RENAULT'S TRAFIC MAY NOT BE TOP OF MIND FOR TRADE AND DELIVERY BUYERS, BUT, AS NUMBERS SEEN ON THE ROADS ATTEST, IT IS FAST GROWING IN POPULARITY AS A HARD-WORKING AND WELL-MANNERED WORK COMPANION.
Unfortunately, there’s no automatic on offer, which could be a real stumbling block in this country. But it looks good, drives surprisingly well, and is very well thought-out with some handy features in the cabin for trade and delivery drivers.
Vehicle Style: Light commercial box-van
Price: $38,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/340Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
Owners and drivers will be the first to point out that a van sentenced to a life of hard graft on courier, delivery, or field repair duties, quickly becomes "a second home".
You know how it is - there needs to be a place to store paperwork, pens, enough room for a makeshift dining table, somewhere to stow a takeaway coffee or thermos, room for a clipboard, a tape measure, a mobile phone... the list goes on.
You’ll jump in and out of it 20 times a day on quieter days, and more often when things are really flat out.
And there is certainly no shortage of 'box vans' to choose from, from cheap Chinese-built boxes, to Euro-style monoliths, and everything in between. But where the Renault really shines is in its car-like driving manners.
Truly, on the road, this newest Trafic feels like a passenger car.
The clincher though is the brilliant twin-turbo diesel under the bonnet; it not only packs a strong punch, but delivers sharp fuel figures too.
- Standard equipment: Cloth seat trim, three-passenger seating, smartphone dock, tablet dock, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control with speed limiter, reversing camera, rear park-sensors, remote central locking, underseat storage, vinyl flooring, dual glovebox, auto headlights and wipers
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, two-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 2 x USB inputs, 3.5mm Aux-in
- Cargo volume: 6.0m²
From the cabin, you could almost be fooled into thinking you were behind the wheel of a low-cost SUV if you didn’t turn to look at the huge load bay behind you. The Trafic looks and feels so much like a passenger car from the wheel.
The plastics are all work-toughened, but the dash is modern, fit and finish is ahead of the class, and the familiar touchscreen interface shared with Clio and Megane steps things up a notch for the van segment.
The leather steering wheel is standard, as is a self-dimming mirror, but you still get work-ready vinyl flooring and durable cloth seat-trim.
Heated seats and touchscreen satellite navigation are on the options list (our tester had both, along with 17-alloy wheels) or you can go to town and add options packs with extra airbags, climate control, proximity key, colour-coded bumpers, and more. (Your Renault dealer will be able to give you the full, and lengthy, rundown.)
Head to the rear, and the long wheelbase Trafic comes standard with a metal bulkhead isolating the cabin, but featuring a glass rear window.
On the passenger’s side of the bulkhead, there’s a hinged door opening to a small storage-space, or for loading long objects through.
The load area measures six cubic metres, with a load space that’s 1662mm wide, 1387mm high, and 2937mm long (or 4150mm including the load trap). Rear doors provide a 1391mm width and 1320mm height for loading.
Between the wheel arches there’s 1268mm, meaning the Trafic LWB has the potential to carry two Australian standard pallets with a little breathing room to spare. Payload maxes out at 1274kg.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 103kW/340Nm 1.6 litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
- Brakes: 296mm front disc, 280mm rear disc
- Steering: Power assisted, turning circle: 13.17m
- Towing capacity: 2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Pulling power is provided by a twin-turbo 1.6 litre diesel that produces 103kW at 3500rpm and 340Nm from 1500rpm.
That puts the Trafic ahead of Hiace and iMax manual (but not iMax auto), as well as two of the four Mercedes Vito engine variants (the two more powerful versions are priced from $47k to $57k, or well above the Trafic’s $38,490 starting ticket).
The Trafic's power and torque figures are very stout numbers for an engine of just 1.6 litres, but thanks to its twin-turbo set-up, the Renault feels remarkably strong.
While we didn’t run it fully laden, a couple of hundred kilos in the back never troubled it at all.
The big turn-off for many buyers however may be the lack of an automatic transmission option, with only a six-speed manual available. While the manual is light and easy to use, with an accurate shift and effortless clutch, it simply won’t suit all buyers.
We ran a few quick highway trips, but kept most of our driving urban (to mimic delivery runs). Thanks to the frugal engine, and the assistance of start-stop, we returned a figure of 7.3 l/100km - absolutely decent next to the claimed 6.4 l/100km quoted from the factory (but recorded with a light load).
Some of the more positive aspects of the road experience include low road, wind, and tyre noise, and no squeaks or groans from the suspension.
The engine also finds its peak torque at lower revs, and can be short-shifted without slowing progress, but even when wrung out it is far quieter than we expected of 'a workhorse'.
Better still, low levels of vibration and clatter make the Trafic a civilised drive on the road, and an effortless one. You will find it easy spending long hours at the wheel of the Trafic, which is no small accolade.
The inclusion of cruise control with a speed limiter will also come in very handy for drivers worried about 'the points standing' with their licence.
SAFETY | RATING:
ANCAP rating: The Renault Trafic has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Safety systems include ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, hill start assist, ‘Grip Xtend’ low-speed traction system, and rear park sensors.
Driver and passenger front airbags are standard, and curtain airbags are available as an option.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
New vans in town include the recently launched Mercedes-Benz Vito, the smart and capable Ford Transit, and the soon to be launched Volkswagen Transporter.
Stalwarts, like the Toyota Hilux and Hyundai iLoad have been around for years - they’ve both forged a hard working reputation - but neither is as car-like as the Trafic.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A van is more than just a van, so when an automaker goes to the trouble of really delving into what drivers need, the results stand out.
The Trafic answers that call, with a comfy cabin that doubles as a mobile office. It also offers unusually low noise levels and great fuel economy.
And fleet managers may be pleased to learn that capped-price services at $349 each, with a 30,000km interval, will make factoring in running costs simpler and cheaper.
And if you want you business to get noticed, you can’t go past the Bamboo Green of this test vehicle - it screams for attention and everybody notices.
We'd comfortably recommend a very close look at the Trafic; and, if the absense of auto is not a deal-breaker, we think you'll agree on our assessment.
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