Renault is making quite an impact in the Australian van market with its three vehicles providing a range of sizes to suit a variety of commercial purposes.

The little Kangoo (the similarity in name to our favourite marsupial is purely coincidental) is a compact urban van that’s much loved by florists and the like. Next up is the mid-sized Trafic which appeals to tradies and at the top is the Master, a serious delivery vehicle.

This week’s test vehicle is the Trafic, pronounced Trafique in its Gallic homeland, which has been on sale here since 2004.

The latest model arrived here in September 2019 with two significant game-changing features – the return of a 2.0-litre diesel engine and automatic transmission.

Trafic comes with the choice of short or long wheelbase, two diesel engines and three variants – Pro, Premium and Crew Lifestyle. Our test vehicle was the SWB Premium with the new 2.0-litre twin-turbo motor.

It’s obviously quite difficult for designers to pen a vehicle that is basically a box on wheels but make it look attractive at the same time. The Trafic stylists have managed it with a large, bold front grille and prominent Renault diamond badge. At the rear the long tall taillight casings are a standout feature.

The combination of sliding doors on either side and rear double barn doors that can open to 180 degrees make for easy access. There are alternatives including deleting the outer sliding door and replacing the barn door with a top-hinged tailgate.

Inside the cargo area there are 16 tie-down points at various heights. There are also two folding flaps in the bulkhead to provide extra space for long loads, including a 4.0-metre rolled floor map during our move. Cleverly the flaps use magnets to clamp them in place when open.

Trafic is set up with a single seat for the driver and a wide bench seat that can just accommodate two passengers. That middle passenger seatback can be folded down to create a mini office including a removable clipboard and space for a laptop computer.

There are also a number of stowage areas within the cabin including one underneath the passenger seats that can hold fairly large items

A phone holder on the dashboard is well-placed although unfortunately it couldn’t accommodate my Samsung Galaxy.

Features are fairly basic with display on a 7-inch touchscreen. There are two USB sockets, an Aux jack and 12-volt power outlet at the base of the dashboard. Connectivity includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Bluetooth pairing is straightforward.

Standard safety features across the Trafic range are front, side and driver thorax airbags, including front and lateral curtains; enhanced ABS brakes; roll-over mitigation; Grip X-Tend advanced traction control; rear parking sensors; reversing camera; and hill-start assist.

Three engines, all turbo-diesels, are available. There are two 1.6-litre units with different tunes putting out 85 and 103 kW respectively and a new Euro 6 compliant 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo producing 125 kW of power at 3500 rpm and 380 Nm of torque at just 1500 rpm, making it among the most powerful in class.

Transmission options are limited. The 1.6-litre engine only comes with a six-speed manual and the 2.0-litre with a new Efficient Dual Clutch six-speed automatic.

The first problem we encountered on getting into the Trafic, was just that – getting in. It’s a fair climb up and one that’s made even more difficult by the lack of grab handles at either door. We found ourselves having to use either the steering wheel or the roof rail for leverage.

Once settled in though that climb provides a high driving position that’s a real bonus when driving around town. Indeed with a footprint around the same size as larger SUVs and utes, combined with its gutsy 2.0-litre diesel engine it’s surprisingly easy to manoeuvre and park.

A huge windscreen provides excellent frontal visibility while the combination of large side windows and door mirrors, rear parking sensors and reversing camera.

The latter become more important when there’s a full load but the biggest vision problem, as it is in all similar vans, is to the side and rear when reversing out of a 90-degree parking space a very cautious exercise.

Rear-cross traffic alert, should it eventually be added, will make a big difference. In the meantime we found ourselves either reversing into spots or searching out ones that enabled us to drive through.

It’s always useful to be able to test light commercial vehicles in their natural habitat as we were during a weekend of house moving. While it obviously couldn’t manage the heavy lifting the Trafic with its 5.2 cubic metre cargo space was a very handy back-up for transporting boxes and small pieces of furniture, even a queen-size mattress could be squeezed in, albeit above the wheel arches.

New to the latest Trafic are dusk-sensing LED headlamps which we’re told deliver up to 50 per cent more full-beam light and up 20 per cent on low-beam, compared with halogen versions.

Fuel consumption is listed at 7.3 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres of driving in the combined urban / highway cycle. Despite carrying some moderately heavy loads we were still able to average an impressive 8.4 L/100 km.

Renault Trafic is a sensible French-built van with good performance and bit of flair in the way it drives and handles.

One thing that really struck us during our week with the Trafic was how common a sight they were out there, many breaking away from the traditional bland white van looks and taking advantage of a striking range of available colours. Smart operators take advantage of these bright colours and, with clever signwriting, turn their Trafic’s into mobile advertising hoardings.

The extra power and new automatic added to its attractive styling make the latest Trafic a much more marketable proposition for Renault Australia as it seeks to attract sales away from its Toyota and Hyundai competitors.

All Renault models now come with a five-year 200,000 km standard warranty.


Trafic SWB Pro 1.6-litre 85 kW diesel: $36,990 (manual)
Trafic LWB Pro 1.6-litre 85 kW diesel: $38,990 (manual)
Trafic SWB Premium 1.6-litre 103 kW diesel: $40,490 (manual)
Trafic LWB Premium 1.6-litre 103 kW diesel: $42,490 (manual)
Trafic SWB Premium 2.0-litre 125 kW diesel: $44,490 (automatic)
Trafic LWB Premium 2.0-litre 125 kW diesel: $46,490 (automatic)
Trafic LWB Crew Lifestyle 2.0-litre 125 kW diesel: $53,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Renault dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Renault Trafic SWB Premium 2.0-litre 125 kW diesel)

Capacity: 1.997 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline
Maximum Power: 125 kW @ 3500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 380 Nm @ 1500 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.3 L/100km
Carbon dioxide emissions 191 g / km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch automatic transmission

Length: 4999 mm
Wheelbase: 3098 mm
Width: 2283 mm
Height: 1971 mm
Turning Circle: 11.84 metres
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres

Front: Disc
Rear: Disc

Three years / unlimited kilometres

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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