CROSS TOWN TRAFIC Shields Gazette

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CROSS TOWN TRAFIC

Published on Wednesday 7 May 2014 23:06

Ten Second Review

You know where you are with a Renault Trafic and that means a lot to LCV operators. The attractive, spacious design, low running costs and general durability stand out and they’re proved to work in the field. In some areas such as cabin quality and refinement, it’s less impressive but Renault’s small panel van continues to prove that good design never goes out of fashion.

Background

Some vehicles have barely begun to warm-up under the showroom lights before they start to look old. It’s hard to put a finger on precisely what causes this but it can happen to models with bold, forward-looking designs as easily as it can to ones that play it safe. Renault’s Trafic is one of very few vehicles, and even fewer vans, that turn this phenomenon on its head. The current version has been available since 2001 with only minor revisions but the design that was groundbreaking then continues to feel fresh and relevant today. The question is whether it’s more relevant than other small panel vans that have youth on their side.

The Trafic is a panel van but it’s positioned at the smaller end of the spectrum. Renault’s mighty Master takes care of the really heavy duty loads and the Trafic sits below it, a little more stylish, manageable in size and straightforward to park.

Most of the leading van manufacturers have small panel vans going for the same sort of market as the Trafic – namely buyers who can’t fit their cargos in a compact or car-derived van but don’t need a large panel van with a load box like an aircraft hangar. With the exception of the Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan Primastar, which share the Trafic’s design, these alternatives tend to be less advanced in years but Renault’s stalwart has some tricks up its sleeve.

Driving Experience

The advantage of a small panel van compared to a full-sized model from a driver’s point of view is that it should feel more like a passenger car and less like an HGV. This is certainly true of the Trafic which still sits its drivers relatively high up, affording them a good view out but has a car-like driving position with the steering wheel-mounted closer to vertical and well positioned pedals. Some of the Trafic’s rivals go further in this regard and feel more like an MPV to drive but the Renault gives a nice compromise between the panel van and passenger car experiences.

The suspension is based around a MacPherson strut design at the front with an anti-roll bar to improve cornering stability while at the rear is a heavy duty flexible beam. The ride is comfortable and improves with a bit of weight on board to subdue the rear end. Briskly taken corners don’t confuse the Trafic and it stays reassuringly composed when asked to change direction swiftly via the nicely weighted steering. The stubby nose and elevated driving position help a lot when manoeuvring as you can see right down to the front of the van from the driver’s seat. The kerb to kerb turning circle is just under 12m for the short wheelbase model.

Design and Build

The avantgarde shape of the Trafic, with its angled nose and the hump in the roof over the cab, works as well today as when the design first hit the market. As well as being distinctive, that domed roof makes the vehicle easier to enter and improves side visibility. Other thoughtful touches include the huge front bumper that envelopes the corners, protecting them from knocks, and shields the large headlamps. At the rear, the tail lights are mounted high out of harm’s way and stretch up towards the roof for better traffic visibility. Access to the load area is through sliding side doors on the flanks or a pair of side hinged doors at the rear.

Inside the cab, one area where the Trafic does show its age is in the materials quality. The plastics and some of the switch gear are beginning to feel a little behind the times but there should be no concerns with regard to durability. There’s theoretically room for three at the front but in practice, the dash-mounted gearstick impedes legroom in the middle seat.

Stuff we like includes the hook for your Friday night takeaway, the one-button locking for all the doors and the remote controls for the stereo next to the steering wheel. The latest models also get an A4 document holder on the dash top and a series of additional storage slots which should come in handy. The door pockets are massive with a fine appetite for the kind of miscellaneous tat that would otherwise be clogging up the Trafic’s interior.

Market and Model


car Smart Crosstown

Like any panel van, the Trafic comes in a wide range of bodystyles. There are doublecab models with a second row of seats, platform cabs to which specialist conversions can be added and even a 9-seat minibus but we’re concentrating on the panel vans. Operators choose from the short and long wheelbase options, matching those to the low and high roof heights. That gives the overall carrying capacity of the van with load volumes from 5m3 to 8.3m3 and maximum payloads from 1,000kg to 1,200kg.

There are three engine options to contend with, all of them common-rail diesels. They open with the 2.0-litre dCi in 90bhp guise with 240Nm of torque from 1,600rpm. It’s not the most flexible unit or the most refined that you’ll encounter in a van of this type. Above that is the 115bhp version of the same engine which offers 50Nm more torque and returns 34mpg economy on the combined cycle compared to the 38mpg of the less powerful unit. These 2.0 dCi units are the mainstay of the range but if you need more power, there’s a 2.5-litre option with 150bhp and 320Nm. This engine gives the Trafic a much more muscular feel and economy only drops off to 32mpg.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but the two more powerful engine options are available with a six-speed automatic. All Trafics are now available with climate control and the impressive Carminat TomTom satellite navigation system. In general, the Trafic is very attractively priced compared to rivals.

Practicalities and Costs

The Trafic’s years in service have exposed precious few flaws from a practicality standpoint, a one metre-wide sliding door is fitted as standard on the passenger side, with the second optional one on the opposite flank. A step inside the side door aids access but if you’re over 4ft 6in tall you’d better mind your head. Cargo can be secured using eight tie-down points but if you forget to use them and the whole lot slides forward on the move, to protect the cab area, there’s a full-height steel mesh grille.

Operators will be interested in the Trafic’s 12-year anti-perforation warranty and low insurance costs. There’s also a three year / 100,000 mile warranty included with every Trafic sold, including roadside recovery for the duration and no mileage limit in the first two years.

Summary

You have to hand it to the Renault Trafic, it’s been campaigning at the top end of the small panel van market since 2001 and there’s life in the old workhorse yet. Behind the styling that has somehow managed to avoid aging a day over the years is a well designed, practical van that operators have come to trust.

There are areas where the Trafic is showing its age with some of the cabin materials feeling a little below par and the engines not producing the best level of refinement but it’s still good to drive, manoeuvrable and extremely durable. Well judged tweaks have kept the Trafic on top of its game and it shows no sign of giving the market’s young pretenders an easy time of it.

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