Overtaking, braking and cornering are just as important for vans in a congested urban environment as they are for Formula 1 cars, in the ‘Green Hell’ of the Nurburgring, or the richly paved streets of Monte Carlo.
So, it’s no surprise that Renault excels in either world, a fact shown off by the French auto giant’s bringing together the dual-clutch automatic transmission lifted from the high-performance Megane Renault Sport hot hatch as well as a new, more powerful engine in its best-selling mid-size Trafic van.
Versatility extends to the model range with short and long wheelbase, the choice of two diesel motors and three variants – Pro, Premium and Crew Lifestyle. The test vehicle, the Trafic SWB Premium 125 kW EDC Diesel is close to the top of the price range at $43,490, plus on-road costs ($45,490 drive away).
The entry-level Trafic SWB Pro manual sells for $36,490 (plus ORC), while models are topped out by long-wheelbase variants Premium EDC Diesel at $45,490 and LWB Crew Lifestyle EDC Diesel, $52,490, the latter offering six seats, 4 cu m of cargo space and more comfort and convenience features.
The Trafic Premium offers a Business Pack ($2000) consisting of automatic air-conditioning, tinted windows, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry card, heated seats and colour coded bumpers and tail-light pillars.
All Trafic models come with a three-year / unlimited kilometre factory warranty, which can be extended at cost to up to five years / 200,000 km.
Servicing intervals remain at up to 30,000 km or annually (whichever comes first) with capped price servicing offered from $549 for each of the first three scheduled visits to the dealership. Renault also provides Roadside Assistance for up to four years.
In keeping with powertrain upgrades, the Trafic look has been refreshed with a stand-out radiator grille and more prominent Renault signature diamond logo at its centre.
Automatic dusk-sensing LED headlamps have been added, delivering up to 50 per cent more full-beam light and up 20 per cent on low-beam, compared with halogen versions.
As a work vehicle, the Trafic boasts new dark carbon heavy-duty upholstery with seat facings designed to take constant sliding in and out of the driver during the working day.
Occupants ride three abreast, with the driver taking advantage of an updated dashboard with satin chrome finishes and mobile phone cradle. A wide view mirror on the passenger sun visor helps reduce side blind spots as well as aiding reversing in conjunction with rear-view camera.
A media / navigation system works through a 7-inch touchscreen. A 4x20W FM / AM / DAB digital radio is controlled via a dedicated steering wheel-mounted stalk. Connectivity comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Debuted in the Trafic is a new Euro 6 compliant 2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine 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.
Renault claims the Trafic auto consumes 7.3 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres of driving in the combined urban / highway cycle. The test vehicles showed consumption of 8.7 litres around town and 5.7 on the open road.
This engine is available only in combination with the new six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch transmission.
Safety on board Trafic starts with a suite of airbags, including front and lateral curtains, standard across the range.
Active safety includes stability control, anti-skid braking with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, and hill start assist.
Stepping up into the Trafic cabin is not easy: there are no grab handles. The driver is able to use the steering wheel, but the two passengers are left to fend for themselves.
Setting off has its quirks too, with the automatic door locking going off almost like a gunshot. Under way, however, the Trafic Premium SWB on test behaved like an automotive Fred Astaire, foxtrotting through congested city streets, waltzing into vacant parking spots and quickstepping past slow-moving traffic.
All this was what should be expected of the power of a modern 2.0-litre turbo-diesel motor and finely tuned suspension but the poise of the vehicle in traffic and on the open road was remarkable as was the muted engine.
Oh, and booming road noise from the back was greatly limited thanks to the bulkhead behind the seats.
Loading the 5.2 cubic metre cargo space is made easy by wide sliding doors on both sides of the van and rear double barn doors that open 180 degrees allowing a standard pallet to be slotted between the rear wheel arches.
Loads are held safely by using as many as 16 tie-down points at various heights. Long loads, such as poly pipes and timber planks, can be accommodated thanks to flaps in the bulkhead with up to 4.5 metre lengths able to be taken through as far as the firewall.
Up front, Renault retains its innovative ‘office on the move’ features with plenty of space, including a folding passenger seat with laptop storage and clipboard that can face the driver or passenger.
Comfort comes with efficient air-conditioning, while the driver can take advantage of a height, reach and lumbar adjustable seat with armrest.
The extra power and sporty auto transmission take the Trafic to a new level. The cost of the short wheelbase Premium model might seem a bit of a financial stretch but what price such a desirable workplace?
AT A GLANCE
Trafic SWB Pro 85 kW MT Diesel $36,490
Trafic LWB Pro 85 kW MT Diesel $38,490
Trafic SWB Premium 103 kW MT Diesel $39,490
Trafic LWB Premium 103 kW MT Diesel $41,490
Trafic SWB Premium 125 kW EDC Diesel $43,490
Trafic LWB Premium 125 kW EDC Diesel $45,490
Trafic LWB Crew Lifestyle 125 kW EDC Diesel $52,490
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Renault dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Renault Trafic Premium 2-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel, 6sp Efficient Dual Clutch auto, SWB van)
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
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4999 mm
Wheelbase: 3098 mm
Width: 2283 mm
Height: 1971 mm
Turning Circle: 11.84 metres
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres
Three years / unlimited kilometres