Renault Master review (1998-2003)

Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5


  • A good all-round performer


  • Pre-2001 engines rather rattly
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The Renault Master's first major revision was in 1998 and was a quantum leap forward over its predecessor.

However, engines were still old-fashioned diesels at 1.9-litres and 2.5-litres.

It wasn't until 2001 that more efficient and refined common rail powerplants first appeared. These were offered at 1.9-litres, 2.2-litres and 2.5-litres, featuring more power, smoother running and better fuel economy.

Thanks to Renault's tie-up with Vauxhall, this van also appears as the Vauxhall Movano. And latterly, thanks to Renault's stake in Nissan, it also turns up complete with a Nissan badge, labelled as Interstar.

Gross vehicle weights range from 2.8 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes, which means that at the bottom end there is some cross-over between the stylish Renault Trafic which also appeared in 2001, offering a far superior driving experience.

More than 100 variants were on offer.

Renault Master (98-03) driving experience

4 out of 5 4.0

After 2001, the ride of the Master improved by leaps and bounds with the introduction of new diesels.

The 1.9-litre unit offered 82bhp and 147lb-ft of torque, the 2.2-litre had 90bhp and 191lb-ft of torque and the 2.5-litre offered 115bhp and 213lb-ft of torque.

Such figures look relatively puny nowadays with vans offering anything up to 180bhp, but for everyday purposes, the Master proves a willing partner.

Despite its size, the Master is a nimble and able performer on the roads and will delight the driver with its crisp cornering and nicely-weighted power steering.

As with most vans, the Master is at its best with a half-load of cargo aboard, which takes the skittishness out of the ride.

On the minus side, the gearchange had not yet migrated to the dash and was not the best in class by any means.

Renault Master (98-03) cabin & interior

2.5 out of 5 2.5

As with many vans at this time, creature comforts were few and far between.

There were plenty of goodies on offer to be sure – air conditioning, metallic paint and so on – but they were all paid-for options and most buyers of new vehicles didn't bother.

Pneumatic suspension was one of the top extras at £1,500, but models with this feature are exceptionally rare.

On the plus side, the Master has a superb drivers seat that is firm and supportive on long journeys.

Renault Master (98-03) running costs & value

3.5 out of 5 3.5

The cost of running a Master came down dramatically with the introduction of common rail diesel engines in 2001, as these high tech units not only offer more power, but also greater fuel economy and longer servicing intervals.

Renault reckons fuel economy improved by 6% for the 1.9-litre unit and a massive 12% for the 2.5-litre, while oil changes increased from 12,500 miles to 20,000 miles.

Renault Master (98-03) reliability, common problems & faults

4 out of 5 4.0

The newer engines were labelled dCi and are legendary for their frugality and longevity.

In fact, they power many Renaults cars as well as vans.

With proper servicing and a light right foot they should be good for a couple of times round the clock on the speedo.

Renault Master (98-03) safety & security

2.5 out of 5 2.5

As with so many van manufacturers at this time, Renault did not deem safety a high enough priority to offer a driver's airbag and ABS brakes as standard, although some other European countries did get ABS in the package.

Both remained on the options list and thus, it is unlikely that most secondhand Masters offered for sale will have them, such is the meanness of most of Britain's fleet buyers.

On the security front, central locking and an immobiliser came as standard but an alarm was a paid-for option.

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