Renault Trafic Panel Van review - Select Van Leasing
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Renault Trafic panel van review

Introduction

It’s eight years since the latest Renault Trafic graced our roads, which might make you think it’s a little outdated, but a recent facelift means it’s worth looking at again.

There’s a new sense of style, a cabin that’s been seriously upgraded, and a range of engines that offer a range of performance or economy options. Despite being relatively long in the tooth (and with no electric version available or planned), the latest updates make the van, on paper, competitive against the class-leading Ford Transit Custom and the Volkswagen Transporter. We put it to see if it’s still got what it takes to compete with fresher rivals.

Select's rating score* - 3.8 / 5

At a Glance

You'd be right if you think this Renault Trafic looks a little like some other vans. You could buy a version wearing a Vauxhall Vivaro badge or a Fiat Talento model for many years. Both brands were taken over by Stellantis and replaced by Peugeot Expert-based models. You can still find it wearing a Nissan badge, though, where it’s known as the NV300 or Primastar.

This year’s update has given the Trafic a new name, but it’s not a significant change; it’s now known as Trafic Blue, but don’t expect anyone to keep using the tagged-on colour label. The basic design of the Trafic remains unchanged, but there have been some striking visual changes, especially at the front. A new grille is flanked by LED lighting, with Renault’s signature C-shaped daytime running lights.


A new bumper tidies up the front end, bringing the van cosmetically up to date. The updates extend into the cabin too, which now has a new dashboard and instrument panel, new door cards, and other minor detail improvements.

Four engine options - all based on a 2.0-litre turbo diesel unit - offer a choice of power outputs ranging from 110hp to 170hp, while four trim levels range from a bare-bones Business specification to a near-luxurious Sport+ trim.

Key Features

The cargo area is a critical part of any van, which is where the Renault Trafic offers more than many of its rivals. There may be only two body lengths and two roof heights, but the cargo volume is significant. However, it’s the load length that’s available that impresses. Opt for the L2 model, and the cargo box will take a load up to 2,937mm long, which puts it at the top of the class.

A load-through option creates a door in the solid bulkhead to slide long and thin items through. Use that, and you can poke objects right through from the back doors, all the way under the passenger seat, and out into the cabin footwell. At the most extreme, that’s good for an item up to 4,150mm long.

Moving the goalposts? You could literally do that with the Trafic.


Performance & Drive

Gone are the old 1.6-litre engines, replaced by more suitable and modern 2.0-litre units, providing outputs of 110hp, 130hp, 150hp and 170hp. All models come with a six-speed manual gearbox, but the 150 and 170 models are available with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as an option.

We’re driving the 110hp version, which was introduced to the range at the same time as the facelift. A van with just 110hp might be considered underpowered, but it didn’t feel that way out on the road. While the van was empty during our testing, performance was strong enough that if you had told us we had the 130hp or even the 150hp version, we would have believed you. 


The official figures show that it takes a rather pedestrian 16.8 seconds to get from a standstill to 62mph, but it felt more rapid. The stopwatch never lies, though. Again, unhindered by any significant payload, long gradients posed no issue or necessitated any down changes.

That’s a good thing, as the gearshift isn’t that slick. It’s got quite a long throw and lacks precision. We’ve had a taste of the automatic models, though, which are the exact opposite, blessed with smooth and quick changes.

With plenty of useable power, the Trafic is pleasant to drive. It handles well, the steering is responsive, and it stops on a sixpence thanks to the all-around disc brakes. The ride quality is good, too, making the latest Trafic almost a match for the Ford Transit Custom - high praise indeed.

Running Costs

The entry point to the Trafic range is £27,450 plus VAT, which gets you into the 110hp Business model. Lease rates at the time of writing start at less than £300 a month, but there’s more to it than that; thanks to the way residual values can work, that gets you into the higher-power 130hp model in a plusher Business+ specification.

Official fuel economy figures suggest that 40.9mpg is achievable, and that’s probably not unrealistic. The onboard computer settled into showing economy in the high 30s range during our time with the van, and more thrifty drivers could undoubtedly do better than our efforts.

Servicing is every 24,000 miles or two years, and the van is covered by a three-year or 100,000-mile warranty, as well as roadside assistance for the same time.


Interior and Technology

Renault has put a lot of effort into revising the cabin, leaving the Trafic with a modern, welcoming and functional dashboard. The lack of a touchscreen panel on this Business model highlights its entry-level status - every other model gets an 8.0-inch infotainment centre - but the basics are solid with an unpretentious layout and good ergonomics.

