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Renault Trafic 2020 review: Crew Lifestyle - GVM test

The Trafic is a sizeable van.

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

3.8/5

The current generation Renault Trafic has become an increasingly strong contender in Australia’s competitive mid-sized commercial van market since its debut in 2015.

The late-2019 introduction of a more powerful 2.0 litre turbo-diesel and, more significantly, a dual-clutch automatic has broadened the French van’s appeal, particularly to a growing number of fleet buyers with specific demands for self-shifting transmissions.

This latest powertrain combination has considerable appeal in the ‘Crew’ version of the Trafic range which has a one-tonne-plus payload rating and can seat up to six adults. We recently put this dual-cab-ute-within-a-van to the test to see how it compares to a growing number of crew van rivals.

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

Our test vehicle is the Crew Lifestyle, which is available only in long wheelbase specification with 2.0 litre turbo-diesel and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, for a list price of $52,490.

This comfortably undercuts the Mercedes-Benz 119 CDI LWB Vito Crew Van ($63,170) but costs more than other human cargo-carrying rivals including Ford’s Transit Custom 340L LWB DCiV auto ($49,990), VW’s Transporter TDI 340 LWB Crew Van ($47,990), Toyota’s HiAce Crew Van ($47,140) and Hyundai’s iLoad Crew Cab ($44,730).

Even so, Renault has included numerous desirable features for its $50K-plus pricing like dusk-sensing LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/60 R17C tyres and a full-size spare, dual sliding side-doors with privacy glass and opening windows plus body-painted bumper/door mirrors/sliding door rails/taillight surrounds with chrome grille trim.

Featuring 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/60 R17C tyres. Featuring 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/60 R17C tyres.

There’s seating for three up front and the driver gets treated to a premium dash with keycard start/keyless entry, mobile phone cradle, heated seat, leather-wrapped gearshift and height-and-reach adjustable leather-rimmed steering wheel. There’s also a four-speaker infotainment system with large 7.0-inch touchscreen, sat-nav and multiple connectivity including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The three-seat crew area gets individual LED ceiling lights, retractable sunblinds on the side windows, two of four audio speakers, two centre armrests, 12-volt accessory socket and more.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

With an expansive 3498mm wheelbase, 5399mm length, 1956mm width and 1971mm height, this is a sizeable van as demonstrated by its 13.2-metre turning circle. The front wheel-drive chassis is simple and rugged with MacPherson strut front suspension, a multi-link solid-beam rear axle with coil springs, power-assisted rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes.

The asymmetric rear barn-doors have individual wipers and demisters and there’s vast (907mm wide) access to the second row of seats through the side-sliding doors. The rear seating for three adults, which have limited backrest adjustment, is roomier than you’ll find in most dual cab utes and it’s separated from the cargo bay by a robust moulded-plastic bulkhead that doubles as a cargo barrier.

The asymmetric rear barn-doors have individual wipers and demisters. The asymmetric rear barn-doors have individual wipers and demisters.

Opening side windows allow plenty of ventilation and there’s ample head, leg and particularly foot room thanks to a large flat floor with no transmission tunnel intrusion.

The only thing missing is a driver’s left footrest, just like the one which sits unused in the front passenger footwell. This is obviously a permanent fixture for LHD models which unfortunately can’t afford to make the transition to lower-volume RHD models like ours.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Renault’s latest 2.0 litre four-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel combines the toughest Euro 6 emissions compliance with astonishingly strong performance. Its 125kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm of torque at 1500rpm feel like they’re coming from an engine of much larger displacement.

The new six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic transmission, which is shared with Renault’s Megane Sport hot hatch, delivers crisp and smooth shifts with good gearing that ensures efficient engine operation. The EDC also offers a pseudo manual-shift option.

Renault’s latest 2.0 litre four-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel combines the toughest Euro 6 emissions compliance. Renault’s latest 2.0 litre four-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel combines the toughest Euro 6 emissions compliance.

How much fuel does it consume?

Renault’s official combined figure of 7.3L/100km looked optimistic at first. However, after 320km of testing, which included more than a third of that distance with a near-maximum payload, the dash display was claiming only 8.7L/100km. This was achieved with the auto stop/start functioning but no use of Eco mode.

Impressively, after crunching our own fuel bowser and tripmeter figures, we came up with an identical number to the dash display, which means this remarkably frugal van has a ‘real world’ driving range of more than 900km from its 80-litre tank.

How practical is the space inside?

The Crew’s kerb weight of 2004kg and 3070kg GVM allows for a sizeable 1118kg payload. It's also rated to tow up to 1630kg of braked trailer and it can legally carry its maximum one-tonne-plus payload while doing that. So, that’s a sizeable GCM rating (or how much you can legally carry and tow at the same time) of 4700kg, which would be well suited to any number of work and recreational roles requiring crews.

The cargo bay, with 4.0 cubic metres of load volume, is 1740mm long and 1662mm wide with 1268mm between the wheel housings, meaning it will carry a standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallet or two 1200mm x 800mm Euro pallets.

The Crew can take a sizeable 1118kg payload. The Crew can take a sizeable 1118kg payload.

These can be easily loaded by forklift through the twin-swing rear doors which offer a combined 1391mm-wide access and 180-degree opening. There are six sturdy load anchorage points and the walls and rear doors are lined to mid-height. There’s also an extra storage space for tarps, cargo padding, ropes/straps etc at the base of the bulkhead, which extends under the rear seat.

Cabin storage includes large-bottle holders and storage bins in each front door. Cabin storage includes large-bottle holders and storage bins in each front door.

