First Drive: Renault Trafic Sport SWB

Date: Wednesday, August 06, 2014   |   Author: James Dallas

Renault is confident its new Trafic will enable the brand to extend its 16-year reign as Europe’s number one van maker.

The medium-sized model, which will arrive in UK showrooms in September, is the key commercial product for Renault as its top-selling LCV.

The manufacturer has shifted all Trafic production to its Sandouville factory in France, having pulled out of Nissan’s plant in Spain and Vauxhall’s facility in Luton.

With the revised Master built at Batilly and the Kangoo manufactured at Maubeuge Renault has now concentrated all its light commercial vehicle production into its domestic plants.

Renault has moved to upgrade performance, economy, load carrying capacity and interior quality and versatility in the new van, which is also sold by Vauxhall/Opel as the Vivaro.

UK pricing for the third generation Trafic starts at £18,245 for the entry-level panel van. All prices listed exclude VAT.

From launch the model is available in low roof mode and in two body lengths – high roof and platform cab versions will follow early next year.

It is up for grabs with a choice of four engines. Renault’s existing 1.6-litre dCi90 and dCi 115 units are joined by two new twin-turbo drivetrains, the 1.6 Energy dCi 120 and 140 engines. Renault is promising fuel economy gains of at least 5mpg across the range compared to the current single-turbo powertrains, with the newly developed twin-turbos the most efficient.

Three trim levels are offered, the first two, Business and Business+ reflect the brand’s move to position the new Trafic as a practical working environment or “mobile office” in Renault-speak, for fleets, SMEs and owner/drivers.

The flagship Sport derivative gets everything included on the Busines+ as well as extra style orientated kit designed to appeal to the more discerning user chooser customers.

As the model most likely to make its way onto large fleet lists, Renault expects the Business to be the biggest seller. According to UK product manager Mike Willis, it will take around one-in-two sales.

For a base model, its list of standard features is impressive. ESC is now included on all Trafic variants and this brings with it Hill Start Assist and Grip Xtend traction control to cope with loose surfaces. DAB radio and USB connectivity are also standard.

Driver comfort is enhanced by a height adjustable seat with an armrest and a steering wheel that can be moved for both reach and rake. The base model also gets electric front windows, electric heated door mirrors and a spare wheel. A full steel bulkhead separates the cab from the load bay, which contains 16 load anchorage points in SWB mode and 18 in LWB.

The cargo box is reached by rear doors and a nearside sliding door.

Stepping up to Business+ adds £1100 to the starting price, which seems a reasonable outlay for the amount of equipment provided geared towards making the cabin a more convenient place to work in.

The most significant addition is the fold down central passenger seat that holds a removable A4 clipboard. The black and chrome interior also houses laptop and tablet storage spaces and a smartphone dock. Air conditioning is thrown in and the bulkhead includes a load through facility that allows objects of up to 4.15m to fit into the LWB version (3.75m in SWB).

Business+ introduces Renault’s innovative Wide View Mirror, which is set in the passenger side sun visor and designed to give the driver a far better view to the rear – eliminating the over-the-shoulder blind spot in panel vans.

On the outside the more upmarket feel is reinforced with body-coloured front bumper, door rail and tail light column and rear parking sensors are a welcome addition too.

The flagship Sport model brings on board features such as17-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel, useful lidded upper dashboard storage, metallic paint, body-coloured door mirrors and chrome grille, seven-inch touch-screen sat nav and multimedia system, cruise control, speed limiter and front fog lights.

Renault is offering a range of option packs for customers wishing to choose specific features individually. For £250 the Mobile Office Pack includes the full steel bulkhead with load through hatch, fold-down passenger seat with laptop storage and removable clipboard and Wide View Mirror.

All weather tyres are available for £215, a tyre pressure monitoring system is £100 and reversing cameras are offered from £50 to £500, depending on the level of sophistication required, according to Renault.

The Medianav multimedia and sat nav package, which encompasses Bluetooth, USB and DAB radio, costs £360 while upgrading to the Renault R-Link seven-inch touchscreen multimedia and navigation with Bluetooth, USB and DAB radio plus cruise control and speed limiter costs £365 to £775, depending on the trim level. The cradles for smart phone and tablet are £70 apiece and adding the Wide View Mirror if it’s not included in the spec will set you back £100.

