Renault delivers the goods with refreshed commercial line-up
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With the light commercial sector going great guns — especially for manufacturers fortunate enough to boast anything ute-shaped — it’s no surprise to see renewed interest and efforts in providing industry with a widening degree of four-wheeled hardware.
As a result, we have brands generally better known for their passenger vehicle output ramping up efforts in a big way to ensure they’re seen to be delivering the goods. Literally.
Renault is hardly a stranger to the light commercial market. You still see angular mid-1960s era Renault 4 vans plying the streets of provincial France today. But, with a much-broadened SUV and hatchback offering already scoring it market wins here, the New Zealand distributor is in the throes of assembling the largest catalogue of load-lugging options possible for sizable corporates and solo cabinet-makers alike.
Once considered a boutique brand (a polite way of pointing to a small audience), Renault now has a chocolate box assortment of vans on offer; Kangoos, Trafics and Masters of varying sizes and body-styles, all trading on the somewhat intangible notion of space.
I drove the Trafic 3 last year when it first arrived and — bear with me here because I’m about to talk in superlatives ... about a van — I was blown away by the driving experience. It’s a big box on wheels (Google it; Renault’s designers all got set-squares for Christmas in 2015 it would seem). And, of course, this is its raison d’être. But it’s the other stuff that pushes it above the crowd; the comfort of its cabin, the effortless acceleration and the unfussy gearbox.
Its ease-of-use and practicality are pitched front and centre as you’d expect, but it’s enjoyable to drive, too.
Starting at the top, the Renault Master is a different kettle of cargo, in that it’s well, massive. The one I drove was anyway; the Master L4H3, which features a colossal 17 cubic metres of load space (crucially, enough floor space to fit three standard-sized Euro pallets end-on-end) and a load weight of 4.5-ton.
You can get the Master in a variety of different dimensions, with manual and automatic transmissions available, as well as three front- and one rear-wheel drive model (with dual wheels at the back) on offer.
It’s the shape-shifting sheet metal that sells the Master as a many-sizes-fits-all cargo solution though. Low, mid and high-roof iterations can be had, as well as all manner of door configurations. Forget Rolls-Royce; you almost feel like Renault commercial vehicle salespeople could also get away with the “no two are quite the same, sir” promise.
Okay, so far, so vanny. But the big change for Renault will undoubtedly be the addition of cab-chassis trucks to the line-up, which will move the Master on from the freight-forwarders to the construction site.
The Master cab-chassis can be had in either single or double-cab format. So, depending on the conversion, an entity needs to make the most of the vehicle, Renault’s flat-deck will provide between 20 and 22 cubic metres of effective load volume. Payloads register in at 1910kg for the front-driver, and either 2272kg or 2490kg for the double and single-cab versions respectively.
Power in the Master range comes from a solitary Energy DCi six-cylinder turbo-diesel in two states of tune. Peak power is rated to 110kW for the auto box versions or 120kW for the manuals, with torque figures of 350Nm and 360Nm respectively. Peak pull comes in at an impressively low 1500rpm across the board.
Away from the headline act at the rear, oversized side mirrors, plenty of latch hooks in the cargo bay, Eco stop/start functionality, an array of storage cubbies, a fold-down worktop moulded into the front middle seat and all the touchscreen-tastic and Bluetooth-connected attributes you’d expect to find are accounted for.
Decreasing the footprint doesn’t shorten up the spec sheet, either. Book-ending Renault’s range is its Kangoo vans line-up.. These come in a similar assortment of configurations, but fill the light-use end of the spectrum.
Kangoos are available as the short-wheelbase Compact offering 3 cubic metres of load space, or the long-wheelbase Maxi, with 4 cubic metres space in the back. A Crew Cab version of the Maxi featuring a second row of seats is also available.
While the Compact is available with either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual trannie, you won’t be able to get an automatic Kangoo in the long-wheelbase format until next year.
Never mind; it might take you until 2018 to pore over the options list to make sure you have exactly what you need, anyway.
The Kangoo is available in as many different guises as its big brother when it comes to door and window arrangements. The list of optional accessories — from cabin-separating security mesh partitions to a rear sliding sunroof, which will allow for long loads to poke out the top of the van (rather than through the rear doors) — is also lengthy.
A choice of four-cylinder petrol (84kW/190Nm) or four-cylinder turbo diesel (81kW/240Nm) engines are available, with payloads of between 540 and 825kg on offer, depending on what size Kangoo you opt for.
For people who spend their work days on the road, an important through-line here is the vans’ driveability and comfort. I haven’t yet sampled the Kangoo, but a comfortable driving position and good outward visibility, matched with responsive acceleration and steering in the Trafic and the biggest Master available gives me confidence that Renault’s light van will provide for a similar experience.
It’s an impressive effort on the local distributor’s part to get all these options available for our market. The days of a certain Japanese brand van being about the only option for SMEs, sole operators and larger corporates alike seem like a distant memory.
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