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Renault Trafic Crew 2017 review


Daily driver score

4/5

Tradie score

4/5

There's an emerging trend within the popular 2.5 to 3.5-tonne medium-sized van segment that's offering a practical alternative to the large SUV or dual cab ute as a work-and-play vehicle – the Crew van.

The Hyundai iLoad, Mercedes Vito, Toyota HiAce and VW Transporter all offer the option of a second row of seating to carry a 'crew' of up to six people, while still providing a warehouse-sized cargo bay in the back.

In 2017 Renault has joined the battle with its own Crew based on the super-long wheelbase Trafic van.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The front-wheel drive Renault Trafic Crew is B-I-G big with an expansive 3498mm wheelbase that's 278mm longer than a Ranger 4x4 dual cab ute. The Renault is also 123mm taller, 97mm wider and 44mm longer overall.

However, the positioning of the Renault's wheelbase within its body length results in minimal front and rear overhangs and surprising agility for such a large vehicle, particularly in heavy city traffic and tight car parks, where its sharp 13.2-metre turning circle comes in handy. It rides on MacPherson strut front suspension and a coil-sprung rear beam axle with disc brakes all around.

We secured 975kg in the cargo bay which was about 50kg shy of its 1118kg payload rating. (image credit: Mark Oastler) We secured 975kg in the cargo bay which was about 50kg shy of its 1118kg payload rating. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Driver and front passenger enjoy an airy and spacious cabin, heated seating with lumbar adjustment and swing-down inboard armrests, plus a height/reach adjustable steering wheel. Some sturdy grab handles on the windscreen pillars (available as an option) should be fitted as standard to make it easier to climb aboard. Rear seat passengers have these.

The rear bench, also with two swing-down inboard armrests like a commercial airliner, provides acceptable comfort, with adequate shoulder and headroom for three adults and a relatively flat upper thigh angle. Foot room for those with larger shoes, though, can feel a bit constricted by the large step that separates the front and rear floor areas.

How practical is the space inside?

The Trafic's 1822kg kerb weight is relatively light for such a large vehicle. With a GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 2940kg, it has a payload rating of 1118kg. Its GCM (gross combined mass) of 4940kg means it's rated to tow up to 2000kg of braked trailer while carrying its maximum payload.

Storage options for those up front include a bottle holder and pocket in the doors. (image credit: Mark Oastler) Storage options for those up front include a bottle holder and pocket in the doors. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Impressive, although lugging almost five tonnes with a 1.6 litre engine still seems a big ask to us, no matter how many turbos you have.

The cavernous cargo bay offers 4.0 cubic metres of load volume. The floor is 1662mm wide and 1819mm long, with 1268mm between the wheelarches that allow it to take a standard 1160mm-square Aussie pallet.

It also has mid-height wall linings and six sturdy load anchorage points. However it could do with more lighting, particularly at the front, where in the darkest corners we struggled to see some of the anchorage points when securing loads. And that was during the day with the rear doors open.

Storage options for the driver and front passenger include a bottle holder and storage pocket in each front door. The dashboard has three cupholders, a driver's pull-out cubby, central dash-top storage nook and an additional lidded storage compartment above the glove box.

  • Grab handles on the windscreen pillars should be fitted as standard. (image credit: Mark Oastler) Grab handles on the windscreen pillars should be fitted as standard. (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • Rear passengers have access to storage pockets under the bench seat. (image credit: Mark Oastler) Rear passengers have access to storage pockets under the bench seat. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Rear passengers have access to storage pockets under the bench seat and on the backs of the front seats, but there are no bottle holders or storage pockets in the sliding doors and not a cupholder to be seen. Too bad if you want to carry drinks.

What's it like to drive?

The first thing you notice is its substantial length and the need to swing a little wider and turn a little later into corners to allow for it. Ramp-over angles with a sharp radius (like steep driveway crests, etc) should also be tackled with care to avoid a potential belly scrape. It would not be well suited to rugged work sites requiring vehicle access.

The 1.6 litre diesel offers the response and flexibility of a larger engine thanks to its two-stage turbocharging. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The 1.6 litre diesel offers the response and flexibility of a larger engine thanks to its two-stage turbocharging. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

For an engine that's only 1.6 litres in capacity, its lag-free throttle response and strong pulling power in city and suburban driving is largely thanks to the sequential twin turbos which do their best work between 1500rpm (maximum torque) and 3500rpm (maximum power).

The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a delight to use, combined with direct and nicely weighted steering with a strong self-centering effect that requires minimal driver input at highway speeds.

The four-wheel discs also provide reassuringly strong braking whether empty or fully-loaded.

Our only gripes are that in wet weather the front passenger has their forward view largely obscured by the unswept area on the left side of the windscreen.

Cabin noise levels at highway speeds are low, thanks largely to the rear bulkhead that insulates the cabin from the cargo bay and a quiet engine, which ticks over at only 1900rpm at 100km/h and 2000rpm at 110km/h in top gear, using the excellent cruise control.

