The Renault Trafic Sport is essentially a trim and equipment package for the current model Trafic commercial van. Alloy wheels, leather, stripes, side steps and contrasting body highlights are all an effort to widen the appeal of Renault’s mid-size commercial. The Sport option is destined for Australia mid-2017 and will be available as a six-seat crew van as well as a three seater.
- The diminutive 1.6 litre turbo-diesel powerplant gives nothing away in performance as far as mid-size vans go. The top spec engine uses twin-turbocharging to make 103kW and 340Nm and that torque is on tap from 1500rpm. The front wheel drive Trafic gets from 0-100km/h in 10.8 seconds. But it’s a van so who’s timing!
- From the driver’s seat the Trafic’s interior is a veritable Swiss Army Knife of practicality. Cubby holes, cup holders, power outlets and storage abound. The centre front seat folds down into a worktable with space for a laptop and also features a built-in clipboard. Plus there’s 5.2 cubic metres of load area out back.
- It’s quiet. As with some of it’s Euro competitors, the Renault uses a steel bulkhead to separate the cockpit and passenger compartments from the load area. This means there’s no driveline drumming though the shell of an empty van. The dCi engine maintains a civil note unless really pushed which means you can actually hear the music pumping from the Bluetooth enabled DAB Multimedia unit.
- The Sport package actually looks cool. The stripes and wheel package (not confirmed for Australia yet) give the otherwise mundane delivery van image of the Trafic a significant lift. And the leather trimmed interior feels special.
- Manual gearboxes are still all the rage for European light commercials. As such the entire Trafic range is only available as a six-speed manual. The upside is that it’s a great shifter with a very light throw. The low torque curve of the dCi engine makes it very forgiving when idling through heavy traffic.
- Front-wheel drive makes for easy packaging from an engineering point of view. However it doesn’t make for a van with a great turning circle or on-road dynamics. The Trafic is prone to a little torque steer under heavy acceleration when empty. But throw a load in the back and the Trafic becomes a little more settled.
- The lack of a torque converter automatic gearbox will continue to be an issue for the Renault in the Australian market. The other volume sellers, namely Toyota and Hyundai, have an auto option and continue to dominate the mid-sized van market.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Ford Transit Custom is pretty much on par with the Trafic in most areas, though the Ford gets slightly more safety kit as standard. However the Transit isn’t available with any sporty options or even with back seats. So in this price bracket that leaves the Hyundai iLoad or the Toyota HiAce. The Toyota inexplicably continues to dominate the Australian mid-sized van market in the face of well-equipped and well-priced competitors that are much better to drive. The Hyundai iLoad however is the pick if an auto is a must. The Hyundai isn’t the most dynamic thing to drive, or even to look at, but it’s a good all rounder.