Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Renault Trafic 2020 review: SWB Premium auto - GVM test

Externally, the Trafic SWB Premium looks like your typical no-frills worker.

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

3.8/5

There are currently 10 models competing for customers in the medium-sized 2.5-3.5 tonne GVM commercial van segment, which is dominated by Toyota’s HiAce with Hyundai’s iLoad and Ford’s Transit Custom in an increasingly close fight for second and third place.

Fourth in this sales race is the Renault Trafic which has broadened its buyer appeal in 2020, particularly for fleet buyers, with the addition of not only a more powerful and economical 2.0 litre turbo-diesel but also a long-awaited Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic transmission. We recently put this latest power-train combination to the test.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our SWB Premium test vehicle in L1 (short wheelbase) and H1 (low roof height) specification comes with the latest 125kW 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for a list price of $44,490.

This pricing splits hairs with its major competitors including the market-leading Toyota HiAce LWB diesel auto ($45,240), Hyundai iLoad SWB diesel auto ($43,260) and Ford Transit Custom SWB diesel auto ($44,990).

Externally the SWB Premium looks like your typical no-frills worker, in washing machine white with lots of black plastic body parts and 16-inch steel wheels with 215/65 R16C tyres and a full-size spare.

Externally the SWB Premium looks like your typical no-frills worker. Externally the SWB Premium looks like your typical no-frills worker.

However, slide behind the wheel and it’s a different story, thanks to premium Java black cloth upholstery and a premium dashboard with leather-wrapped gearshift and height/reach adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, lots of storage, classy chrome and gloss black highlights and a premium infotainment system with big 7.0-inch touchscreen, digital radio, sat-nav and multiple connectivity including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There are also optional Trade and Business Packs available, plus door, bulkhead and seating options and a huge range of accessories including carry rack systems, cargo bay protection, steps, tow bars and lots more.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

Our test vehicle’s 3098mm wheelbase is a substantial 400mm shorter than the LWB version. It's also 400mm shorter in overall length and its compact 11.8-metre turning circle is 1.4 metres tighter.

Like the LWB version, the SWB Trafic’s front wheel-drive chassis design features simple and robust MacPherson strut front suspension, a multi-link coil-spring solid-beam rear axle, four-wheel disc brakes and power-assisted rack and pinion steering.

There’s plenty of hard-wearing black plastic used in the usual scrape-and-dent zones of hard-working vans. These include the rear bumper, D pillars, front bumper and sides. There’s also matching black door handles, door mirrors, front window surrounds, side-door sliding tracks and hubcaps.

Seating for three is provided in a commendably quiet cabin that’s sealed off from cargo bay noise by a robust steel bulkhead which doubles as a cargo barrier. The bulkhead’s large window provides a clear view into the cargo bay which has sliding doors on each side and symmetrical rear barn-doors, each with their own demister, wiper and washer functions.

There’s plenty of hard-wearing black plastic used in the usual scrape-and-dent zones of hard-working vans. There’s plenty of hard-wearing black plastic used in the usual scrape-and-dent zones of hard-working vans.

The only thing missing is a driver’s left footrest, which is a notable omission given its contribution to driver comfort during long shifts behind the wheel. It’s a shame the one that sits prominently but unused in the LHS footwell (a permanent fixture for LHD models) can’t cross the floor for our RHD versions.

Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Renault’s latest 2.0 litre four-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel, with 125kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm of torque at 1500rpm, produces immediate throttle response and vigorous acceleration across a broad rpm range. It also complies with the toughest Euro 6 emissions using AdBlue.

The long-awaited six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic transmission is shared with Renault’s Megane Sport hot hatch and brings a (dare we say it) ‘sporty’ feel to the commercial van driving experience, with its well-spaced gear ratios and crisp, decisive shifting. The EDC also offers a manual-shift option.

There's a 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. There's a 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

Renault’s official combined figure is 7.3L/100km and our test vehicle's dash readout wasn’t far off it, showing an 8.0L/100km average after 276km of testing which included more than 100km at maximum GVM.

However, our figure calculated from fuel bowser and tripmeter readings was a higher 9.8L/100km, with the stop/start function switched off and no use of the Eco mode. So, based on our figures achieved during real-world driving and load-hauling, you could still expect a range of more than 800km from its 80-litre fuel tank.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

The 1769kg kerb weight and 2985kg GVM results in a sizeable 1216kg payload capacity. It’s also rated to tow up to 1715kg of braked trailer and it can do that at maximum GVM, resulting in a Gross Combined Mass (or how much you can legally carry and tow at the same time) of 4700kg. This is a competitive and useful set of numbers for medium-sized vans.

The cargo bay offers 5.2 cubic metres of load volume. The cargo bay offers 5.2 cubic metres of load volume.

The cargo bay offers 5.2 cubic metres of load volume. Its 2537mm load floor length can be extended to an expansive 3750mm by opening a flap at the base of the cabin bulkhead. This allows extra-long items like rolls of carpet, lengths of timber, copper pipe, PVC conduit etc to slide under the passenger seat into the footwell. Clever thinking.

And with 1268mm between the rear wheel housings, there’s enough space within the standard floor length to carry either two 1165mm-square Aussie pallets or three 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets. These could only be forklift-loaded through the rear barn-doors, as the sliding side door opening width is 907mm. There’s also a total of 16 well-located load anchorage points.