We secured 975kg in the cargo bay, which, with a 92kg driver was about 50kg shy of its 1118kg payload rating. It didn't feel like we had more than a tonne on board, given how the suspension maintained resolute composure with no bottoming-out over a variety of road surfaces.

It also made light work of our two kilometre set climb with this payload, pulling fourth gear at 1800rpm and 60km/h up most of the 13 per cent gradient, with only one shift back to third to clear the steepest section.

The Trafic made light work of our two kilometre set climb with our payload. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The Trafic made light work of our two kilometre set climb with our payload. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Our only gripes are that in wet weather, due to the high front seating position, the front passenger has their forward view largely obscured by the unswept area on the left side of the windscreen. There was also an annoying rattle we traced to the left-hand side sliding door window which we couldn't cure.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Euro 5-compliant 1.6 litre four cylinder, common rail, twin-turbo diesel offers the response and flexibility of a larger engine thanks to its two-stage turbocharging.

A small primary turbo provides instant lag-free throttle response at low rpm and a larger secondary turbo takes over at higher revs, resulting in 340Nm of torque at only 1500rpm and 103kW of power at 3500rpm.

The Premium Pack adds 17-inch alloys with 215/60R 17C tyres. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The Premium Pack adds 17-inch alloys with 215/60R 17C tyres. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

To maximise fuel economy there's auto stop/start and a power-saving 'ECO' mode defaults (both can be switched off) along with kinetic energy recovery from braking that's stored in the battery.

The Trafic is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox (typically European) but it features a light yet precise shift action and a set of ratios well-tailored to this role.

The lower gears provide energetic response from standing starts in city and suburban driving, while the taller fifth and sixth gears provide low rpm fuel economy at highway speeds.

How much fuel does it consume?

Renault claims a combined figure of 6.2L/100km, but our 'real world' figures based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings came in at 8.3L/100km. This is impressive fuel efficiency given the size of the vehicle and that a large portion of our test was with maximum payload and the auto stop-start switched off. Based on our figures, with its 80-litre fuel tank expect an adventurous driving range of up to 1000km.

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

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Trafic Crew hasn't been rated by ANCAP, but features front and side airbag protection only for the driver and front passenger. The rear bench seat has three lap sash belts and headrests with ISOFIX child seat anchorages on the two outer seating positions.

There's also auto central-locking from 30km/h, daytime running lights, auto cornering front fog lights (which provide extra kerbside lighting when cornering at night) plus numerous dynamics stability programs, including load adaptive control, anti-roll over protection, intelligent traction control and hill start assist, but no AEB.

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

The Trafic Crew is available in two trim levels, comprising the base Crew ($42,990) and top-grade Crew Lifestyle ($46,780), like our test vehicle.

The Trafic Crew gets a full-size spare, no matter the trim. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The Trafic Crew gets a full-size spare, no matter the trim. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The base model features a three-seater rear bench, glazed bulkhead between cabin and cargo bay, glazed sliding doors on each side, twin rear barn doors with wiper/washers and 180-degree opening, three 12-volt accessory sockets and 16-inch steel wheels with 215/65 R16C tyres, and a full-size spare.

An optional Premium Pack adds 17-inch alloys with 215/60R 17C tyres (and full-size spare), multimedia interface with 7.0-inch touchscreen, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a quality sound system, heavy duty 800A battery, dark cloth upholstery, premium dashboard including leather-trimmed gear knob, heated front seats (single passenger seat only) and body-coloured bumpers and mirrors.

There's a vast genuine accessories range including internal and external roof racks, roof-access ladders, towing kits, load floor options and much more.

The Lifestyle adds a hands-free entry card system, climate control, opening windows and roller-blind privacy screens on the sliding doors, extra roof-mounted speakers and LED downlights above the rear seat, plus chrome grille highlights.

Other options include a choice of single front passenger seat (like our test vehicle) or dual passenger bench seat, a single tailgate or special twin barn doors with 270-degree opening. Plus, there's a vast genuine accessories range including internal and external roof racks, roof-access ladders, towing kits, load floor options and much more.

According to Renault, the multi-seat van segment in Australia currently accounts for around 850 vehicles a year, or up to six per cent of the van market.

The Trafic Crew offers several key advantages over many dual cab utes in a typical work-and-play role including, superior fuel economy and driving range, a genuine one tonne-plus payload, and the ability to carry a whopping 4.0 cubic metres of gear in a secure and weather-tight cargo bay.

While there is evidence of oversights on rear passenger safety and convenience features (it is based on a commercial van, after all) the Crew has enough positive attributes to justify credible consideration as an alternative to a dual cab ute or large SUV.

Could a multi-seat van be your next dual-purpose workhorse? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$33,880 - $40,370

Based on third party pricing data

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradie score

4/5
Price Guide

$33,880 - $40,370

Based on third party pricing data