New Renault Trafic Van

In the first of a series The next Gear as gone all commercial, yes we do test vans…well Kieran did and here’s what happened

Kieran Reid.

There was a time when a van just needed to be a box on wheels, used by the local grocer to do the local deliveries or the fruit and veg man to do his rounds at the weekends. But like everything else in life, time moves on and brings with it progress and a need to provide a better service to a more demanding public who want everything and want it now. So, now more than ever, businesses, service providers and trades people need to be able to get to their customers quicker in order to provide a more efficient and professional service.

One such businessman is John Corcoran who runs Courtwood Dairy Services and specialises in the supply, maintenance and repair of milking machines and feeding systems to dairy farmers in the wider Leinster region. John needs a van that he can rely on to get him and his equipment to any of his customers in any weather to some of the remotest parts of farmland at any time. When a farmer phones to say his milking machine has stopped working and he still has 80 cows in the yard waiting to be milked there is no time for delay. Typical as it may seem, John got such a call at 7.30 am on Christmas morning. Remember now, last Christmas we were all housebound due to the snow, but off John had to go and replace a motor to get the farmer back in business. Later that evening at 5.30pm the phone rang again and another farmer halfway through milking noticed his machine was running all right but there was no milk going into the tank. A simple matter of fitting a new filter, but it still had to be done. Needless to say, but a van fit for the job is an absolute priority. That is why last Friday, John Corcoran took delivery of his new Renault Trafic, his third successive model. He gave me the opportunity to review the van.

The new Renault Trafic Van is basically an improvement on an already well-proven product. There is a choice of short wheelbase or long wheelbase bodies with either a low roof or a high roof and there is also a crew cab variant. There is a choice of three equipment levels, Business which is the standard in all vans, Comfort which adds little luxuries such as the smokers pack, controls on the steering wheel, radio upgrade, armrest on the drivers seat, electric front windows and electric mirrors. Then there is the Executive, the top of the range which includes a trip computer, large wheel trims, one touch electric front windows, fog lamps, rear doors with 270º opening, radio MP3 CD with separate display and an RCA Outlet + Bluetooth, side anchorage points in the load area and the impressive Carminat TomTom navigation system with remote control. To save confusion, keep in mind the van we are reviewing is the Executive model.

The front cabin is easy to enter, with a recessed footplate to aid entry, and once in the driving position, the height of the drivers’ seat can be adjusted, as can the steering wheel, which is also reach adjustable. This all helps to find the most comfortable and safe way to travel, which can only aid the reduction of driver fatigue, essential to anyone involved in long distance or all day driving. The gear lever is very well positioned on the dashboard within easy reach, which proves to be a dream in town or city driving, combined with the ease of the power steering. The instruments are very visible and standard enough although this model includes a trip computer to aid with costing’s for distance travelled, fuel consumption etc. The centrepiece of the dash is the Carminat Tom Tom Navigation System which can be swivelled to face the driver, housed with the Radio MP3 CD + Bluetooth phone system, along with the USB + iPod outlets. All these can be controlled through the controls on the steering wheel, and there is a remote control to enable the initial setting up the systems. There is even a dedicated storage compartment to house the remote, ensuring it is always close to hand and not buried at the bottom of a load of paperwork in one of the many storage bins.

Seats are very comfortable, the driver’s seat includes an armrest and the bench seat will accommodate two passengers comfortably. Manual heating is standard, but air conditioning and climate control are available as an option, and when air conditioning is fitted it includes refrigerating the glovebox to keep drinks and lunch packs cool. There is plenty of storage available, which includes big door bins, which can also accommodate large drink bottles, and dashboard compartments that can house A4 documents. Drink holders are also located at each end of the dash. Practical details include grab handles each side as well as one touch electric front windows and electric mirrors. Cabin noise has also been reduced substantially by the use of vibration dampers.

Safety features include ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist with Electronic Stability Programme, driver’s airbag, double optic headlamps and front fog lights. A full steel bulkhead is standard throughout the range.

On the business side of things the load compartment is easily accessed through the two rear doors, which on this model can be opened to 270°. Opening dimensions are 1380mm wide by 1300mm high. The side sliding door gives an opening of 990mm wide by 1280mm high. The height from the ground to the floor is a very satisfactory 540mm, which will make loading and unloading relatively easy. The internal dimensions are 2800mm long, 1640mm wide and 1387mm high. The width between the wheel arches is 1260mm, which will easily accommodate the standard 8’x 4’ sheets or euro pallets. There are load tie down hooks in the floor, and this model also has side anchorage points.

On the road, the van feels firm and steady, and the 2.0dci engine producing 115 bhp mated to a 6 speed manual gearbox has no trouble shifting large loads, it is a nippy, easy van to drive with good visibility. The steering is light but assured and the brakes are very responsive and well up to the job. Mixed urban and country driving averaged 8.8l/100km or 32 mpg in old money, which is good for this size of a van. CO2 emissions are 195g/km.

Renault also offers a good choice of accessories to aid individual requirements, which include towbars, roofbars and ladder, an entire load area wood protection kit and waterproof mats.

Van users looking at purchase options would do well when considering the Renault Trafic to keep in mind that Renault offer a 5 years unlimited mileage warranty coupled with a Roadside Assistance and Recovery service. Peace of mind at no extra cost.

Prices start at € 20,000 for the basic model, the long wheelbase Executive model featured retails at € 23,375. Renault is also offering a scrappage deal on all vans which are over 5 years old until 31st March 2011.