WHAT IS IT?
A tweaked up, and dare I say “sporty” lifestyle variant of the Renault Trafic commercial van. The current Trafic medium van platform arrived in Australia back in mid-2015 and brought more kit and striking Euro looks to the white-bread van segment for a reasonable price point. You can even have lairy colours.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The Trafic hit the market already touting strong commercial credentials and now Renault is exploring the work and play potential of the Trafic. 6-seater crew versions of the Trafic are expected in Australia in early 2017 and the Sport package is expected to arrive mid-2017. Dual cab utes for dual purposes have become hugely popular, maybe the door is now open for vans to become cool again?
Ford Transit, Toyota HiAce, Hyundai iLoad.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The growth in online retailing has seen van development surge over the last few years. As a result they’re getting safer, more car like and come with most of the gizmo’s that you’d come to expect from the average family car. Toyota still dominates the medium van space with the ageing HiAce which is also available in crew form. Mercedes Benz offers the Vito as a crew van but ticking the option boxes starts to get pricey. The Hyundai iLoad also gets a crew option albeit in one short wheelbase. The Trafic tackles the HiAce, Transit and iLoad head on with pricing and now it’s getting a lifestyle makeover to increase its appeal beyond just the tradie and courier.
Plus: Punchy, thrifty and sophisticated bi-turbo diesel engine, slick manual gear shift.
Minus: No automatic transmission option, front wheel drive affects turning circle and on road dynamics. Can feel bigger than it is from the driver’s seat.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
If you’ve ever swept the shattered remains of a mega-dollar bicycle off your driveway you may want to keep reading. You won’t be the first or last person to forget that your carbon fibre treadly is still on the roof racks as you drive into your garage. Or maybe you’ve starred in one of the many online videos showing epic dirt bike-into-ute loading fails. Then life possibly could be easier with a van.
The Renault Trafic isn’t a stripped out people mover. It’s first and foremost a commercial vehicle. But it’s a smooth and sophisticated one at that. The Sport is essentially a trim package that adds some more kit into the mix as well as sporty-ish 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, metallic paint, side steps and spoilers. And stripes.
The Trafic uses a 1.6 litre dCi four pot diesel for power. Base models are armed with a single turbo 66kW/260Nm version of the powerplant while high spec variants like the Sport get a twin-turbo 103kW/340Nm version.
To make the Trafic a little more A-Team and a little less Bob the Builder, the Sport features a 7-inch multi-media touch screen with DAB radio and nav, auto headlights and wipers and highlights around the dash. Funky colour coded instrumentation, cruise control and speed limiter as well as Hill Start Assist and a Grip Xtend feature that helps with traction on slippery surfaces.
The short wheel base Sport we drove had 5.2 cubic metres of load capacity and the Trafic can carry 1,200kg. Access to the rear is via a sliding door on the passenger side or via barn doors on the rear.
A steel bulkhead separates the cockpit from the load area. Crew versions have this bulkhead behind the rear seats. Apart from protecting occupants from flying objects in the load area, this also nicely isolates any resonant rumble from the load area out back.
Our drive of the UK version of the Trafic Sport took in motorways as well as rural back roads and the Renault was an easy drive on all. The 1.6 litre oiler has plenty of poke with peak torque coming in at a relatively low 1500rpm. Peak power comes in at 3,500rpm. Renault currently claims a thrifty 6.2L/100km for this van yet it happily buzzed along at the 70mph motorway limit.
The Trafic is only offered in manual guise which may be an issue for some. But the 6-speed manual is a light shifter and as we found in London peak traffic not hard work to stir through the slots. The low torque curve of the dCi engine also helped when idling along in congested streets.
Pricing and spec is yet to be announced by Renault Australia. However, the Trafic Sport makes for a quite un-commercial commercial that could well be a safer way to transport your toys.
Model: Renault Trafic Energy dCi140 Sport
Engine: 1598cc twin-turbo common rail diesel
Max Power: 103kW@3500rpm
Max Torque: 340Nm@ 1500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 6.2l/100km
0-100km/h: 10.8 sec
On Sale: Mid-2017