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Renault Master 2020 review: L2H2 MWB manual

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The Renault Master range has been refreshed, and this was our first chance to see what changes have been made. 

You should be able to tell just by the look of the 2020 Master that there’s a new design with a more modern looking front-end. And the inside has been thoroughly modernised, too.

But with contemporary rivals such as the VW Crafter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter - both of which launched in all-new generation guises in 2018 - the question is whether the ageing, yet facelifted Master is worthy of consideration. 

We spent a week with it - and covered plenty of kays in it - to find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The 2020 update for the Renault Master saw prices adjusted to compensate for additional standard equipment now offered range wide.

You can read the full pricing and specs breakdown story here, but the standard goodies for the Master include: a new 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with USB input, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat nav and reversing camera display, a two-speaker sound system, rear parking sensors, 16-inch steel wheels with a full size spare fitted under the rear body, body-protective cladding, twin-view side mirrors with electric adjustment, electric windows, cruise control, air conditioning, remote central locking, halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, and rear fog lights. 

A 7.0-inch touchscreen media system comes standard. A 7.0-inch touchscreen media system comes standard.

The list price for the L2H2 mid-wheelbase manual model used in this review is $47,490 plus on-road costs (RRP or MSRP), but Renault is advertising this exact spec for $47,990 drive-away, which is pretty compelling - you don’t even need to be an ABN holder for that discount. 

The Master MWB van comes as standard with barn doors at the rear (270-degree opening), and a sliding side door on kerb side (left), while SWB models get 180-degree barn doors. It also features a steel bulkhead as standard, as well as a three-seat layout up front. There’s a handy lift-up base on the bench part of the seat, which allows you about 100 litres of hidden storage if you need it.

There are numerous options for buyers to customise their van to suit what they need. There are several packs to choose from, such as: the Trade Pack - wooden floor, full height timber wall lining, rear step, LED ceiling lights ($1600); the Business Pack - front fog lights, hands-free key card and push-button start, chrome exterior and interior trim finishes ($1000); and the Convenience Pack - auto high/low beam lights, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and front parking sensors ($1000).

There’s a handy lift-up base on the bench part of the seat for storage. There’s a handy lift-up base on the bench part of the seat for storage.

You can option individual elements such as a driver’s side sliding door ($800), a driver’s suspension seat ($800 - removes the side airbag for the driver), a single passenger seat ($200 - N/A with driver suspension seat, adds passenger-side airbag protection), and if you choose RWD model there’s an available differential lock ($1000). Last but not least, you can have glazed dual sliding doors for $800, but only if you also option the Trade Pack.

Colour options include no-cost solid paint finishes in white, grey, dark blue, light blue, yellow, orange and red (the interesting colours will need to be pre-ordered). There are also three metallic paint options in grey, black or a silver/blue look, and the cost there is $1000.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The front-end styling of the Master has been modernised with a “robust” new look which sees it adopt a more upright nose with a bulkier grille, squared-off headlights (with LED daytime running lights as standard, along with halogen headlights).

There were no other changes made to the exterior, so if you see it side on or from the rear, you’d be hard pressed to tell if it's the new model.

The front-end styling of the Master has been modernised with a “robust” new look. The front-end styling of the Master has been modernised with a “robust” new look.

This is the second facelift for this generation (X62) Master, which originated back in 2010. It is also offered in some markets as a Nissan, Opel, and Vauxhall. And this version certainly freshens up the appearance, though the practicality of the Master line-up remains unchanged.

That’s a good thing: you can still get the van as a short-wheelbase with low roof (L1H1), a mid-wheelbase with mid roof (L2H2), a long-wheelbase with mid roof (L3H2), or an extra-long-wheelbase with high roof (L4H3). There’s also the choice of a single cab-chassis Platform ute model, too. 

Our test model is the L2H2, meaning dimensions of 5575mm long on a lengthy 3682mm wheelbase (giving it a 13.6-metre turning circle), while the width is 2070mm and the height is 2499mm. Too tall for car parks (and drive-thru windows, in this age of social distancing). 

Too tall for car parks, but with excellent interior dimensions. Too tall for car parks, but with excellent interior dimensions.

The good news about the height, though, is that it allows you excellent interior dimensions. The cargo hold of this version is 3083mm long, 1765mm wide (and 1380mm between the wheel-arches, enough for Aussie pallets to slide in easily), and the height is 1894mm inside. I’m six-foot tall (1820mm) and that meant I could safely step in and out of the cargo zone without fear of hitting my head. The load space is 10.8 cubic metres in this spec. 

As you’ll see in the interior section, the cabin has been given a bit of attention too - you can see it in the images below.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The power outputs and torque figures depend on the transmission you choose. 

Despite the fact that both manual and automatic versions of the Master run a 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, there’s a difference between the engines: the version with the six-speed manual transmission is a twin-turbo unit, while the six-speed automated manual transmission makes use of a single-turbo diesel.