If it wasn’t for lack of luxury, you could argue that the cabin is as car-like as you’ll find in any van, as it takes a lot of inspiration from Renault's road cars. It’s even gone to impressive lengths to make the cabin ambience match that of a car, with remarkable suppression of outside sounds; engine, road, and wind noise are minimal, adding to the sense of refinement.


Storage in the cabin is a little limited. Renault says there are 84 litres of cargo space in the front of the van, split between door bins, a handy dash-top tray, pockets and cubby holes, with more than half of that under the passenger seat. The two-person bench seat is a good size, with three-up travel not being something to dread thanks to more elbow room than its Stellantis rivals and a decent amount of knee room for the centre passenger.

There aren't many toys for the occupants to play with on the Business trim model, with no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and not even air conditioning. There is a DAB radio, though, with Bluetooth connectivity.

Payload and Practicality

Like most vans of this size, there are length and height options. The Renault Trafic offers two of each, with L1 and L2 models offering an internal load length of 2,537mm and 2,937mm, respectively - the longest load length in the segment. You can improve on that further by opting for the load-through panel in the solid bulkhead, allowing you to slot smaller items into the cabin. That takes the total length available to 3,750mm on the L1, with another 400mm on the L2.

There’s an internal height of 1,387mm in the H1 van, with the H2 extending that to 1,898mm. Combined with an internal width of 1,662mm (dropping to 1,268mm between the wheel arches), the load volumes range from 5.8m3 to 8.9m3.


A side loading door offers a wide aperture to access the cargo area, with twin rear doors as standard. A second door on the other side of the van is available, as is a top-hinged tailgate.

Renault says that payloads run from 935 to 1,251kg, depending on specification.

Safety

The pre-facelift Trafic didn't impress anybody at Euro NCAP, but the latest model has been tested and awarded a silver medal. Adding some safety equipment such as automatic emergency braking and a driver alert monitor has boosted safety credentials, but there’s still much relegated to the options list.


Options

The Renault Trafic is available in four trim levels. This Business trim model is the entry point to the range, aimed at the fleet market. It isn't exactly overloaded with equipment, but there’s a DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows, cruise control, and a Thatcham alarm. Business+ adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, alongside air conditioning and rear parking sensors.

Sport trim adds navigation on the inside, with some chrome trim and plush seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels, a body-coloured bumper and electric folding door mirrors on the exterior. Safety features are also added at this point in the range, including automatic emergency braking and driver alert monitoring.


The range-topping Sport+ model adds climate control, a rear parking camera, and improved safety kit. Metallic paint with body-coloured side mouldings is standard, while the 17-inch alloy wheels get black inserts to make them look more sporty.

As with most vans, the options list is near endless, with everything from speed limiters to full conversions available. However, Renault’s pricing strategy seems erratic; the £133 charge for an aluminium roof rack designed to fit perfectly seems reasonable, but asking £1,666 for a ladder on the rear door to reach it seems extreme. Likewise, at £455 for ply-lined side panels in the cargo area, many buyers will find a local ply lining company to do as good a job for a fraction of that figure.

Rival Vans

The Trafic is a medium-sized van, so almost every other van on the market is a rival. There are, of course, some rather obvious alternatives.

Chief amongst them is the Ford Transit Custom. Despite being equally long in the tooth, it’s still the best of its kind, with impressive road manners, high levels of comfort and refinement, and a vast range of options from sizes to equipment.

The Vauxhall Vivaro is a favourite, with high payload limits and compact dimensions. It’s cramped inside, though, and the driving position is noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. It’s also badged as a Citroen Dispatch, Fiat Scudo and Peugeot Expert, which all have the same pros and cons. The Toyota Proace is the firth version of the van, with one extra selling point; a warranty that can run for as long as 10 years.

Volkswagen’s Transport oozes class with a stylish and understated design. More than just good looking, it’s great to drive, loaded with safety equipment, and is a great value option when leasing. It’s a bit thirsty, though, so running costs can mount up.


Verdict

Given the age of the Renault Trafic, you might assume that it will feel rather dated, lacking in current technology, and feeling cumbersome to drive, especially when compared to the best of its rivals.

Think that, and you’d be wrong. The Renault Trafic is a pleasure to drive, feels well built to offer years of dependable service, and is a good-looking model too. Equipment levels at each trim point seem right compared to the competition, even allowing for the back-to-basics Business trim level, leaving users getting what they pay for.

Picking fault is surprisingly tricky - there’s the sloppy gear change, and the optional ply lining in the back squeaked a bit too much - which means the Trafic is capable of holding its head high in any company of its competitors. That’s something we weren’t expecting.


Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top four leading independent website reviews of the Renault Trafic

**Correct as of 29/09/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,076.56 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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