First Drive: Renault Trafic

Date: Monday, November 03, 2014   |  

One of the biggest launches of this year, Renault’s Trafic arrived with a choice of two new and powerful yet economic 1.6-litre Bi-turbo engines of 120hp and 140hp, and a pair of carry-over 90hp and 115hp 1.6 units that offer more attractive price points but at the expense of both performance and efficiency.

Compared with the new 120hp Bi-turbo engine, the 115hp diesel driven here is £600 cheaper and an official 4.4mpg worse off, so the decision comes down to how many miles the vehicle will be driven, because higher mileage users will find it worth paying the extra up-front and enjoying slightly better fuel economy as well as enhanced performance, but it will take a while to save that £600 additional outlay that would mean around 65 extra miles per tank.

But refinement is good and wind noise in particular is kept to a minimum at higher speeds to leave the cabin a relaxing place to be. There’s an Eco button to help maximise fuel efficiency, but it numbs the acceleration significantly. Overall, there’s a noticeable difference in performance between the more powerful Bi-turbo engines and these older units. The 115hp in particular is fine in acceleration terms, it’s just that it feels like there is a gap larger than the 5hp that exists between this one and the excellent 120hp Bi-turbo.

The usage choices continue with the spec levels, as the more agreeable Business+, the middle of three trims flanked by Business and Sport, costs £1100 more than Business but will be of appeal to owner drivers in particular as it adds rear parking sensors, air conditioning, full steel bulkhead with load-through, body-coloured front bumper that makes a real visual difference and some of the interior fittings that help turn the cabin into a more user-friendly environment. These include the fold-down passenger seat with A4 clipboard and laptop storage area, and the smartphone dock that while well-placed on the dash, especially if the driver’s phone doubles up as navigation or job list device, is fragile and didn’t feel like it would stand up to a couple of years of hard usage. The interior in general is still more van-like that wannabe passenger car, which while good on the durability front, isn’t close to the class best in terms of design, material quality and overall appeal.

In many ways the Traffic impresses, but is let down a little by the interior, and the fact that you have to step up by £1100 to this Business+ trim level to get the more appealing features. The 115hp engine is absolutely fine, but the Bi-turbo versions are outright impressive and given the extra economy make for a decision that has to be made carefully in terms of balancing initial cs usage.

 

Verdict

New Trafic is a big step forward and refinement impresses in particular



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