Renault has given its popular Scénic MPV a going-over to deliver a niche player to the family car market. Xmod sits higher off the ground than the standard Scénic and features some rugged-looking exterior trim to mark it out from the normal Scénic range. The bumpers and side sills get the tough-guy treatment and there is a good bit of chrome trim along with the unique alloys and roof bars to add a bit of bling. LED daytime running lights feature along with the latest version of Renault's corporate grille.

Overall, the XMOD still looks more like an urban street machine than a go-anywhere SUV, so I guess in styling terms the Renault is a true crossover.

Inside it is all Scénic, which is good news for families as there are five individual seats and a big flexible boot (437 litres). The dash layout is familiar to Renault owners but continues to be a bit quirky for those new to the brand. The BOSE eight-speaker stereo delivers a good sound. There is very tight bottom-end and during one particular road trip that took in Dublin, Clare and Cork my iPod never sounded so good (and my singing so bad!) in such a practical MPV. The TomTom navigation system (standard on BOSE versions) with integrated Bluetooth still takes a bit of getting used to. Ultimately, 'Me Time' is very pleasant in the XMOD BOSE.

Scénic XMOD is the first Renault to feature the 'Extend Grip' system, which is a clever automated traction control system to keep the car moving in greasy or low-grip conditions (similar to the system in Peugeot's 2008). There is a rotary dial with settings from 'Expert' (minimal electronic intervention) to 'Road'. Mud and snow tyres feature, fitted to the 16-inch alloys.

There are two diesel (dCi) stop/start equipped engines available in Ireland in XMOD with either 110hp or 130hp outputs. Our test car was powered by the big selling, 1.5-litre diesel 110hp version. A six-speed manual gearbox delivers power to the front wheels while helping to deliver economical performance (4.1l/100km, circa 69mpg) and low CO2 (105g/km). There is a TCe petrol option also. It produces 115hp and 140g/km of CO2 and Renault says can deliver fuel consumption of 6.1l/100km. There are two trim levels: Dynamic and BOSE. As you might have guessed, one has a famous sound system.

€29,390 is the asking price for the BOSE 1.5dCi version we tested. That's a lot of cash for a Renault - even if it has a good stereo. XMOD prices start at €26,090 for the TCe. A five-year unlimited warranty is standard across the new Scénic range. Renault Finance continues to offer tempting packages to get buyers into the French brand, but remember to do some research before you buy to find out what your Renault will be worth when you go to sell it on or trade it in.

Scénic continues to sell well with over 4.3m built from its launch in 1996 to date. Scénic XMOD provides existing Scénic owners with a chance to change into something a little different and gives new customers, drawn to the crossover styling, a nudge towards the brand.

Michael Sheridan