Having re-established Renault in the passenger car market in Australia, particularly in the high-performance field, the French marque is about to begin an onslaught on the light commercial vehicle field. Renault Master has been a quiet background performer locally for some time, but the company now has plans to reach mainstream buyers.
Renault has been number one in the LCV class in Europe for the past 15 years, which certainly justifies its big ambitions down under. Until now Renault Master has only been sold in Australia in front-wheel-drive format, now rear-drive Masters are also being imported.
Rear-drive Masters are more truck-like in their make-up than the FWD variants. They can be ordered as a cab-chassis to which a custom designed body, or one penned by Renault can be attached. These can have a single or dual cab, the latter is capable of carrying seven people including the driver.
The Master is offered in both front and rear-drive variants – all RWD have dual rear wheels – with single-cab versions available in two chassis lengths. The Renault Master high-roof rear-wheel-drive model has 17 cubic meters of load capacity and can carry a payload of 2134 kg, which is 500 kg more than the largest front-wheel Master van. So the new to Australia Renault Master really is in a different class.
While it shares its wheelbase with the LWB front-drive models that have been imported to Australia in the past - at 4332mm - the rear overhang has been extended to 1674 mm, up from 1024mm. Interior load length is therefore 4383 mm. The cargo bay shares the same 1765 mm width of all Master vans, but offers an internal height of 2048mm, up from 1894mm. Exterior height in the high-roof is a 2808 mm.
The rear doors open to 270-degrees to allow ease of loading by forklift. The left-hand sliding side door is 1270 mm wide and 1684 mm high. It, and the optional driver's side sliding door, can be ordered with or without window.
Renault Premium Pack gives the convenience of integrated sat-nav, under-seat storage compartment, additional large door bins and a lidded A4-sized dash-top compartment. All are nice features for those spending long hours behind the wheel.
PRICING / WARRANTY / SERVICING
Renault is putting a big emphasis on the overall cost of Master ownership, saying that merely looking at purchase price can be false economy. As such a scheme called Pro+ has been set up at selected dealers and will deal with all aspects of the purchase, including insurance and finance. The latter two are operated in-house by Renault in conjunction with partner Nissan.
The Renault Master price begins at $45,490 for a single-cab manual; the dual-cab begins at $50,490; the High Roof van is priced from $50,990. Add $2500 for the automated manual. On-road costs have to be factored in.
The Renault Master comes with a three-year/200,000km factory warranty and three years roadside assistance. Capped price servicing is pretty reasonable in its cost and lasts for three years, but only 90,000 km. It varies from model to model so contact your Renault Pro+ LCV dealer for information on the one that suits you.
Cleverly, the Master keeps track of its own engine and lubrication conditions, so instead of servicing being done according to a calendar, the computer advises when the work is needed.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSIONS
Renault Masters are powered by a 2.3-litre turbo-diesel direct-injection four-cylinder engine, producing 110 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque, the latter between 1500 rpm and 2750 rpm. Whereas the front-drive models have the engine mounted east-west, the powerplant has been turned through 90 degrees to give it a conventional layout for the truck class.
The engine drives through a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automated manual built by ZF. It features electrically controlled clutch engagement/disengagement that makes it more precise at very low speeds than is usual is automated manuals.
Standard features include dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC Electronic Stability Control with ASR traction control. There's a steel bulkhead with window and the Master has remote central locking.
A Safety and Security Pack comprises auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, dual side airbags (where the drivers' suspension seat is a delete option), foglights and anti-theft alarm, but you need to buy the Renault Premium Pack to get a reversing camera.
The cab is large and spacious, with a driver's suspension seat, made by Isringhausen, as an interesting feature, putting it in line with its big truck brothers. The two-place bench seat beside the drivers unit can carry two blokes without too much of a squeeze.
The four seats in the rear of the dual-cab models have enough width for adults on the slender side, as is often the way in commercial vehicle design, the seatbacks are rather upright, so not particularly comfortable. Ride comfort in the cab-chassis with a tray, but no load on board is truck-like in its bounciness, but much better with a tonne in the back. Still, you're never going to mistake it for a car or even an SUV in comfort levels.
There's good engine torque, but the engine is working harder in the RWD Master than in the FWD as overall gearing is 20 per cent lower. Again, it makes no pretence to be anything other than a small-to-medium truck.
As is usually the way, the automated manual gearbox can be irritatingly slow and jerky in its operation, particularly in lower gears. It does improve noticeably in high gears and you can operate it as a manual without a clutch pedal if you so choose.
All Renault Master RWD vehicles have a 4500 kg GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) so can be driven by holders of passenger car licences. GVM on the front-drive is 3500 kg.
2014 Renault Master van
Price: from $45,490 (single-cab manual)
Engine: 2.3L 4-cylinder diesel, 110kW/350Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or auto, RWD or FWD
Thirst: 9.0L/100km (FWD)