The middle seat in our Renault is not just for carrying an extra work colleague to your next job, as Steve Banner reveals
Our long-term-test Trafic was clawed back by Renault for a couple of days recently thanks to a safety recall that concerned the driver's seat.
Turned out that there was nothing wrong with it other than – we suspect – the odd mouldy peanut butter sandwich stuck between the cushion and the seat back. Like many van drivers, we're not above using the cab as an impromptu mess room.
As a consequence we find the ability to fold down the back of the middle seat and turn it into a makeshift picnic table particularly useful, especially given the presence of a cup-holder.
It does not really function satisfactorily as a desk however. Sitting in the driver's seat then twisting around and trying to use a laptop or fill in paperwork can get uncomfortable after a while.
When not in use the laptop disappears into the concealed compartment under the passenger seat which can be accessed by pulling up the seat cushions. Ordinarily there would be plenty of room for it, but the area is also proving to be an ideal place to shove anoraks, boots, woolly hats and anything else that is cluttering up the cab.
Using it in this way means of course that it cannot fulfil its other role; as an extension to the cargo bed that allows over-length items to be carried if you lift up a flap in the bottom of the bulkhead.
Fortunately we haven't had to make use of this facility. Instead, we have been filling up the 5.2m3 cargo area with bags of rubbish from a house clearance and we have been agreeably surprised by just how much junk the load area will swallow.
We have also appreciated the low loading height courtesy of front-wheel-drive when trying to manoeuvre heavy items on board. That said, we have yet to make full use of the vehicle's 1056kg gross payload capacity.
As Renault was recalling the van temporarily we asked its technicians to take a look at the power steering which had been making odd noises from time to time; noises that were more audible to people standing outside the vehicle while it was being manoeuvred than to the driver.
They found nothing wrong with it and no noises have emanated from that quarter since. Perhaps they gave the power steering pump a verbal warning.
The Trafic is in fact far freer of squeaks and groans than some of the Renaults we have encountered in the past. The intermittent creaking that emanated from the dashboard when we first took delivery of the vehicle ceased long ago; and has not reappeared.
Renault Trafic SL27 Energy dCi 120 Business+
Claimed combined consumption 47.9mpg
Our average consumption 46mpg
Price (ex VAT or option) £20,445