Long Term Test: Renault Master

Date: Monday, March 25, 2013

It has been a part of the What Van? fleet for 12 months, and contrary to his initial suspicions when it first arrived, Steve Banner is sorry to see the Renault Master return to the French manufacturer.

It’s a long way from Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire to Kirkcaldy in Fife – 390 miles to be precise – and what with various short forays into Edinburgh and the Lake District I had covered well over 800 miles in What Van?’s long-term Renault Master by the time I got back to home base.
It was the van’s longest journey before it was returned to Renault and served only to underline what we have already learned during our 12 months with the Master.
It coped with aplomb on both legs of the journey. The outward-bound load was furniture, rugs, curtains and various other domestic bits and pieces, while on the return hike the Master was laden with little more than a few plants. The bulk of the trip involved motorways and A-roads, and it loped along nicely without breaking sweat. Yes, 150hp would be nice, but the van’s 125hp engine has turned out to be perfectly adequate for long-distance runs, even with a bit of weight onboard. The van is quiet, comfortable, rides and handles well and is fuel-frugal. We’ve been averaging 35mpg: not bad for a van of this size.
In 7762 miles the only glitch we have experienced is the Master’s hazard warning lights refusing to be switched off, a problem we resolved with nothing more sophisticated than a bit of bent cardboard.
Front-wheel drive has provided useful traction when venturing onto muddy surfaces and proved a boon when transporting anything heavy because it offers a lower loading height. Big side and rear door apertures have meant we have been able to slide some remarkably large objects into the cargo area.
The driving seat is comfortable and offers plenty of support and you arise from it after an extended run feeling almost as fresh as you did when you started. Furthermore, there is an almost-bewildering amount of storage space. In our view the most useful area is beneath the passenger seat. It will swallow any amount of muddy anoraks, boots and gloves – the sort of items you do not want sliding around the cab while trying to drive.
We also became fond of the overhead display screen for the radio and satnav system and have found ourselves glancing for it when driving other vans, perhaps because it is in just about the ideal location.
We were grateful for the big exterior mirrors and were equally appreciative of the reversing sensors. Accompanied by the Master’s high degree of manoeuvrability for its size, they allowed us to squeeze into tighter parking spaces than might otherwise have been possible.
While Renault build quality
has improved over the years, the Master, we suspect, would simply not be capable of withstanding the battering and clattering it would receive on multi-drop parcels delivery work. Opening and slamming cab and load area doors up to 500 times a week takes its toll on a vehicle as do a steady succession of short, high-speed dashes culminating in a spot of heavy braking as the delivery point is reached. There are vans out
there – a small number admittedly – that can withstand such an unremitting thrashing, but the Master is not one of them. It is instead more the sort of van likely to be used by, say, a kitchen fitter who takes all his materials and tools to somebody’s house, and stays there all day treating the vehicle as a mobile toolbox. Our fictitious kitchen fitter would also be pleased with the Renault’s potential as a mobile advertisement for his or her business. It is without doubt a handsome-looking vehicle, one of the best-looking of its size on the highway, especially in our van’s Sport trim.
So were we sad to see Master go? To be honest, a lot more than we expected to be when the van first arrived.
Although it wouldn’t suit all types of business, its capabilities would make it a sensible buy for a high percentage of British operators. As we have remarked before, though, never forget that the Master is also sold by Vauxhall as the Movano, through the Renault Trucks network – a good place to go if you are looking to get your Master serviced outside normal working hours – and by Nissan as the NV400, albeit with a different face on.



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