having a boot the size of Britain's public sector borrowing deficit, it's still a squeeze to fit three kids across the back seat. And apparently they don't like it. Especially the one in the middle who doesn't get his own DVD monitor in the back of the headrest in front of him.
By contrast, the Renault has seven seats (the final two pop up from the boot floor), about 40 cubby holes and even an 11-litre chilled glovebox to keep the Sudocrem effective. It has a relatively small 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine which you might imagine couldn't drag the skin off a rice pudding but there were no complaints about the power. The fuel economy - as a litre of petrol charges inexorably towards £1.50 - is far better than the diesel Merc. The editor was also pleased to read that Renault has opened 15 'dexterity schools' at the Scenic production plant in Douai to make sure the vehicles aren't assembled back-to-front with bits of the electrics fastened to the wrong place. It may have Family Guy written all over it but he found it a 'thoroughly likeable' car. He'd even be willing to take the paper bag off his head. (I'm afraid most of this is true, Ed.)
I'LL TAKE ONE
Turbocharged engine and plenty of space.
THANKS BUT NO THANKS ...
Good for family life but not much else.
Renault Grand Scenic Dynamique TomTom TCe 130 £20,120
Engine: 1,397cc 4-cylinder turbo
Power: 130 bhp
Torque: 140 lb ft @2,250 rpm
Fuel: 38.2 mpg combined cycle
0-62 mph: 11.5 seconds
Top speed: 121 mph