Renault upsets the status quo as it gains market share across the complete light commercial segment.
The writing was certainly on the wall in June of last year when Renault light commercials scored highly in the annual Delivery Magazine light commercial vehicles of the year awards.
From the highly capable Kangoo small van, through the distinctively styled Trafic medium van to the larger-capacity Master van and now bus range, this a brand that is really moving forwards at a great rate.
At the close of 2015, Renault could lay claim to finishing first in the compact category for sales in December, second for the full-size Master, and third, mainly due to supply constraints, in the medium segment.
“We are enjoying record demand in Australia for our van range,” says Lyndon Healey, Model Line Manager for Renault LCV.
In 2015, Renault LCV delivered 3758 vans in the Australian market, a rise on the 3393 delivered in 2014. Renault is now Australia’s front-running challenger for number-one spot among European-sourced vans.
With the Kangoo and Trafic currently holding the individual Delivery magazine awards for Best Small Van and Best Medium Van for 2015, Renault has continued its range expansion with the release of a 12-seat passenger bus version of the Master.
From a starting price of $59,990 (Manufacturers List Price) plus on road costs, the Renault Master Bus is based on the front-wheel-drive Master L3H2 long-wheelbase van and uses the same 2.3-litre Euro 5-compliant engine teamed with six-speed automated manual transmission that has been available in the van versions since 2012.
Maximum power of 110 kW (150 hp) is produced at 3500 rpm and peak torque of 350 Nm is rated between 1500 and 2850 rpm.
Gearing is such that at a steady 100 km/h cruise on the freeway the engine is revving at under 2000 rpm. The 100-litre standard fuel tank and excellent fuel efficiency gives a long theoretical range between fills.
The Renault Master Bus is 6.2 m long, 2.47 m wide (2.07 m wide with mirrors folded) has 200 mm of ground clearance, and a turning circle of 15.7 m kerb-to-kerb. The flush-mounted panoramic windows down each side are bordered by smart black framing for a seamless and highly appealing finish.
A large, glazed emergency hatch is inserted into the roof panel towards the rear. The special glass is designed to provide high UV protection but resist transmitting absorbed heat into the cabin. This emergency exit allows the fitment of an accessory luggage barrier behind the seats if required.
An electrically-powered step, that meets ADR 58/00, has been fitted beneath the sliding door aperture. The step slides out automatically when the door opens, assisting entry into, or exit from the vehicle. The step has been rated for 150 kg and has been tested to more than 300,000 cycles. The door aperture is large enough to negate the need for an average-height passenger to duck their head on entry or exit.
On the high specification versions the opening action of the electrically-operated sliding door is achieved through the use of three electric motors. The door is equipped with an anti-jam mechanism that uses a sensor-equipped rubber tube strip in the leading edge. If the strip comes into contact with an object while closing, the door’s movement is halted, and it then retreats to the open position.
On the inside of the sliding door is an emergency unlocking and unlatching handle that allows the door to be opened manually, for instance after an impact.
The electrically-operated sliding door cannot be opened when the vehicle is in motion. Should the vehicle depart from rest while the door is open, the door will automatically close.
Because of the front-wheel-drive engine and transmission there is no drive shaft to the rear axle. This enables a low cabin floor height but provides a high amount of useable space under the floor area for additional equipment such as water tanks or long-range fuel tanks. The full-size spare wheel is housed in a drop-down cradle under the luggage compartment and does not intrude on interior cabin space.
A full complement of active and passive safety features is standard along with a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, cruise control and speed limiter, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, Hill Start Assist and Grip X-Tend – effectively a different name for traction control.
With a rated 3.9-tonne GVM, the 12-seater bus (including driver) has plenty of interior space and offers a combined payload for passengers and their luggage of 1252 kg, offering an additional 2.5-tonnes towing capacity. The luggage area is 3.5 m3 and with the fitment of a roof rack the Master bus is rated to carry an additional 200 kg (including the weight of the roof rack).
The left-side sliding door is standard, along with dual barn doors at the rear that open to an angle of 270-degrees, enabling the doors to be folded back against the body sides.
There’s an impressive amount of interior space, and with 1880 mm of headroom there’s little likelihood of a passenger bumping their head with the ceiling. In spite of this, the overall vehicle height is only 2475 mm.
Wider seats combine with plentiful legroom for a spacious passenger environment. The seating layout is 3/2/2-1/4 with a centre aisle, making access easy for all types of passengers.
Each seat has retractable three-point lap/sash and diagonal seat belts, plus there are two seats with ISOFIX connections and child seat top tether straps, in accordance with local regulations.
All versions come with a secondary passenger compartment air conditioning system designed to cope with Australian conditions. The blower unit is located over the luggage bay and blows into the passenger area, complementing the front-mounted standard van system.
A glazed emergency hatch in the roof, reclining seat backs for the two middle rows, hard-wearing vinyl flooring, original equipment-quality interior trim mouldings, durable, soft and attractive two-tone grey jacquard fabric seat facings that match the front seats, and an auto side step below the sliding door that slides out when the door opens, are all part of the highly equipped standard specification.
Buyers can choose between two additional option packs, with the Premium Pack adding an electrically-powered sliding left-hand-side door, auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, R-Link enhanced satellite navigation with touchscreen, hands-free entry, four USB charging sockets, LED roof lighting, side and rear window curtains, premium carpeting and reclining rear row seats.
The Luxury Pack, due for release in the latter part of 2016, adds the contents of the Premium Pack and leather upholstery for all seats, lane departure warning, storage under the front passenger seat, an alarm, automatic high/low beam headlight function and dark tinted windows.
Each of these Premium and Luxury Pack features are available individually to special order. The Premium Pack has a RRP of $3590 and the Luxury Pack has a RRP of $7990.
Renault is also developing a version of the Bus without seats or elevated floor, suitable for converters to install wheelchair access equipment, while maintaining the high quality passenger vehicle interior ambience and fittings.
The Renault Master Bus is covered by the same factory backed support with a three-year/200,000 km warranty extendable to four or five years, 24-hour roadside assistance for the warranty period, capped-price servicing for the first three scheduled services at $349 each, with service intervals up to 30,000 km apart.
The Renault Master Bus is available in a broad range of seven solid and three metallic colours and can be driven on a regular passenger car licence.
“We have spent 18 months talking to prospective bus customers and refining the product, to ensure it is suitable for Australian driving and loading conditions, and to meet the expectations of the Australian market in terms of features, equipment and price,” said Lyndon.
“There is also a significant amount of luggage space, which may obviate the need to tow a trailer, adding convenience, security and fuel efficiency benefits.
“With very competitive pricing, up to 30,000 km or 12-month service intervals, as well as proven mechanicals, a long factory warranty of 200,000 km or three years, as well as our capped price servicing of $349 for the first three scheduled services, Renault has a product that is extremely competitive in the local market,” added Lyndon.