Cabin storage includes large-bottle holders and storage bins in each front door plus a well-designed dash with three small-bottle/cup holders, a pull-out driver’s storage bin, open storage nook in the centre dash-pad and dual glove-boxes. The two front passenger seat base cushions can also tumble forward to reveal a large 54-litre storage space beneath them.

Those seated in the crew area have access to flexible storage pouches on the rear of each front seat plus a full-width open storage bin under the seat behind their ankles, but there are no dedicated bottle or cup holders.

 Seating in the crew area. Seating in the crew area.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

Vision through the central rear-view mirror is slightly obscured by the centre headrests on the front and rear seats, but is otherwise a clear eye-line through the rear bulkhead window and rear barn doors. The big truck-style door mirrors with additional wide-angle lenses provide good vision down either side of the van, aided by the rear-view camera when reversing.

The driver’s seat has height, reach and lumbar adjustment but the base cushion feels a tad short for adequate under-thigh support on longer drives. Even so, the combination of fold-down inboard armrest, driver’s door contour and steering wheel angle provides perfectly balanced elbow support that takes all the weight off the driver’s arms and shoulders.

The driver’s seat has height, reach and lumbar adjustment. The driver’s seat has height, reach and lumbar adjustment.

The four-coil suspension’s ride quality on bumpy roads, even when empty, is disciplined without being overly firm. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift exude an upmarket look and feel that are delightful to use, combined with nicely weighted and responsive power steering and the reassuring bite of four-wheel disc brakes.

With the bulkhead insulating the cabin from cargo bay noise, it’s commendably quiet during city and suburban commuting. Tyre and wind noise naturally increase at highway speeds but it’s far from intrusive, with conversations between front and back seats not requiring raised voices.

The brilliant 2.0 litre turbo-diesel has instant lag-free response from as low as 1000rpm, spinning freely towards its 1500rpm torque peak and beyond with unrelenting urge. The crisp shifting and sharp gearing of the six-speed dual clutch automatic gets the best out of this eager engine at all times.

At highway speeds it’s doing just under 2000rpm at 100km/h and just over 2000rpm at 110km/h. And its Scrooge-like use of diesel ensured that for most of our 320km test the fuel gauge needle didn’t move from the full position, making us initially suspect that the gauge was faulty! Needless to say, this is efficiency with a capital E.

Our only gripes were the absence of a left footrest, which we consider essential for driver comfort, plus an annoying rattle behind the driver’s right shoulder which could not be traced but seemed to be coming from the sliding door's opening window mechanism.
 

What’s it like for tradie use?

We forklifted 975kg into the cargo bay which with driver equalled a payload of 1085kg, or just 33kg short of its 1118kg payload rating.

The engine’s performance under this load was outstanding, as its vibrant response seemed to ignore the fact it had more than one tonne of payload (or a GVM of more than three tonnes) to shift, which it did with commendable ease.

Although the rear suspension compressed almost 50mm, there was still more than 20mm of static clearance remaining between the beam axle and long rubber cones attached to the underfloor on each side. Under heavy loads these cones are designed to engage with the axle to provide additional support and, in effect, a second stage of springing.

Twin-swing rear doors offer a combined 1391mm-wide access and 180-degree opening. Twin-swing rear doors offer a combined 1391mm-wide access and 180-degree opening.

However, the primary rear coil springs were more than capable of suspending this load on their own, without a hint of bottoming-out across a variety of sealed and unsealed roads.

It also made light work of our 2.0km long, 13 per cent gradient set climb, even though using the manual-shift option proved that it’s a 'pseudo' manual shift option to ensure peak efficiency and preserve the engine. For example, when testing the engine's torque in a manually-selected fourth gear on this climb, the EDC transmission over-rode our selected gear and downshifted to third when the revs dropped below 1500rpm.

The same over-ride occurred in a manually-selected second gear while testing engine braking on the way down. When the engine reached 4000rpm on overrun (4500rpm redline) it suddenly shifted up to third.

We’ve previously struck this over-ride protocol in some rival vans. It might be effective at minimising strain on the engine, but it can also give you a nasty surprise when you’re leaning on engine retardation to regulate your road speed on a steep descent and it suddenly shifts up a cog and the vehicle starts running away from you.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

No ANCAP rating or AEB. And like all crew vans we’ve tested, there’s no airbag protection for rear seat passengers, which exposes the main safety flaw in fitting passenger seats to what are essentially cargo bays of commercial vans. Even so, there’s ISOFIX child seat anchorage points for two outer rear seating positions.

By contrast, driver and front passengers get front and side curtain airbags and the driver gets a thorax airbag as well. There are also numerous active safety features plus a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, front and rear fog lights (the fronts with cornering function), rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing LED headlights and more.
The Trafic Crew Lifestyle doesn't have an ANCAP rating or AEB. The Trafic Crew Lifestyle doesn't have an ANCAP rating or AEB.

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

Warranty is only three years/unlimited km, albeit with 24-hour roadside assistance. Scheduled servicing is 12 months/30,000km, though may be required sooner than that as the oil sensor dictates maintenance requirements. As of 1 July 2020, Renault extended its Trafic capped-price service plan to a five-year deal. The first, second, third and fifth services cost $599, while the fourth is a major service and varies depending on the powertrain. Read the details here.

This is one of the best crew vans that we’ve tested in terms of performance, load-carrying ability, comfort and ease-of-use. However, the lack of any ANCAP rating, AEB and other active driver aids found in rivals like the Toyota HiAce and Ford Transit Custom, which now match many sedans and SUVs, is a major shortcoming that’s reflected in its review scores. We hope Renault does the hard yards required to attain benchmark standards in occupant safety - and back the Trafic with a longer warranty while they're at it - because this is otherwise an excellent vehicle.

$53,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

3.8/5
Price Guide

$53,490

Based on new car retail price

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