Prime Mover Magazine

Final Mile: Renault Trafic LWB

Final Mile: Renault Trafic LWB

With the launch of the new Trafic range in 2015, Renault has matched larger vans with smaller engines. Does the equation work out?

On paper, some may think Renault has taken a gamble with the new ‘long wheelbase’ (LWB) version of the Trafic. The wheelbases across the 2015 range were already up to 210mm longer than in the past, so why add an extra 400mm between the axle centres if the payload advantage is only 37kg? Not to mention the additional 1.3m added to the van’s turning circle. And why choose a smaller 1.6-litre engine to replace the old 2.0-litre one?

Luckily for Renault, the package does make sense for its intended target audience. To accommodate bulky loads, the extra 400mm may prove crucial to some delivery businesses that don’t necessarily aim for maximum payload. When using the “load through” flap door in the steel bulkhead that allows access to the space beneath the passenger seat, articles as long as 4.14m can now be transported safely.

And, the new engine may only have a capacity of 1.6 litres, but it performs much better than the old unit – mainly by virtue of its twin turbocharger set up, which also contributes to remarkable fuel economy: Also helped by the smart engine stop/start system, the LWB achieved a low 6.5 litres/100km during our test.

Cubic load volume, however, is the LWB’s main strength. With 6.0m3 compared to the SWB’s 5.2 m3, there is enough room for two standard Australian pallets in the cargo bay. The steel floor is solid enough to take a beating, with plenty of strengthening ribbing and load anchors included. The option sheet lists a wooden floor for those not wanting to lash every piece of their load down. The LWB’s rear doors open to 180°, with 270° fold backs and a barn door also available.

During our test, we cover just over 400km, mostly with around 600kg strapped down in the back. The flexibility of the engine and the slick shifting six-speed allow us to keep up with city and freeway traffic with ease, and even the long climbs on both sides of the Hawkesbury River are handled effortlessly in top gear.

The passenger compartment is well appointed with plenty of storage facilities, comfortable seats and an adjustable steering column. The driver’s seat is height adjustable using a pump type lever that doesn’t require much effort to raise or lower. Yet, the otherwise excellent ergonomics are a little let down by a lack of a grab handle on the A-pillars, which would make the entry process much easier. A scan through the comprehensive option list reveals that such handles are indeed available for an extra investment of around $100.

As with the rest of the van, the dash is all-new and most of the controls are ideally placed – other than those for the audio/phone system, which are operated via a stalk that is mostly hidden by the steering wheel. By the end of the test, however, we have become reasonably used to operating the audio and Bluetooth connection by feel.

The steering wheel is leather-covered, which is luxury in this class, and the climate system is typically European, with great performance at both ends of the temperature spectrum as well as first rate de-misting capability.

Rear parking sensors as well as a reversing camera are fitted, and the small screen for the camera is located in the central rear vision mirror as standard. The optional audio entertainment/GPS units incorporate a much larger seven-inch screen on the dash. The outside mirrors themselves have a clever convex lower section to enhance vision angles with minimal distortion.

The only transmission currently available is a six-speed manual, which is light and smooth to operate – but with much of the van market aimed at metropolitan deliveries, an automatic option could help expand the Trafic’s appeal.

Speaking of which: Even though the Trafic’s new LWB version may not make sense to everyone at first sight, it is perfectly geared towards its target market and provides a modern, comfortable workplace for those behind the wheel.

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