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First Drive: Renault Trafic / Master

Updates to the Trafic and Master aim to keep Renault at the top of the LCV charts, says Jonathan Musk.

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Renault’s updating of its wildly popular LCV range sees Trafic and Master receive sensible enhancements with improved engines, purposeful styling and new driver-focused interiors.

At first glance, the changes aren’t going to set the world alight, but why rock the boat? Last year, Renault’s LCV sales grew 34% to 620,000 sales, making the French firm the number one van manufacturer in Europe.

Trafic

SECTOR Mid-weight POWER 120-170hp TORQUE 320-380Nm LOAD VOLUME 3.2-8.6m3

With two million vans sold since its introduction in 1980, and 97,422 in 2018, the now French-only built Trafic has a lot to live up to.

First and most obvious is the new styling, which receives a revised front-end featuring LED lights as standard and a chrome grille. It’s not until you step inside, however, that the important updates are to be found.

There’s a distinct air of familiarity in the cab, if you’ve ever been in a Renault car, with a dashboard complete with Clio-esque infotainment screen, surround, buttons and functions. Android Auto is standard, while Apple CarPlay is added on the more expensive Media Nav Evolution option.

There’s also a host of new driver assistance systems, although it’s a shame AEB didn’t make the cut, despite it becoming standard equipment on the new Master.

New higher-quality and durable materials have also been used throughout the cabin and should see off the worst muck and grime.

Moving into the rear load area, standard choices range from 3.2-8.6m3 load space, with two lengths and two heights available. Renault was also keen to point out that more secure locks have been installed. The company has gotten rid of 57% of the range, really simplifying matters from the mammoth 124 options previously available, down to just 53. Despite the range slimming, the new Trafic commands a £250 premium over the previous generation – with prices starting from £22,800.

Trim levels remain the same as before, with Sport specification expected to take around 47% of sales.Readers of Van Fleet World will appreciate that while most vans are bought on cost rather than for their drivability, the new Trafic drives very well indeed.

The new Euro 6d-temp compliant 2.0-litre dCi diesel offers plenty of pulling power and is impressively smooth and quiet, as well as benefiting from a fuel consumption improvement of 2mpg (NEDC Correlated).
Unfortunately, at the time of writing official fuel consumption figures weren’t available. The expected best-seller is the ENERGY dCi 145 offering up 145hp and 350Nm torque; the latter at a low 1,500rpm. Need more grunt? Trafic is available with a maximum 170hp and 380Nm torque.

Automatics in vans have proven unpopular in the past, yet Renault has introduced the new six-speed EDC6 dual-clutch transmission. To add a bit of perspective, I’m not a huge fan of DCTs, but the EDC6 proved seamless and natural around our route’s Portuguese town and country roads. Being dual clutch, transmission shouldn’t affect the van’s pulling power as would have been the case if it had been a slushbox. That said, there’s no question the manual still offers a greater level of control.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Master

SECTOR Heavy-weight POWER 130-180hp TORQUE 330-400Nm LOAD VOLUME 8-22m3

A big hitter in the LCV market, the Renault Master has seen sales of some 2.4 million vans since its introduction in 1980. Today, it is produced in both France and Brazil and sold in more than 50 countries.

The new Renault-Trucks-inspired front-end, complete with LED lights and chrome grille, as per Trafic, offers the van a new more utilitarian identity.

Like Trafic, it is inside where the real benefits are to be found, with fresh driver comfort and infotainment options that really make the Master into a mobile office. Seemingly minor alterations quickly add up, with redesigned air vents and under-seat stowage opening up the interior for occupant comfort. However, many of Renault’s nifty innovations aren’t coming to the UK’s right-hand drive stock – such as the pull-out table and Easy Life drawer – due to complications when converting from left-hand drive.

As with the Trafic, Android Auto is standard issue, but you’ll have to opt for Media Nav Evolution to get Apple CarPlay. There’s plenty to impress here, with the system well and truly bringing the van into car-like tech territory.

A big improvement is the host of new driver assistance systems (ADAS), including AEB, rear view assist (a first in the segment), side wind assist, front part assist and blind spot warning – all extremely useful for everyday van driving.

Moving into the rear, updates include a new grab handle to assist hopping into the load bay, which is available in 6.9-22m3 cargo volumes and gross vehicle weights between 2.8-4.5 tonnes.

Thankfully, despite the plethora of updates, Renault has kept pricing competitive and even managed to knock £70 off the price compared to the outgoing model; with prices starting from £26,350.

Like Trafic, there’s been a significant range-slimming; while there used to be 126 Master derivatives, there are now just 91 – unpopular options having been lopped off the list. 38.5% of Masters were converted last year, although Renault gives the option of a few ‘off-the-shelf’ vans including a Luton box van, Luton LoLoader, aluminium tipper and dropside.

Of the two available trim choices, 84% of buyers are expected to select Business, with the remainder opting for Business+. Master’s updated 2.3-litre dCi diesel gets an increase in power and torque, up to a maximum 180hp and 400Nm respectively. And, despite the extra oomph, the engine offers a 3mpg (NEDC Correlated) saving over the outgoing model.

That power is immediately apparent behind the wheel, with the van eager to progress and smooth through the gears. It’s easy to drive and the ADAS systems make reversing a doddle, as well as aiding overall awareness of typically difficult to monitor surroundings, with the blind spot indicators well worth their salt.

Order books are open now for both Trafic and Master, with production to start in July and customer deliveries expected to begin in September.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Electric plans

Renault has big ambitions for its LCVs, with a plan to double market coverage from 24% to 50% and remain an electric LCV leader with an electric version of all its vans. Though Kangoo and Master each have their respective Z.E. versions already,

Renault commented that Trafic’s electrification would come “very soon, by 2022” and that a 155-mile range was seen as the key figure to target.

As for pricing, Renault says it is working hard to reach a total cost of ownership parity with diesel vans, but admits it isn’t quite there yet.

Worth a note: new Master Z.E. offers a range up to 75 miles (Renault promises more than 50 miles’ range even when fully laden) and a 1,100kg payload, as well as being available in six different versions.

The Verdict:

Renault has listened to its customers and delivered on its promises, which should help keep Trafic and Master at the top of fleet lists.

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Written by Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.

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