Opting for a heated driver’s seat along with font lateral, curtain and passenger airbags requires an outlay of £770.

The Business trim models, expected to take the highest volumes, were not available on the international launch of the Trafic so we got behind the wheel of a flagship SWB Sport model powered by the 140hp twin-turbo engine to get an impression of the van’s full potential. It comes with a price tag of £22, 245. Willis reckons Sport derivatives will account for 20% of UK sales and particularly appeal to owner/drivers wanting the highest specification available.

He says the mid-spec Business+ will attract SMEs and local fleets and command 30% of volume.

The 140hp drivetrain provides gutsy performance across the full power range and works well in tandem with the six-speed manual gearbox, which is common across the line-up. Providing the road is clear, roundabouts can be negotiated comfortably in third gear, for example, while there is plenty of pull in top gear even with the payload filled to three quarters of its 1041kg capacity. Load volume in the short wheelbase Trafic is 5.2m3 and a useful feature is the overhead storage rack with a carrying capacity of 13kg that can be fitted inside the cargo area. Weighing 7kg, the manufacturer says the 1630mm long, 280mm high, 650mm wide rack can hold a step ladder or around 10 copper pipes. It can be fitted either side of the cargo box and costs £200.

The cabin is a step up in quality compared to the out of date-looking layout of its predecessor but not quite a match for the standard reached by the Transit Custom, which has set a new benchmark.

The armrest on the driver’s door is a nice touch that boosts comfort and the driver’s position overall is good. Renault has lowered the seat by 36mm and increased the seat back’s recline in order to bring it more in line with the cab environment associated with MPVs. It has also moved the bulkhead back 30mm to make more room.

For van drivers the cavernous, 54-litre stowage space beneath the passenger seats is eminently practical as is the pull-down desk in the middle seat.

The much-trumpeted Wide View Mirror in the passenger sun visor is an ingenious feature and works well in busy city environments once you find its best position – helping to increase the driver’s angle of vision to the rear. But it is not such good news for the passenger in the window seat for whom it is intrusive – forcing the occupant to stare at their own reflection or to fully lower the seat in order to see out of the windscreen.

The gear shift is precise and smooth – making the Trafic a civilised companion about town – and the gear lever itself is pleasingly chunky and sturdy. In line with most modern LCVs the steering wheel is user-friendly and car-like in its dimensions. The SWB Trafic’s turning circle of 11.8m however, exceeds that of the SWB Transit Custom, which manages 10.9m and also that of the new generation Iveco Daily, which achieves an impressive 10.5m kerb to kerb in SWB mode, despite being a larger van.

Renault claims it is currently developing a version of the Robotised auto-transmission, already available in the Master, for the Trafic. It says Euro6-compliant SCR technology engines will be introduced to the range in late-2015 but has no current plans to launch hybrid or electric versions of the van.

The brand claims the Trafic’s four-year, 100,000mile warranty gives it an advantage over Vauxhall’s version of the van, the Vivaro, which comes with a three-year, 100,000 mile deal.

 

Ready to rack and roll

Renault has announced prices for the Ready4Work racking and storage equipment range it introduced at the CV Show.

The initiative enables customers to finance the vehicle in one package and to specify the kit they require when ordering the van so it is ready to use when they collect it from the dealership.

Two types of off-the-shelf racking are available under the scheme, which Renault is operating in partnership with storage specialist Bri-Stor.

The entry-level System 1 includes a two-part anti-slip phenolic coated floor, load and crash-tested aluminium floor rails, 10mm plywood base, no drilling into the van structure, brackets connected to the existing lashing points,and lightweight high-strength dual-phase steel racking to maximise payload.

The second Specialist Storage System adds a telescopic drawer unit with three 500mm wide drawers and a shelf.

Prices for the respective systems, excluding VAT, range from £750 to £1000 for the Kangoo, £995 to £1200 for the Trafic and £1250 to £1500 for the Master. In line with the model line-up the Ready4Work systems come with a four-year, 100,000 mile warranty.

 

Verdict

Good new engines and some clever, practical features should see the Trafic prosper in a competitive market.

 

 



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