I know the problems that French cars had in the past with dodgy electrics etc. but aren't most modern cars today all pretty similar within their price bracket?
The "avoid French cars" cliche is a bit out of date in my opinion.
I agree in principle, but I will also agree that in general, French cars do suffer slightly more (or people are just more vocal about it) in the reliability stakes.
I've had several French cars, and a number of German ones... The only car to ever leave me with a massive bill? Yup, you guessed it... A 1.9tdi VW Passat! The engine (which they will all do 500k miles without a rebuild sir) ceased with a mere 120k on the clock and a FSH! Proper shit me up it did too as I was doing 75 on the M4 when it ceased!
Anyway... The key to buying a "reliable" French car... Buy one with the least stuff to go wrong! Electric handbrake and keyless entry? Hahahahaha! Good luck my son... And don't assume that a FSH means that the car will be without faults. Buy a cheap, basic French car and expect to have to spend some money on maintaining it, and you will often be pleasantly surprised. Buy a big, luxury French car with electric everything and a FSH expecting it to do 3yrs and 60,000 trouble free miles, and you're in for a BIG headache.
Currently running around in a rat of a Y plate 1.9DCi Renault Megane (also had a scenic briefly before too, and they are practical inside!) that I bought for £650. In 15 months and 12,000 miles it has needed a new EGR valve (buy a genuine one, pattern ones last 20k miles if you're lucky, genuine ones may be 50% more expensive but last 4 times longer) and that has been it! I have done some preventative maintenance on it, in particular cleaning the inlet manifolds out as well as fitting new EGR, but it's been one of the most reliable cars I've owned, and probably the cheapest to run (avg 54mpg, up to 60 on a run).
One note of warning... Scenic's attract the school run mum insurance tax. Same floor pan, engines and even insurance group, but I can tell you from my own experience, a Scenic will cost nearly twice as much to insure (cos they're all covered in parking dents!).