IF YOU'VE GOT STUFF TO MOVE SOMEWHERE, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR A LOCKABLE SQUARE BOX. AND THEY DON'T COME MUCH SQUARER THAN RENAULT'S NEW 2016 TRAFIC.
A warming success story here for the brand - Renault sells more LCVs in this market than passenger cars - it is slowly winning favour with delivery and trade buyers. But in Europe, where box vans are favoured over utes, they're as thick as rabbits.
For its part, the 2016 Trafic offers practical cabin versatility, a strong twin-turbo engine, surprisingly agile performance and comfortable cabin. A debit is that there is no auto option - yet; and some will doubt the small capacity 1.6 litre turbo-diesel engine.
But give it the 'once over', and you too may discover why the appealing Trafic is Europe's best-selling 'box'.
Vehicle style: Light commercial box-van
Price: From $33,490 - $38,490 (Introductory offer: $32,990 drive-away)
Engine/trans: 103kW/340Nm 1.6 litre twin-turbo diesel | 6spd manual
Fuel consumption (listed): 6.2 l/100km; (tested) 7.4 l/100km
We drove the new Trafic at launch in Adelaide: a half-day run around the city with a 350kg load in the back, and another half day through the Barossa.
discover why this van is such a success in Europe.
It is a surprisingly good drive, and that new little turbo engine is a cracker. (And any doubts about the capability and durability of small capacity diesel turbos should surely be dispelled by now.)
We drove only the twin-turbo dCi 140, the entry dCi 90 hasn't arrived yet (but close behind), and it won us.
What also won us is the reach and rake adjustable wheel, comfortable seating and really good driving position.
And the big practical hole in the back, lockable and built for a load, also ain't too bad. If your day involves running around with a bunch of tools and pipes and 'things wot suck dirty water out of holes', maybe you should consider a look at this Trafic.
This van is a real surprise, a good one. And the story improves with one year or 30,000km service intervals (at just $349 per service, the first three services).
That will appeal to a lot of drivers who rely on their van being 'on the road' and on the job.
Key interior features dCi 140:
- 7-inch touch-screen display
- Audio with 2 x USB inputs, aux-in, CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth and audio streaming
- Smartphone dock and tablet dock
- Multi-function leather-wrapped wheel
- Cruise control with speed limiter
- Reversing camera in rear-view mirror plus rear parking sensors
- Daytime running lights (with cornering fog lamps)
- One touch locking
- Automatic headlights and wipers
- 12V dashboard power outlet
- Stop/start technology
Renault knows more than a bit about LCVs and what working drivers need in a van. That's why it sold 344,000 light commercials worldwide in 2014 and why it's Europe's leader.
The interior of the new Trafic comes with comfortable seats, three across, a terrific driving position thanks in part to the reach and rake adjustable wheel, and a really well thought-out 'work bench' for drivers who spend a lot of time in their vans.
The cab is designed as mobile office, with mobile phone cradle and laptop or tablet compartment all within easy reach.
The centre seat-back folded forward becomes an armrest (which the laptop slides into); it also becomes a mobile clipboard which can slot in place and angled to face the driver or passenger.
There are no less than 14 bins and trays for phones, tablets, hard-hats and the like, and cup-holders everywhere, all within easy reach.
These are really thoughtful touches, as is the 'trap' in the bulkhead allowing longer items to be slid in through the back doors and lodged under the seats.
We found the height-adjustable driver's seat with armrest surprisingly supportive, but the passenger seat is not quite so comfy - it lacks adjustment on the backrest and feels a little upright.
Also, getting in and out could be made a tad easier. While the doors open 'square' and there is a wide non-slip step to help access, there are no grab-handles above the door opening. This can be a pain if you're carrying anything in the free hand.
And while we're grumbling, we think a working van should have sat-nav as standard fit - sure enough, we understand that it's a cost option and easily specified by purchasers.
Otherwise, there are no complaints with the accommodation, nor with the feel of the trim. It's a commercial interior with good hard-wearing surfaces, but pleasing enough on the eye, and certainly 'a cut above' for this segment.
There are a few daggy edges to the plastic trim in out-of-the-way places, but it certainly looks durable, things close snugly, and there were no rattles in squeaks in the two vans we drove (a long and short wheelbase).
