Never shy to explore new market territories, Renault is now gearing up for a new voyage of discovery with the launch of the Scenic Conquest. Combining the space and practicality of a compact MPV with much of the look and driving benefits of an SUV, the new model will be available to order in the UK from 1st June 2007, with prices starting at only £16,765, up to £18,965.

Making its debut at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show, Scenic Conquest is a car aimed at a wide range of customers, including those with a passion for leisure pursuits and the great outdoors. The new addition to the Scenic range is sure to have a broad appeal through its fusion of MPV practicality and low running costs, allied to the rugged look and greater on-road capability of an SUV.

Let’s be clear. Scenic Conquest is not trying to be a 4×4 SUV with off-road ability, as Renault will launch an SUV in 2008 based on its Koleos Concept. Countryside dwellers using unmade or poorly maintained roads and city slickers tackling giant potholes and speed bumps need the raised driving position and ride height with stronger suspension, but not the 4×4 transmission that comes with an SUV.

Scenic Conquest provides this increased level of on-road ability without the weight penalty, fuel economy reduction and CO 2 emission increase associated with SUVs. If you really don’t need four-wheel drive but like all the other abilities of an SUV then Scenic Conquest could be the answer, especially as it costs several thousand pounds less than equivalent-sized and equipped SUVs like the Land Rover Freelander and Toyota RAV4.

You couldn’t mistake Scenic Conquest for any other member of the Scenic range. Conquest is front wheel drive, yet nevertheless, will be able to take the rough with the smooth as its chassis has been adapted to cope with life away from the beaten track.

At first glance, the most obvious sign of the Conquest’s rugged nature is its 20mm higher ground clearance than a standard Scenic. The car’s taller stance should prove a boon for city dwellers tackling the urban jungle, as well as those who live in the country who would benefit from a better view of the road ahead when negotiating muddy tracks and B-roads with high hedgerows.

In addition to the increased ground clearance and twin skidplates protecting the underbody, the suspension has been modified to improve comfort on rough terrain. The front and rear dampers have an increased range of travel and smaller anti-roll bars have been fitted. Finally, the special settings of the ESP electronic stability programme and ASR traction control enhance Scenic Conquest’s all-terrain character.

At the front, the lower part of the bumper has a protective black graphite coating while the radiator grille and air intake have been revised and a satin chrome-finish skidplate shields the engine. Making the Conquest even more distinguishable from other Scenics, it features dark lens headlamp covers, 16″ alloy sports wheels, while at the rear, the black graphite bumper incorporates a satin chrome-coloured skidplate.

Scenic Conquest’s profile also reveals its fondness for off-road adventure or city parking through chunky rubbing strips which protect the side bodywork, while the wheel arch inners are protected by black graphite plastic and it also features robust door sill guards. Finished in chrome and black, the longitudinal roof bars are ideally suited to transporting outdoor leisure equipment.

Scenic Conquest will be offered in a wide range of colours, one of which will be exclusive to this model – Cayenne Orange.

Inside Scenic Conquest, splashes of orange differentiate the cabin from other Scenics. The dark grey centre console features orange graphics which echo the contours of a map and hint at the car’s adventurous nature, while other unique touches include the blood-orange seatbelts and stitching for the gearlever gaiter and steering wheel. The carpets are also protected by Conquest-badged rubber mats.

Based on the best-selling Dynamique trim level, Scenic Conquest costs £550 more but adds extra equipment in the form of rear parking proximity sensors, ESP and roof bars, worth £700 if bought separately. The parking sensors in particular should prove invaluable for urban driving and the school run, as well as avoiding trees and gateposts!

Adding a personal touch to Scenic Conquest, Renault has developed bespoke accessories that can be purchased as a range of kits. They include an interior bike rack, additional storage units, guards for the door and boot sills, a compartmentalised boot box and so on.

A major factor in Scenic’s sales success is its interior versatility. All of its hallmarks remain in Conquest, such as the rear row of individual seats which can be slid forward, back, folded or removed completely, plus the numerous cabin stowage cubbies, rear aviation tables and underfloor storage, particularly as there is no 4×4 transmission taking up extra space. Customers can add even greater flexibility by specifying extras such as the opening tailgate window, panoramic glass sunroof and sliding centre storage unit. The Conquest will not be offered in Grand Scenic guise.

Scenic Conquest is available with a choice of two economical petrol and two diesel engines, ranging in power from 106hp to 136hp. All versions come with six-speed manual transmission as standard.

The entry-level petrol, 1.6 VVT, develops 111hp at 6,000rpm and 152Nm of torque at 4,250rpm, with combined cycle fuel consumption of 37.2 mpg. The more potent 2.0 16V petrol engine produces 136hp at 5,500rpm and 191Nm of torque at 3,750rpm. On a combined cycle, it returns fuel economy of 35.3 mpg. On the diesel side, the 106hp version of the 1.5 dCi diesel, generates peak power at 4,000rpm and 240Nm of torque at just 2,000rpm, returning 54.3 mpg on a combined cycle and emits CO2 of just 138 grams per kilometre. The second diesel option – 1.9 dCi 130hp offers maximum performance at 4,000rpm and 300Nm of torque at 2,000rpm. Offering a particularly wide power band, this engine sips fuel at a rate of just 47.1 mpg on a combined cycle and emits CO2 of 159 grams per kilometre.