TERRIFIC TRAFIC

Delivery Magazine reports of the long-wheelbase version of the Renault Trafic, winner of this year’s Best Medium Van of the Year.

Choosing the right vehicle for fleet operations comes down to Total Cost of Operation (TCO), fitness for purpose and driver acceptance, plus manufacturer support and customer service, not necessarily in that order.

It’s not that long ago that a fuel consumption reading of 7.4 l/100 km was achievable only by small three-door hatchbacks. Typical consumption figures for medium-sized light commercials hovered around the 10.0 l/100 km mark, dropping back to the low 9.0s with light-footed driving.

The latest breed of medium light commercials, and, in particular the Renault Trafic, winner of the year’s Delivery magazine medium van award, set new standards of economy.

Thanks to an ECO stop/start function and an ECO performance option, company’s such as Renault have improved vehicle economy by as much as 25 percent, knocking the combined fuel consumption figure down to as low as 6.2 l/100 km and the urban cycle even lower to 5.7 l/100 km. Tailpipe emissions of these Euro 5 compliant engines are also low, at 164 g/km of CO2, with the future seeing further reductions once Australia legislates for Euro 6 emissions levels.Renault_Trafic_1

Delivery has been continuing its evaluation of the Renault Trafic by spending time in the larger capacity Trafic L2H1, effectively a longer-wheelbase version of the Trafic L1H1.

As the larger of the two Trafic sizes, the payload increases to 1274 kg from 1237 kg, the overall height stays the same at 1971 mm, as does the width at 1956 mm, but the overall length extends from 4999 mm to 5399 mm. Interior dimensions share the same internal height of 1387 mm and width between wheel arches of 1268 mm, but again extends the interior cargo floor deck length from 2537 mm out to 2937 mm.

At the very least, the deck length dimension should satisfy those wishing to carry standard 2400 mm Gyproc or hardboard panels. There is, however, a clever flap-down door in the full width and full height bulkhead separating the cabin from the cargo area that provides an extension to accommodate ladders or pipes etc. to 4150 mm, by providing access to the area under the front seats.

Thanks to a front-engine/front-wheel-drive configuration, the rear floor can be kept lower than a rear-drive model, as it doesn’t have to provide clearance for a driveshaft. In the Trafic’s case, the deck height is 552 mm at the rear, accessed through wide opening barn doors, each of which is glazed and sports its own individual wash/wiper.

Returning briefly to cost of ownership, Trafic comes with disc brakes front and rear and fixed-price service agreement that requires 30,000 km/12 months interval servicing capped at $349 per calendar year for the first three scheduled services. The warranty cover is three-years/200,000 km.

Trafic comes extremely well loaded with standard features that would be expected with a luxury car. The six-speed manual gearbox is a gem, with short, direct gear selection from a stubby lever close to the driver’s left hand. For the L2H1 it sits behind an equally impressive twin-turbo dCi 140 diesel engine that produces 103 kW at 3500 rpm, with 340 Nm of torque rated at 1500 rpm, of which 270 Nm is available upwards of 1250 rpm.

With an 11.84-metre turning cirRenault-Trafic_2cle, Trafic is quicker to point in the opposite direction than the majority of utes in the market, plus its electric power steering is precise and positive, providing a good degree of road feel.

While it still looks like a van, albeit one with some subtle French design features rather than a slab-sided butter box, Trafic drives like an upmarket car. When empty, or, as with our testing, when laden with 400 kg, the ride comfort is excellent and there’s no interior drumming noises or transmitted sound from the tyres or driveline. It is very quiet in the cab, and with a dual passenger seat and single driver’s seat there’s space for three across.

When alone in the cab, the centre seat backrest flops forward to provide a table for a laptop, plus a removable note clipboard. Meanwhile, there’s storage available underneath each of the passenger seats, accessed by lifting the seat squabs.

Coffee drinkers will think they are really being looked after, with cup location holders at the extreme ends of the top of the dashboard, plus a flap-out holder in the centre of the dash and another in the centre seat backrest when folded forwards.

The driver’s seat adjusts up and down as well as forward and back, and the movement available on the steering column should produce an excellent match for any size and shaped occupant. Audio volume controls are typically Renault, located on a column stalk, as are the usual lights and wiper controls. Cruise control actuation is via buttons on the steering-wheel spokes.

The design team that produced the interior must have actually spent time talking to drivers and couriers as the result is probably class leading. But it’s the refinement of the total vehicle that shines through whenever you take it for a drive. There are places to put mobile phones in convenient reach of a charge point, and the hands-free pairing is quick and easy.Renault-Trafic_4

We have mentioned ride and handling briefly, but it needs to be restated as to comment on the suspension compliance and capability of the MacPherson strut front, and beam axle rear. The ride and handling and the comfort levels are way above the norm expected from a mid-sized delivery van.

There’s a plethora of safety equipment included in the Trafic, such as traction control, electronic stability control, rollover protection, load adaptive control, hill start assist, ABS and emergency brake assist, plus there are driver and passenger front airbags, optional lateral curtain airbags, seat belt load limiters and pre-tensioners, anti-whiplash head restraints and more. The reverse camera feed is supplied to the left-hand section of the interior rear vision mirror, and while this is better than nothing, we would prefer to see the vision displayed on the Sat/Nav equipped models for those that option up.

The L2H1 pricing comes in at $38,490, to which you can add three option packs: The Pro Pack adds driver and passenger lateral airbags, phone cradle, full plywood cargo area lining and an anti-slip timber floor. The Premium Pack adds to the Pro Pack with Sat/Nav, 17-inch alloys and a better sound system, plus heated seats. The Lifestyle Pack adds all that together with a higher-level interior trim for a total price of $2490. (Pro Pack is $1290 and Premium Pack is $1990).

For those who want to select their options individually rather than as a package, Renault pricing details each item, plus adds the availability of additional sliding doors on the driver’s side, either glazed or solid metal.

Before the end of this year we’ll be seeing new models from both Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, but right now it’s Renault that leads the pack.

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