There’s not much in it when it comes to the difference in outputs, however.

The manual version has a slight horsepower advantage, with 120kW of power (at 3500rpm) and 360Nm of torque (at 1500rpm).

The automated manual has a maximum power of 110kW (at 3500rpm) and 350Nm of torque (at 1500rpm).

The manual version has a slight horsepower advantage. The manual version has a slight horsepower advantage.

Both transmissions are geared the same across all six ratios, though from experience, the automated manual is best left at the showroom. While rivals offer conventional torque converter automatic gearboxes to appeal to a broader customer base globally, the French brand persists with its pernickety somewhat-auto option instead.

The majority of models in the Master range are front-wheel drive (FWD), but there are a couple of long-wheelbase rear-wheel drive (RWD) models available. None are all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).

You might be interested to note the weight specs for the Master range. There are too many variables to bore you with here, but the details on the L2H2 mid-wheelbase manual I tested, according to Renault Australia, are as follows: kerb weight - 1887kg; gross vehicle mass/GVM - 3510kg; payload - 1623kg; towing capacity - 750kg un-braked, 2500kg braked. The gross combination mass (GCM) is 6000kg.

How much fuel does it consume?

There is no official combined fuel consumption claim figure stated by Renault, as the vehicle falls into the heavy commercial vehicle space

But I can tell you it’s pretty impressive for fuel economy. I saw an average of just 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres over more than 1000km of testing - more than half of which was with the van loaded up with hundreds of kilograms of load.

With a 100-litre diesel tank, you could theoretically get about 1150km to a fill, and that’s with a mix of loaded and unloaded driving. 

One thing, though: most vehicles have a graphic on their dashboard to show which side the filler neck is - you know, you see a fuel bowser and the filler is on the right, that means your vehicle’s filler is on the right. Not in the Master. It has a graphic with the filler on the right, but the actual fuel cap is on the left. And like most vans, you have to open the passenger door to fuel up.

Worried about AdBlue? No need - the engine used in the Master range is a Euro 5 unit, so there is a diesel particulate filter, but no urea after treatment setup to mention.

How practical is the space inside?

Like all vans in this segment there are some cabin smarts that will make your life a lot easier if you spend a lot of time in the cockpit.

There are storage options aplenty, including overhead folder holders, a trio of dash-top storage caddies, dash-top cup holders, huge door pockets with bottle holders, some smaller storage cubbies near the shifter, and a glovebox that is, in the French tradition, good to hold a pair of gloves and not much else. This model had the dual passenger bench seat, with a hidden storage section underneath, and you can fold the middle seat down to form a desk platform with cup holders if that’s what you need.

The driver’s seat is comfortable. The driver’s seat is comfortable.

Along with the storage smarts, the updated Master has seen some major changes in terms of infotainment intelligence, too. The new 7.0-inch MediaNav touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a welcome advancement for the brand, and during my time in the vehicle it proved simple to use and quick to react. The sound isn’t terrific, with just two speakers fitted, and I had to turn it up pretty loud to overcome the wind noise from this mid-roof model.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and offers decent adjustment, with height and lumbar adjustment. It’s easy to step up into the cab, too, despite there not being side grab handles. The driver also gets a new digital instrument display section on the redesigned dashboard, which includes a gear-shift indicator (but not a gear position indicator), and a digital speedometer and trip computer.

There are storage options aplenty in the Master. There are storage options aplenty in the Master.

The steering wheel is new, too, and it’s much nicer than the old grainy plastic number in the pre-facelift version. Gone are the round vents across the dash and round plastic sections of the old model - now there are squared-off, more modern looking finishes that clearly aim to mimic the exterior’s now boxy-edged body.

In the cargo zone there are multiple tie-down hooks (eight on the floor, four on the side wall pillars), making for plenty of options to secure a load - though as can often be found with these eye-hook points, they can be a little too far inboard to make good use of, and in the Master’s case, there are no tie-down points rear of the wheel-arches. There is a 12-volt outlet in the back pillar, however.

In the cargo zone there are multiple tie-down hooks, making for plenty of options to secure a load. In the cargo zone there are multiple tie-down hooks, making for plenty of options to secure a load.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

I did a mix of driving in the Master over the week I had it, including more than 600km of unladen driving. 

Why so many kays? I used it to move house, which meant I completed two “full” trips between Sydney’s inner-west and Cowra in the Central West of NSW, and two “empty” trips back to Sydney, as well.

I’ll get to how it drove with a load on board in the section below, but the unladen experience was pretty positive.

The manual shift action isn’t what I’d call “slinky”, more “clicky”. The manual shift action isn’t what I’d call “slinky”, more “clicky”.

The engine and transmission are well teamed, and there’s a good amount of usable torque and very little lag to speak of. 

