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Multi purpose vehicles such as the Chrysler Voyager, Renault Espace and Peugeot 806 have been an important part of the motoring scene for many years now. More recently, however, Renault has stolen a march on its competitors by launching a smaller MPV version, the Megane Scenic. It's a highly versatile vehicle, with compact exterior dimensions and a high driving position - not unlike that of the A-class Mercedes - which makes it easy to park in restricted places. Clever packaging, with its transverse engine taking the minimum of space, allows excellent cabin space and there are a plethora of load/people carrying possibilities with its removable seats. The seats themselves are comfortable and supportive and the steering wheel is adjustable for rake.

The version tested was the Renault Megane Scenic 1.9DTi, powered by a turbocharged direct injection diesel engine of 1870cc which provides both good accelerative performance and excellent fuel consumption. Roadholding is first class and it rides well over bumps on B-class roads while it swallows up kilometres of motorway stretches with ease. Innovative, practical and fun to drive, it's hardly surprising that it is the leading Megane model in many markets or, for that manner, that the entire Megane range is a hit in Europe.

Price for the model, as tested: BEF 685,000.

There was a time when Volvo was synonymous with large estate vehicles, ideal for towing a horse box or dinghy. Tough, almost indestructible vehicles, these station wagons and saloons were reckoned to have an average useful life longer than most other makes, thanks to their sturdiness of construction, their ability to remain rust free when others were being eaten away, and their capacity to transport everything, including the kitchen sink. Heavy, worthy cars but not the most inspiring to drive.

(Left: Dick Suter with the Volvo whilst testing it in France)

Over the past few years, much has changed in Volvo's model line-up. Gone are the traditional rear-wheel drive 900 series, superseded by the S70/V70 front-wheel drive range and, more recently, by the S40/V40 series, built in The Netherlands on a production line shared with Mitsubishi's Carisma. The version tested some weeks ago was the Volvo S40 2.0T, the 'T' indicating its 'Twin Scroll' turbo engine. Volvo describes this unit as "having a combination of twin scroll technology and VEGT (virtual exhaust gas temperature) as the turbo has two compressor vanes instead of the more normal single unit, powered by the alternative pulses of exhaust gas from cylinders one and four, then by two and three." Which adds up to good performance with reasonable fuel consumption.

It makes an ideal motorway cruiser but it's less happy on undulating roads, especially when the surface is uneven, when there is a slight floating sensation: it doesn't generate the feeling of being at one with the road surface. There is some torque steer when its accelerated briskly out of corners on such terrain, which makes cross-country travel on B-class roads less of a pleasure than it might be.

But on the credit side, it's a well finished, comfortable car and has space aplenty for four adults, a good sized boot and a smooth, powerful engine. Price, as tested: BEF 871,000.

©Dick Suter - 1998

Original article appearing in "Internationals in Belgium" Dick Suter was an editor of the magazine and contributor and Ginny Suter was a regular contributor in the late 1990's and 2000's - The magazine had a circulation of 10,000 Please note that this article was first published many years ago and telephone and fax numbers are likely to be out of date and email addresses have been removed.

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