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Renault Trafic short wheelbase twin turbo 2016 review


Daily driver score

4/5

Mark Oastler road tests and reviews the 2016 Renault Trafic short wheelbase twin turbo van, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The greatest advantage of a commercial van over a ute or cab-chassis is that your load is carried securely inside a cargo bay protected from weather and theft. It can also be kitted out with purpose-designed racks, drawers and shelving, or when work turns to play can carry a multitude of big boys' toys and their gear plus provide overnight accommodation.

The third-generation of Renault's popular Trafic van, in (L1) short wheelbase (H1) low roof height configuration, is not only a spirited and competent workhorse but also presents a strong case as a dual-purpose machine.

Price and features

Starting at $37,990, the L1H1 Trafic with twin-turbocharged diesel and six-speed manual is price competitive with major rivals and loaded with useful work features.

It's not easy to add style to a giant esky on wheels but Renault gets an A for effort with its edgy styling and colour range. 

These include a fold-down centre seat workstation that includes a detachable A4 clipboard and laptop storage plus a dashboard-mounted and adjustable smartphone dock. There's also USB/AUX/Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, hill start assist, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera to name a few.

Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional Lifestyle Pack ($2990) which includes 17-inch alloy wheels plus body, interior and tech upgrades that make it better suited to a work-and-play role.

Design

It's not easy to add style to a giant esky on wheels but Renault gets an A for effort with its edgy styling and colour range. The compact 3098mm wheelbase rides on MacPherson strut front suspension and a coil-sprung rear beam axle. Disc brakes can be found inside each of the 17-inch alloy wheels and 215/60R 17C tyres.

The interior has a quality look and feel.

The barn-style rear doors which can be opened to either 90 or 180 degrees and the large kerbside sliding door offer good rear and side forklift access to the cargo bay, which has 16 load anchorage points plus internal roof racks, two coat hooks, two lights (plus two LED light strips with the Lifestyle Pack) and a handy 12-volt power outlet.

The vinyl-floored driver's cabin is sealed off from the cargo bay by a steel bulkhead with a large rear view window. The interior has a quality look and feel with wide door openings, generous headroom, a superb tilt/reach adjustable leather-bound wheel, bench seat for two passengers and a multi-adjustable driver's seat with heating and fold-down inboard armrest. Lots of glass area and big door mirrors provide good all-round vision and the reversing camera image appears in the left corner of the rear view mirror.

Engine and transmission

The Euro 5-compliant 1.6 litre dCi 140 engine is a four cylinder, common rail, twin-turbo diesel with two-stage inline turbocharging technology similar to that found in Renault partner Nissan's top-shelf NP300 Navara utes.

A small primary turbo boosts low rpm response and a large secondary one provides extra shove at higher revs. Together they give this small engine the lungs of a larger one, resulting in 103kW at 3500rpm and more importantly 340Nm of load-lugging torque at only 1500rpm. To maximise fuel economy it also defaults to stop/start mode and power-saving ECO mode (both can be switched off).

The six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels features a set of ratios well matched to the engine's characteristics, with the taller fifth and sixth gears unemployed for most city and suburban work.

Practicality

A kerb weight of 1683kg and GVM of 2920kg allows for a useful payload of 1237kg. However, Renault Australia also claims a GCM of 4920kg, which means at maximum payload it can tow up to its maximum rating of 2000kg braked. That's a combined payload/trailer combination of just under 5.0 tonnes, which seems a lot to ask of a 1.6 litre engine no matter how many turbos it has.

The cargo bay boasts a class-competitive 5.2 cubic metres of load volume. The floor length of 2537mm can be extended on the passenger side by swinging up a lower bulkhead hatch, which allows long items of up to 3750mm in length to slide beneath the passenger seat and into the footwell if required.

Shifting of the six-speed manual gearbox is light yet precise, combined with a light clutch pedal action that doesn't leave you longing for an auto.

With 1268mm between the rear wheel arches, there's enough load floor area to swallow two standard 1160 x 1160mm pallets and with a height of 1387mm between floor and ceiling can accommodate some pretty tall loads.

The cabin has heaps of handy storage options including four cup holders, three dashboard compartments, a large glovebox and dual storage pockets with bottle holders in the base of each door. The passenger bench seat consists of two separate hinged cushions which when swung open reveal a huge storage space beneath them, which when not serving as the cargo bay's extended load floor can securely hold a lot of gear hidden from prying eyes.

Fuel consumption

Renault claims an official combined figure of 6.2L/100km. Even though the dash readout at the end of our 'real world' testing showed 8.5L/100km, our final figure based on actual fuel bowser readings was 11.6L/100km. This was achieved with the annoying stop/start function disabled and lots of full throttle driving with a heavy load.

Driving

A refined and civilised work station with low engine, tyre and wind noise. Our only gripe was the lack of a left footrest and general lack of room for the left leg caused by the contours of the dashboard.

Shifting of the six-speed manual gearbox is light yet precise, combined with a light clutch pedal action that doesn't leave you longing for an auto. The assisted rack and pinion steering is direct and linear in feel, with the well-designed suspension and four-wheel discs providing sure-footed handling and braking regardless of load.

When empty and lightly loaded it felt nippy around town.

Side vision is good thanks to big truck-style door mirrors. The centre mirror's view through the bulkhead window is partly obscured by the centre headrest but still allows adequate vision through the rear barn doors, each equipped with its own wiper and washer.

When empty and lightly loaded it felt nippy around town. Although only 1.6 litres in capacity, maximum torque of 340Nm is on tap from only 1500rpm, providing spirited throttle response in the critical 40-80km/h zone in stop-start city and suburban traffic where working vans spend much of their time.

We also forklifted 975kg into the cargo bay which with a 92kg driver was a payload of 1067kg (170kg under its peak 1237kg rating). The front springs compressed 5mm and the rears 55mm under this weight yet it rode bumps and other road irregularities with great composure and not a hint of bottoming out. It felt just as competent on the open road where in cruise control mode it sat happily at the 110km/h speed limit with only 2100rpm on the dial.  

We were also impressed by its hill-climbing ability when hauling more than a tonne up a 2.0 km long climb with a 13 per cent gradient. Flat to the boards in fourth gear, it maintained 60km/h all the way to the top holding steady at 1750rpm. Testing the engine braking effect on the way down in second gear, it couldn't hold the 60km/h limit on over-run without a few prods of the brake pedal, but it was still impressive retardation given the size of the engine and the load. We do wonder how it would cope (climbing and descending) at its rated GCM though, with another two tonnes behind the tow ball.

Safety

No ANCAP rating but there's driver and passenger front airbags and lateral curtain airbags plus a menu of dynamic stability and safety controls, daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, three front seat belts and headrests and automatic door locking above 30km/h.

Ownership

Three year/200,000km warranty with 24/7 Roadside Assistance. Capped price of $349 for each of the first three scheduled services every 12 months or 30,000km whichever comes first.

Has a high level of comfort, refinement, performance and value, with enough visual appeal and versatility to serve in a work-and-play role too. If you're in the market for a mid-sized commercial van with a good pedigree, the L1H1 Trafic is worthy of detailed comparison and a test drive.

Would you have a Trafic van over a ute or cab-chassis? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Renault Trafic short wheelbase pricing and spec info.

$17,993 - $30,990

Based on 32 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5
Price Guide

$17,993 - $30,990

Based on 32 car listings in the last 6 months