Our long-term Renault Master Sport panel van is doing such a good job at present that it’s beginning to change Steve Banner’s opinion on the French manufacturer’s reputation.
When I first discovered that I was going to be allocated a Renault Master as a long-term test vehicle, to be frank, I wasn’t exactly delighted by the prospect – especially since I was being called upon to surrender my beloved custard-yellow long-term Volkswagen Transporter. That’s because I’ve never viewed Renaults as being the most durable or dependable vehicles on the planet.
The only test vehicles to have broken down on me during my time as a writer on What Van? have been a Renault Clio Van
(with a fuelling problem on the A1 in the middle of winter and a vociferously unhappy wife in the passenger seat) and an LDV Maxus. The latter expired with a serious electrical fault and had to be towed backwards off my drive by the local dealer.
More than 6500 miles later, however, my opinion is altering. Aside from a sticking hazard-warning light switch that was soon fixed with nothing more sophisticated than a bit of bent cardboard, the Master has proved a completely reliable workhorse that has by and large been mercifully and impressively free of squeaks and rattles.
The load area doors open and close as smoothly and as firmly as they did when it was first delivered, the cargo area has stood up to a variety of different items without showing any ill effects, and the cab interior remains reasonably pristine aside from a scattering of larch needles (when not in use, the van spends most of its time parked next to a large larch tree). Nothing has snapped, worked loose or fallen off. With lots of storage space, the cab is a well-designed working environment.
Containing information on the Master’s remaining range, rate of fuel consumption and how many miles will elapse before it needs servicing – there are still more than 18,000 to go thanks to long service intervals – the onboard computer is proving to be a lot more useful than we expected it to be. We long ago got used to the satnav display being positioned at the top of the windscreen, and the more we look at it, the more we are convinced that the location is an eminently sensible one.
For a large-ish panel van, the Master’s on-the-road footprint seems to be remarkably compact. It’s manoeuvrable in confined spaces – the reversing sensors are a boon given the opaque bulkhead and rear doors, and we’ve already sung the praises of its big exterior mirrors – and it seems as at home on local delivery runs as it is on the motorway. Hills are tackled with aplomb, even with a bit of weight in the back.
Long-distance runs hold no terrors for it. It lopes along quite happily, and has to be reined in when lightly laden to ensure that motorway speed limits aren’t merely broken, but shattered.
Any fleet buying one as a working tool would be well- advised to fit a 70mph limiter and to tell its drivers to take careful note of the beeping emitted by the satnav system whenever a speed camera is in the vicinity; yes, it’s irritating, but three points on your licence plus a fine are a lot more annoying.
The Master isn’t the sort of van you would deploy on 70- to 80-drops-a-day parcels or home- delivery work. For that you need a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or a Volkswagen Crafter; the Renault, as is the case with many of its rivals, would struggle with the abuse. But if you want a big packing case on wheels that will take bulky items from point A to point B three or four times a day, or will act as a large mobile toolbox, then the Master is without doubt worth a lot more than a second glance. It looks good too, especially in the Sport trim we opted for.
Never forget that the Master is available through Renault Trucks dealers as well as through the Renault car and van network. Also, it is also sold by Vauxhall as the Movano and by Nissan as the NV400: different nose, same van.