Prime Mover Magazine

File Mile: Renault’s Master range

File Mile: Renault’s Master range

Renault continues to surge forward as a force to be reckoned with in the Australian commercial van market. Responsible for the brand’s on-going success is the versatile Master range.

Having secured the number two sales position in Australia and a solid 25 per cent market share, it’s safe to say Renault’s van range is on a roll in 2016. With a broad portfolio ranging from the compact Kangoo through the mid-sized Trafic and on to the ‘big’ Master, the French OEM has seen sales grow more than 13 per cent year-on-year during the first three quarters of 2016.

The Master model, which is available in many guises and thus easy to customise, is at the very heart of the European success story. With load volumes ranging from eight cubic metres all the way through to 17m³, it can handle payloads from 1.6 to 2.2 tonnes and can be optioned as both front and rear wheel drive.

The front wheel drive configuration provides low floor heights, large door openings and plenty of cargo headroom, but if higher payloads are a regular requirement, the rear wheel drive version will deliver increased traction and larger cargo carrying capability.

The twin turbo-charged 2.3-litre engine, available with a power output of 100, 110 or 120kW, is equally important for the Master’s success among the Australian transport community. Maximum torque is available as low as 1,500 rpm in all ratings, which makes the manual versions forgiving of lazy drivers, even if they forget a gear change.

What’s more, the manual also comes with an engine stop-start system to save fuel in heavy traffic – a function that is becoming increasingly common in the segment.

A less common feature is the Energy Smart Management (ESM) system, which uses regenerative braking to help charge the battery when decelerating and recovering energy that would otherwise be lost. It evolved from Renault’s involvement in Formula One power trains and is quickly gaining traction in the luxury car market.

That alone may not quite make for a national sales success story, but another detail does: All Masters have a GVM of less than 4.5 tonnes, which permits them to be driven by holders of passenger car licences – even the impressive high roof, long wheelbase model.

If the six-speed manual is not an option, for example for the rental market, there is also a ZF six-speed automated ‘Quickshift’ transmission available, which uses an electric actuator to operate the clutch.

During our road test, it provides a fine level of control for low speed manoeuvring such as backing-up to a loading dock and performs well on the road – regardless of the weight of the load in the van.

To demonstrate to the Australian market just how serious it is about growing the brand’s local presence and maintaining a top three sales position, Renault is offering a wealth of standard features across the Master range – including dual front airbags, four wheel disc brakes with ABS, as well as an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system and traction control (ASR); alongside cruise control and a speed limiter, remote central locking, a multifunction trip computer and reverse parking sensors. The rear wheel drive models feature an Eaton axle and can be optioned with an automatic diff lock if slippery conditions are going to be regularly encountered.

Regardless of engine size and drive layout, the cabin feels spacious due to thin A-pillars and a bonnet that slopes away from the driver to provide good forward vision. The combination of blind-spot mirrors, a wide view interior mirror and the standard rear parking sensors helps make reversing into tight spots easy during our test run.

For a work vehicle, seating is quite refined, too – especially the suspended driver seat provided by Isri, which is standard on the high roof, long wheelbase model and optional on the smaller variants. Additional worker-friendly touches include a chilled compartment in the dash and prove that Renault is serious about providing a highly functional commercial vehicle.

The cargo compartment is separated from the driver cabin by a steel bulkhead with a window. A single sliding door on the kerb side is standard, with the option of fitting a driver’s side slider to further increase versatility. Forklift access to the rear is made easy by barn doors that open out up to 270°; and with plastic-lined walls and a floor with ample fold flat strap anchors, everyday loading should be equally straightforward.

As such, it may not be one single feature that has helped Renault climb up all the way to second in the TIC sales ranking – it’s the versatility of the brand’s product offering, especially the Master range. Take the rear weel drive version, which can tow up to three tonnes and comes with trailer sway mitigation as standard, or the high roof variant, whose length of 6,848mm and height of 2,808mm make it appear larger than many a ‘small’ truck.

According to Renault, it’s the ability to customise a Master van to suit the task at hand that appeals to Australian transport businesses – and the statistics prove the brand is onto something.

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