The cargo bay has a quality finish (unlike some previous Trafic models we’ve tested), being fully lined to mid-height and with ample lighting. However, the painted load floor is vulnerable to damage and would benefit from one of the floor protection kits provided in the genuine accessories range.

There’s plenty of cabin storage options, with large-bottle holders and storage bins in each front door plus the premium dashboard’s three small-bottle/cup holders, open storage nook in the centre dash-pad, dual gloveboxes and a RHS pull-out driver’s storage bin. When the bulkhead’s load-through function is not in use, the two front passenger seat bases can be tumbled forward through 90 degrees to reveal a large 54-litre storage space beneath them.

There’s plenty of cabin storage options, including large-bottle holders and storage bins in each front door. There’s plenty of cabin storage options, including large-bottle holders and storage bins in each front door.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

The short wheelbase results in a noticeable sharpening of steering response and agility, particularly in busy city driving where quick lane-changes and squeezing into tight loading zones, docks and other spaces are often required.

The sealed bulkhead makes the cabin so quiet it’s like driving a car. There are clear eye-lines to the large truck-style door mirrors on each side, but the left side of the central mirror’s rear view is largely obscured by the centre passenger seat’s headrest. Even so, there’s still a clear eye-line through the right rear barn-door to see what’s behind you, boosted by the rear camera and parking sensors when reversing.

The sealed bulkhead makes the cabin so quiet it’s like driving a car. The sealed bulkhead makes the cabin so quiet it’s like driving a car.

The driver’s seat base cushion feels a tad short for adequate under-thigh support on longer drives. However, it does provide height/reach/lumbar adjustment and the fold-down inboard armrest combined with the driver’s door contour comfortably support the driver’s elbows to reduce strain on arms and shoulders. The only thing missing here (again) is that left footrest.

Performance is outstanding from the 2.0 litre turbo-diesel, pulling forcefully from as low as 1000rpm to well beyond its 1500rpm torque peak in a seamless transition to maximum power at 3500rpm. The auto’s crisp, fast shifting combined with a supple but disciplined ride quality when empty or with light loads, four-wheel disc brakes, nicely-weighted power steering and leather shifter and steering wheel makes for a more engaging driving experience than you would expect from a commercial van.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We forklifted 1065kg into the cargo bay, which with our driver equalled an 1175kg payload that was only 40kg short of the maximum rating. The suspension proved more than capable of supporting this one-tonne-plus loading, with the rear coil springs only compressing 45mm with more than 30mm of static bump-stop clearance remaining. The front suspension dropped 10mm in response to maintain a close to level ride height.

We should point out here that the recommended tyre pressures to support this load were 55psi front and 61psi rear, which are typically beyond the capabilities of tyre-inflation facilities found on most service station forecourts.

We forklifted 1065kg into the cargo bay, which with our driver equalled an 1175kg payload that was only 40kg short of the maximum rating. We forklifted 1065kg into the cargo bay, which with our driver equalled an 1175kg payload that was only 40kg short of the maximum rating.

In city and suburban driving, the Trafic proved to be a consummate load hauler. The engine’s bountiful torque and instant throttle response were hardly affected and it tracked arrow-straight over road irregularities and floated over bumps without the slightest hint of bottoming-out.

It also made light work of our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km-long set climb in third gear at 2750rpm, although the auto transmission did hunt between third and fourth a few times before deciding third was the best option.

It also had a mind of its own when we were testing engine-braking on the way down in manual mode, overriding our selected second gear by shifting up to third when the engine reached 4000rpm on overrun (4500rpm redline).

This self-shifting protocol can help to protect the engine from potential abuse, which is understandable. However, it also delivers an unwelcome surprise when you’re relying on engine retardation on a long steep descent and the transmission suddenly shifts up a cog (without your permission) and the vehicle starts to run away from you. Let’s call it pseudo-manual mode.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

No ANCAP rating, AEB or other cutting-edge active safety features found in Toyota HiAce and Ford Transit Custom rivals like lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring etc exposes safety shortcomings in the Trafic’s otherwise impressive specification.

However, there are numerous active safety features useful for load-hauling like load-adaptive control and roll-over mitigation, plus there’s front and lateral curtain airbags for the driver and passenger plus a driver’s thorax airbag.

There’s also a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights and dusk-sensing LED headlights, front and rear fog lights (the fronts with cornering function), rain-sensing wipers and more.

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

There's a promotional warranty offer on Trafic for five years/200,000km (from July 1 to 30 August 2020), but the standard offer is three years/unlimited km. You get 24-hour roadside assistance included, either way. Scheduled servicing is 12 months/30,000km, but Renault recently upgraded the capped price service cover under the "Easy Life" banner. This permanent change sees a five-year capped-price servicing plan with maintenance pegged at $599 for the first, second, third and fifth service. The fourth service ranges between $899 and $1299 depending on the drivetrain.

It doesn’t have best-in-class safety and a three-year warranty looks underdone compared to stronger-selling rivals. Which is a shame, because the Trafic’s benchmark engine performance, sweet-shifting auto, load-carrying ability, driver comfort and overall competence makes it difficult to fault otherwise.

$44,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

3.8/5
Price Guide

$44,490

Based on new car retail price