Au Revoir to Renault – Personal Driving Experiences

I would never describe myself as a ‘petrol head’. I used to like watching F1, I still enjoy watching the Word Endurance Championship – particularly Le Mans, and TV series like BBC’s Top Gear and Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour, but that’s largely where my interest in cars stops. A car is largely to get me from A to B. I enjoy driving (on the whole), but the car tends to be less of an issue. So long as it does what it’s supposed to do (i.e. reliable, I can listen to my music, etc.), I am generally happy. Of course, I would prefer a car that looks good (keeping in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder) and that it’s comfortable, but I’m also not the type to be out cleaning and waxing my car every week.

During the 1990s and into the 2000s, after I passed my driving test, I had a variety of different cars – all second-hand. There was no brand loyalty or concern about the country of manufacture (many friends and colleagues seem to expect me to buy Japanese because of my interest in Japan). In 2003, I bought my first ever brand new car. It was time to get a proper family car. The result was a Renault Scenic. This wasn’t my first Renault experience as I’d learnt to drive in Sheffield in a Renault 5 and, after having had a Citroen for virtually my whole childhood, my father also had had a Renault (though I don’t think I ever drove it) for a few years.

This first Renault Scenic was great. It looked smart, was comfortable, and provided the additional space and convenience needed without being as large as an estate or many other cars.

But, of course, it was a Renault. So the electrics didn’t always do what they were supposed to and the boot handle fell off – seemingly a common problem based on the number of similar Scenic’s I saw missing one as I drove around. But the car did well and was surprisingly nimble – helping us catch a train at Ebbsfleet International with seconds to spare when going on a trip to Lille one time.

After a few years, we decided it was time for a change. Although we looked at other cars, there was no reason to get anything other than the new design of Renault Scenic. It wasn’t a pretty car, but it was functional. At least for a while. In the end we didn’t have this car for long as I was involved in an accident (just a few days before the Great East Japan Earthquake of 3/11 – 11 March 2011). The only photographs I think I have of the car were taken after the accident.

I learnt a few lessons in relation to the accident – and, in terms of cars, that Renault make very good cars in terms of safety. I was the only person in the car at the time of the accident and, in terms of physical injuries, got off very lightly… especially compared to the post box that stopped the car from rolling any further down the hill. The car was a right-off, but Renault helped get me a good deal on a new car and there was no way I was going to consider any other manufacturer after what I had experienced and come through relatively unscathed.

So, we moved onto our third generation of Scenic and probably my favourite of the ones we had. Although the first was special as it was my first proper family car and my first new car, the third one was the work horse that we had for 8 years, taking us on trips across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as round the UK – and even taking bikes either on the back or on top at times. It also looked much better than the previous generation of Scenic (even before the accident). As well as the usual journeys around town, as a seven-seater it did a lot of work ferrying kids to parties. But if there is one memory that stands out with this car, it is the trip to France in 2014.

During the 2014 trip we went to Le Mans – not during the race weekend, but soon enough after that the signs of the race were still there. Other than the parts of the track that are not public roads, I was able to drive around the whole circuit. It was fabulous. Even in a Grand Scenic, Indianapolis was brilliant. We also stopped on the Mulsanne Straight so I could take a picture of the car there… this turns out to be the first picture that I’d taken of the car (I’d had it for over 3 years by then – as I said, I’m not a petrol head).

While it was a great car and did us well – it still had it’s Renault moments. On camping trips, it was guaranteed that the battery would run flat just from having the doors open for an hour or so. The windows would also do strange things when opening and closing from time to time. And, like all Renault’s I’ve had or driven, it also seemed to have the turning circle of the QE2. Eventually, after 8 years, it was time for another change.

Although we did look around at other cars, and had at first assumed that we wouldn’t get a Scenic as we’d not liked the look of the newer ones on the road, when we went to Renault, we found there was a newer design. It felt like coming home after sitting in other cars in other show rooms. Without even doing a test drive, we got another Grand Scenic. For the first time, we also went for the top of the range model – the main thing that stands out about this being the massive touch-screen for the entertainment and sat-nav.

But, as ever, the electronics have done what they wanted to do – the digital radio struggling to keep a signal and Android Auto rarely staying connected via the direct USB connection (with a port in a very odd position)… and don’t even get me started on the randomness of whether software/map updates using a USB would ever work.

For one reason or another, it felt right to change the car. And this time, the new car wouldn’t be a Renault. We didn’t need 7 seats any more and the Renault range didn’t tick the boxes for what we were looking for.

Ironically, just as my father had had cars by one manufacturer (Citroen) for most of my childhood and switched around the time I became an adult, so I am changing from having a single manufacturer as my kids near the end of their childhood. While my father never had another Citroen, I wouldn’t rule out having a Renault again one day. But for now, I am hoping that my new car (subject of another post in due course) will be one that I will enjoy and be using for many years to come.

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