Renault imbues its tall five-seater hatch with lots of style, utility and premium features
The Scenic route The good-looking Renault Scenic, which qualifies for a $10,000 tax rebate under the new Vehicular Emissions Scheme, has a spacious cabin. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Singapore's new Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) has rendered many diesel cars unviable.

Not the Renault Scenic, which is powered by a 1.5-litre turbodiesel which qualifies for a $10,000 tax rebate. According to Renault agent Wearnes, it will still qualify for this break after June, when particulate matter is included in the mix of pollutants which VES measures.

Also, the Scenic meets the stringent standards without AdBlue, a chemical which helps to clean up diesel exhaust.

This is just short of astounding, since diesels are often associated with high particulate matter and nitrogen oxide levels which would attract tax surcharges under the VES. Several petrol models are also subject to surcharges, which makes the Scenic's feat even more remarkable.

The other fun fact about the new Scenic lies with its onboard pollution sensor, which measures the level of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in air entering the cabin. It displays the pollution level on the infotainment screen as Good (blue), Polluted (light grey) and Very Polluted (grey).

During a three-day test drive, the air quality toggled largely between Polluted and Very Polluted. That says plenty about Singapore's air quality. Given that the new Scenic qualifies for a $10,000 tax rebate under the strict VES, we can infer that if more cars were like it, Singapore's air quality would improve.

There are, of course, less noble reasons to buy the Scenic. For starters, it is a strikingly good-looking machine. With its capsular silhouette, two-tone paintwork and oversized wheels (20-inch standard issue), it looks like a concept car.

It is equipped with full LED headlights and a panoramic glass roof which seems to flow continuously from the expansive windscreen. Slim A-pillars and plenty of glass in front add to the car's modern outline and enhance visibility, especially when turning.

Inside, the five-seater has an 8.7-inch infotainment tablet-style touchscreen. The navigation system here is friendly enough, but phone-pairing is not. A host of other functions are found on the screen, including drive modes, ambient lighting choices and even adjustments for the car's head-up display.

The car comes with parking assistance, but for those who prefer the old-fashioned way, there are front-and rear-parking sensors, as well as a reverse camera.

The cabin is spacious for occupants as well as cargo. In addition, there are 14 storage compartments scattered around, including a deep centre console which can slide all the way to the second row.

Alas, not all aspects of the Scenic match its impressive styling and equipment level. The car betrays a tinny buzziness which is evident to your ears as well as your eyes (images on the head-up display turn fuzzy at certain engine speeds).

While ride and handling traits are not outstanding, they are well within the acceptable range. And the car charms with its high efficiency - on account of its diesel engine as well as it ability to coast on and on.

Its niggles are minor, especially if you were to judge the car alongside others in its price range. In almost any comparison, the Scenic will come up smelling like roses - regardless of the air outside.