Renault – currently powering Aussie Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull team in the latest chapter of its long involvement with F1 and other forms of motorsport including victories in the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race. Renault – currently best-known locally for two of the hottest of hot hatches in the Clio RS and Megane RS.
That’s all true. But the fact is, last year in Australia 34 per-cent of Renault sales were accounted for by light commercial vehicles (LCVs). We’re talking Kangoos and Maxis here, not Clio or Megane.
In Europe, Renault has been the number one manufacturer of vans since 1988.
So Renault would like to make the following points about the all-new Trafic van which is now on-sale in Australia: best in class fuel consumption, best in class stowage capacity, best in class loading length and best in class anchorage points. Further, the French giant says, we have class-leading features including a brilliant ‘office on wheels’ interior fitout.
We’d call that an all-new model making a great start.
Renault Trafic Overview
The all-new Renault Trafic has arrived with a three-model range. All can be powered by a new twin-turbo 1.6-litre diesel engine or the entry level version can be had with a single-turbo diesel.
So we have the short wheelbase model called L1H1 or the long wheelbase version called L2H1.
2015 Renault Trafic lineup is:
|Renault Trafic SWB L1H1 ST dCi 90||$33,490|
|Renault Trafic SWB L1H1 TT dCi 140||$36,990|
|Renault Trafic LWB L2H1 TT dCi 140||$38,490|
Renault Trafic Engine
Headline act under the bonnet is Renault’s new twin-turbocharged ENERGY dCi 140 1.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel. With F1 derived technology including diamond-like carbon superfinishing, transverse water flow and U-Flex piston rings, fuel consumption compared to the previous model’s dCi 115 has been cut by a whopping 25 per-cent.
Of course the twin turbocharger arrangement sees one used for low speed (80 per-cent of torque is available from 1250rpm) and the other at higher speeds for overtaking.
The twin-turbo delivers maximum power of 103kW at 3500rpm and peak torque of 340Nm from 1500rpm.
Entry-level Renault Trafic L1H1 short wheelbase is also available with a single-turbocharged 1.6-litre diesel good for 66kW/260Nm.
Both powerplants drive through a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Renault says a twin-clutch automatic transmission is under development but no date has been confirmed for its arrival.
Both are rated at 6.2l/100kms for combined-cycle fuel consumption.
And how’s this for clever thinking from Europe’s commercial vehicles leader: you can option a double crankshaft pulley on the twin-turbo engine to power a refrigeration unit for the cargo area.
Renault Trafic The Interior
The all-new Renault Trafic presents the best cabin of any van. It’s as simple as that.
These are working vehicles and the all-new Trafic delivers what Renault calls an ‘office on wheels’. Fold down the centre seat and you have a console which provides a clever upright clipboard which can be slanted towards either the driver or passenger and underneath is secure storage for a laptop.
There is an optional cradle for dashboard mounting of your mobile telephone, four cupholders and up to 90-litres of storage in 14 bins to contain the odds-n-ends which working vehicles need. It’s brilliant.
Drivers are well catered for with a new-design seat which is height adjustable but mounted 36mm lower and rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel (leather wrapped in twin-turbo models). It’s certainly more car-like than any other van.
And the all-new Renault Trafic is spacious. Compared to the superseded model the bulkhead has been shifted 3cm rearwards.
Load lengths for the long and short wheelbase versions are 4.15-metres and 3.75-metres and, thanks extra length, the cargo capacity has been boosted to 5.2 square-metres (short wheelbase) or 6.0-metres (long wheelbase). Both long and short wheelbase models can accommodate two Australian pallets and there are 16 or 18 tie-down points.
Renault knows commercial vehicles so there is a range of factory-fit solutions for cargo-carrying including roof-mounted racking with a capacity of 13kgs. Also on the massive options list are wood linings and wood shelving and heavy-duty suspension to cater for an extra 85kgs of weight over the rear axle.
And both the rear doors and cargo area have been designed so owners of the superseded model can re-use their current fittings.
Renault Traffic Exterior & Styling
You only have to park a Renault Trafic alongside another van to see how far these vehicles have come in the looks department. The all-new model, while an evolution of the predecessor, is hip and contemporary but also incredibly functional.
The front-end looks dynamic with thin headlights and large grille which incorporates the new-style Renault logo. Renault has shifted the windscreen back and given it more rake to deliver a more passenger car look.