ON THE ROAD
Key technical specifications dCi 140:
- 1.6 litre DOHC common rail twin-turbo diesel: 103kW @ 3500rpm/340Nm @ 1500rpm
- Six-speed manual
- 10.8 seconds 0-100km/h, maximum speed 181km/h
- Turning circle: 11.84m (SWB), 13.17m (LWB)
- Disc brakes front and rear: 296mm and 280mm
- Wheelbase: 3098mm (SWB) and 3498 (LWB)
- Load volume: 5.2 m3 and 6.0 m3
How good is this little twin-turbo diesel? This dCi 140 in this test is one nice little donk and absolutely untroubled by the mass of van sitting all around it.
Sure, we only had 350kg sitting in the back, but we were driving 'up hill and down dale' in galeforce winds, and the 1.6 litre diesel barely noticed.
With 103kW and 340Nm to summon when needed, it pulls strongly away from the line (0-100km/h in 10.8 seconds unladen) and has ample power for overtaking at highway speeds.
The second of the new engines found only in the entry-level Trafic, the single-turbo 90 dCi produces 66kW and 260Nm. (We'll drive that one another day.)
On road, the dCi 140 is ticking over at barely 2000rpm at 100km/h. For such a small unit it seems remarkably under-stressed, offering 270Nm (of the 340Nm maximum) from as low as 1250rpm.
That ability to pull without complaint from low revs reduces the need for constant gear-changing.
Better, it's mated to a light-shifting six-speed manual and a perfectly weighted clutch for easy driving and super-smooth getaways.
This has to be one of the best engine/transmission combinations around; it's a delight to use, sits right at the hand, and is quite a bit of fun to row around. (I reckon that's the first time I've made that comment about a commercial 'box.)
The wheel too, thanks to the extra adjustment, can be easily set just right and has a nice connected feel to the road and what's happening below.
Cornering, and handling generally, isn't the Trafic's strong suit - after all, it's shaped like a block of flats - but the ride is nicely compliant, especially in the long wheelbase variant, and well-damped.
Only on rippling tarmac is there any jitteriness from the back-end (which will likely be solved with a working load).
You will also notice a surprising level of refinement at highway speeds, even with the box at the back largely empty.
Road noise is almost completely isolated, the Trafic is quieter than most passenger cars even on coarse tarmac.
The diesel goes about things with a distant rounded hum and there is just a little wind-flutter around the mirrors breaking the serenity.
And as for payload, the Trafic L1H1 offers a segment-leading 3750mm load-length, the L1H2 extends this advantage to 4150mm. Payloads are 1235kg for the L1H1 with dCi 90 engine and 1274kg for the dCi 140 twin-turbo.
Braked tow rating is 2.0 tonne, 750kg unbraked, for both the dCi 90 the dCi 140.
Lastly, because worksites can get pretty boggy, all models come with 'Grip Xtend' - a nifty function which maximises grip for mud or off-road surfaces.
The new Trafic range comes standard with driver and passenger airbags (curtain airbags optional), ABS with electronic brake assist, anti roll-over protection, hillstart assist and 'Grip X-tend' among a suite of dynamic and passive safety protections.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Priced right, comfortable, easy to drive, generous warranty and surprisingly perky on road, Renault's new Trafic is a rock-solid four-star purchase.
With an easily-accessed cargo area, wide flat floor (no problems loading a standard pallet), wide opening doors and the kinds of nooks and crannies you need with a working vehicle, it is going to win a lot of friends among those looking for a practical, liveable box.
The smart touches like the phone and tablet docks, clipboard and storage traps below the seats also set it a little apart.
As does its 30,000k, one-year, service intervals and capped-price servicing program ($349 per service).
With the new Trafic, Renault is also announcing its Renault Pro+ dealerships - specialising in commercial vehicles and the needs of commercial buyers.
All up, there is a lot happening here with Renault, and a well thought-out package in this new Trafic; if you've got stuff to move somewhere, we'd recommend a close look.
It's on sale now, the range starting with the dCi 90 at $33,490. There is however an introductory price of $32,990 driveaway for the entry model, available for the next two months.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
2015 RENAULT TRAFIC
- Trafic L1H1 dCi 90 - $33,490
- Trafic L1H1 dCi 140 - $36,990
- Trafic L1H2 dCi 140 - $38,490
OPTION PACKS - L1H2
Pro Pack ($1290)
- Driver and passenger side airbags
- Wide-view mirror
- Anti-slip timber floor
- Phone cradle
- Plywood cargo lining
Premium Pack ($1990) adds:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Heated seats
- MediaNav seven-inch infotainment screen with sat-nav
- Upgraded audio system
- Java cloth upholstery
Lifestyle Pack ($2490) adds:
- Climate control
- Hands-free key card
- Body-coloured front bumper
- Body-coloured rear light column
- Body-coloured door rail