As with this entire generation of engines - a derivative engine in a different state of tune is used in the Nissan Navara - the refinement is mostly good until you reach higher in the rev range, where it can get a bit noisy and clattery. But the best work is done down low in the rev zone anyway. 

The manual shift action isn’t what I’d call “slinky”, more “clicky”. But it’s easy to row between gears as the action is light and the clutch isn’t too heavy, either. The gearing is generous, meaning you can saunter in sixth gear around 70km/h without the engine labouring too hard, and it’ll accelerate from there to freeway pace - provided you’re not going uphill.

The steering is direct and accurate, easy to judge at high or low speeds. The steering is direct and accurate, easy to judge at high or low speeds.

There is a bit of ratio management required if you encounter a steep incline, but generally it’s a decently strong powertrain for its intended use - more on that below.

I’m always astounded about the steering and ride characteristics of vans of this size. Yes, it’s large, and yes, it can get blown around a little by crosswinds, and yes, you need to factor in the longish-wheelbase and larger turning circle that results from that… but it drives a lot smaller than it is.

The steering is direct and accurate, easy to judge at high or low speeds - which is great news when you’re parking (and there’s a good quality reversing camera and rear parking sensors, but you’ve just gotta remember the roof height, too).

The unladen experience was pretty positive. The unladen experience was pretty positive.

The ride is adequate without a load on board, too. The independent McPherson strut front suspension copes well with changes in surface and bump control, though it can be a little bouncy at times. The rear suspension is a leaf-spring torsion beam setup, and it can be a little clumsy over road joins when unladen. 

It also brakes well, with solid and trustworthy response from the four-wheel disc brakes at all speeds.

What’s it like for tradie use?

The only time I was left wishing for a bit more torque was during hill ascents in the Master with half a house-worth of furniture in the back of it.

If you regularly load up about a tonne of equipment into your van, and you encounter a mountain pass in your daily delivery drive, then you might have the same quibble. But in general, the powertrain motivates the big Master van without a whole lot of fuss.

The hill-hold system came in handy on some urban uphill stretches as well, eliminating the fear of rolling back in traffic. 

The only time I was left wishing for a bit more torque was during hill ascents with half a house-worth of furniture in the back of it. The only time I was left wishing for a bit more torque was during hill ascents with half a house-worth of furniture in the back of it.

The engine also has a start-stop engine system, so it will cut the engine in traffic if you put it in neutral at a traffic light or standstill. It’s pretty smooth, and there’s a button to turn it off if you’re not into it. 

The suspension settled nicely at the rear with a load on board - I didn’t run it past a weighbridge, but estimated there was about 800kg of stuff in the back for each load. The load hardly moved despite some winding roads - my Tetris skills played a part here, for sure, but it also paid testament to the open road stability on offer in the Master.

The fuel consumption was truly astounding, too - for a vehicle this big, with this much weight on board, to be able to do less than nine litres per hundred was exceptional.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

While there has been a safety revolution in the van segment in recent years led by Mercedes and VW, Renault has been left behind to a degree.

The Renault Master has never been put through NCAP or ANCAP crash testing. So there’s no safety star rating to speak of.

And it falls short of its chief rivals, as it doesn’t have any sort of auto emergency braking (AEB) or forward collision warning system at all. 

It has a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, plus dual front airbags and driver’s side airbag protection (not passenger though?), and there are no curtain airbags either. But it has electronic stability control (ESC), electronic brake force distribution, and hill start assist with Renault’s Grip X-tend system that is designed to allow better traction in slippery situations.

You can option some safety technology into the manual versions of the Master, by way of the Convenience Pack. For $1000 it adds auto high/low beam lights, lane departure warning (not active lane keeping assist), blind spot warning (not rear cross-traffic alert), and front parking sensors.

I understand the argument that buyers shouldn’t have to pay for anything they don’t need, especially when it comes to business vehicles. But I hope that behind closed doors Renault is working furiously to improve the safety equipment offering as a matter of priority.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Renault van range is covered by a warranty plan that isn’t as good as you’ll get from VW or Ford. That is, the Master (and Trafic and Kangoo below it) have a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty cover, which is two years shorter than the best in the class.

Service intervals are business-friendly at 12 months/30,000km, with a capped-price service plan spanning the first three years/90,000km. The service price is $599 per visit, but keep in mind you will need to replace the coolant ($132) and brake fluid ($79) every 60,000km. There’s also an accessory belt replacement at 90,000km ($506).

The Master has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty cover. The Master has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty cover.

If you service your van at Renault, you’ll also be eligible for up to four years of roadside assistance cover. From the showroom floor there is 12 months cover.

Concerned about issues, problems, recalls, questions, queries, complaints, or reliability issues? Check out our Renault Master problems page.

If you’re after a budget-conscious offering in the large van segment, the Renault Master could be a really solid proposition. It falls short of the safety expectations set by its newer rival, though, and that’s something you might not be able to put a price on.

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