Large wrap-around bumpers and at the rear the hallmark upright protection moldings (body colour or black) hint at the robust nature of the Trafic’s overall styling.
And the side view continues Trafic’s uncluttered and precise style with nice lines and a square look which is part of the massive cargo capacity. Compared to the previous model, the front overhang has been extended by 10cm and the rear overhang by 10cm.
Renault Traffic On The Road
The natural ‘habitat’ of the commercial vehicle is the city/urban environment – that is an indisputable fact. Pleasingly Renault dropped us into the morning peak hour in Adelaide - matched only by Canberra for the title of Australia’s least congested capital city.
We drove a long and short wheelbase version of the latest Renault Trafic and both were powered by the 1.6.-litre twin-turbo diesel. And both had 350kgs of weight strapped into the cargo area.
Right off the bat, just pulling onto the street, it was clear we’re talking a very special driveline here. Not just the twin-turbo diesel, but the six-speed transmission and clever front-drive configuration…well the combo was ridiculously powerful, smooth and refined.
There was plenty of urge with the 340Nm delivered from low engine speeds, the clutch and transmission were as smooth and refined as a manual Renault Clio hatchback (none of the jerkiness you sometimes get with commercial vehicles thanks to ‘industrial strength’ clutch plates and gear linkages). And even at the first roundabout we noticed a new level of smoothness and precision from the suspension you don’t associate with these types of vehicles.
That was impressive.
After a circuitous route through the city past the Adelaide Oval we eventually found a freeway heading towards the Barossa Valley. Here we discovered sixth gear was very much an overdrive and at just a smidge above the legal speed limit the all-new Renault Trafic wasn’t quite nudging 2,000rpm… and all was quiet inside.
Other points? Well the field of vision from the ‘wide angle blind spot’ exterior mirrors was excellent. And that was fortunate because, like many of the vans you see on the road, neither of our test cars was fitted with the optional side windows (couriers tell you side windows reduce load versatility and tradies say side windows let passers-by check-out their tools).
Also, despite some incredible cross-winds on the day of our drive, the Renault Trafic was impressively stable. Renault equips the Trafic with a Macpherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear-end with a Panhard rod.
And a word for the made-in-Turkey Dunlop tyres. Biased towards long wear and fuel economy (of course) they were still commendably quiet on all road surfaces and played an important role in Renault Trafic’s total refinement package.
Renault Trafic Issues
Renault says 90 per-cent of global Trafic sales and 60 per-cent of Australian sales favour manual transmissions; we’d imagine there would be plenty of Renault dealers in Australia counting the days until the automatic Trafic arrives.
Renault Trafic Verdict
We have a new number one for these types of vans and it’s the all-new Renault Trafic. As Europe’s LCV market leader you’d expect the all-new Trafic to be good but Renault has really excelled.
With everyone keeping an eye on running costs and performance, there’s no doubt Renault’s twin-turbo 1.6-litre engine is a winner. Our test vehicles lugged 350kgs with ease but still returned fuel consumption around 7.6l/100kms during a day of hard driving.
Top marks go to the cabin with its best-in-class functionality for those on the job. And of course the cargo area’s maximum payload (1235kgs – 1274kgs) and space get the job done with ease.
And Renault knows how commercial vehicle operators tick. The all-new Trafic comes with a three year/100,000kms factory warranty with roadside assistance and most operators will only need one annual service (that’s only one day off the road and Renault’s dedicated Pro+ LCV dealerships will arrange a loan vehicle to keep you on the road regardless).
Renault Trafic The Competition
Renault’s sharp pricing, comprehensive specifications as well as low service costs (and less time off the road) has the Trafic looking like the standout van.
Ford’s Transit is of course one of the world’s top-sellers – because it’s terrific. Regular readers of www.carshowroom.com.au know we’re fans of the Ford Transit but there’s no getting around its $37,490 starting price.
Likewise the excellent Mercedes-Benz Vito which starts at $38,990. We reckon Renault has aced the once best-in-class interior of the Vito with the all-new Trafic’s terrific ‘Office On Wheels’ functionality but the Merc fights back with both 2.2-litre and 3.0-litre diesels (for a price).
Hyundai’s iLoad is another favourite and is handily priced from $30,990. Hyundai offers the iLoad with both petrol and diesel engines.
And you can’t talk vans without mentioning the Toyota HiAce. Good as the HiAce is, starting price for the diesel range is $35,990.