A clever, comfortable medium van choice - fully updated in 2019
- 2019 facelift brings 170hp, impressive auto
- Longest medium van loading length
- Comfortable and good to drive
- Cost effective real-world fuel economy
- Clever interior features, neat design
- Rivals offer higher payload
- Lots of painted bodywork
- Cab storage not that practical
- Entry-level 1.6 engines slow
- Lacks latest safety aids
The Renault Trafic is a medium van that competes against the likes of the Ford Transit Custom and the VW Transporter. The current version was launched in 2014, then extensively updated in 2019 - meaning the 2021 Renault Trafic boasts impressive 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines with up to170hp and the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox, enhancing its appeal.
We have driven this facelifted version extensively in the UK and abroad, and you'll find full details of the upgrades alongside info on the previous 1.6-litre models in this 2021 Renault Trafic review.
Renault Trafic strengths and weaknesses
Strengths include the impressively comfortable and car-like driving experience, good real-world fuel economy, and the joint-longest loading length in the mid-size van sector, alongside its sister vans the Fiat Talento and the Nissan NV300. These are essentially the same as the Trafic (and built by Renault), though the Nissan comes with a five-year warranty.
Up until 2019, the Vauxhall Vivaro was also based on the Renault Trafic (though built in Luton rather than France). But with a change of ownership making the British brand part of the Peugeot-Citroen PSA Group, a newer Vivaro has been launched based on the same platform as the Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Toyota Proace.
In terms of weaknesses, you will find that many rivals (including those PSA models and the Transit Custom) are available with higher payload ratings, and while the Renault's cab claims 90 litres of storage space it's not the most practical storage – despite some clever features including a built-in phone holder and middle seat cushion that folds down to form a desk.
Full details of load area capacity are listed on our dedicated Renault Trafic Dimensions page.
Renault Trafic bodystyles and variants
The Trafic comes in two lengths and two roof heights, making a total of four body variants:
- L1H1 / SL – short-wheelbase, low roof
- L2H2 / LL – long-wheelbase, low roof
- L1H2 / SH – short-wheelbase, high roof
- L2H2 / LH – long-wheelbase, high roof
It’s sold as a panel van, a crew van (with second row of seats) and a passenger van (essentially a compact minibus with up to nine seats). A platform cab for conversions is also available, as well as a 'luxury' passenger carrier called the SpaceClass, which competes against the Volkswagen Caravelle.
A load-through flap in the bulkhead means items such as pipes up to 4.15m in length can be accommodated. This is fitted as standard on most models.
Renault Trafic 1.6-litre engines
The Trafic was available with a choice of 1.6-litre dCi diesel engines with four power outputs since launch until September 2019. The more powerful versions use twin turbochargers, while the others use a single turbo.
Exact output varies with the level of emissions regulation the engines comply with. The original Euro 5 Trafic range was offered with 90hp and 115hp single-turbo engines or 120hp and 140hp twin-turbo engines.
When the Trafic was brought up to the initial Euro 6 emissions standard in 2016 every engine variant got a 5hp boost, meaning 95hp and 120hp for the single-turbos, 125hp and 145hp for the twin-turbos.
Performance is strong and efficiency is good across the range – though the twin-turbo models have the edge in both areas, and the entry-level engine is best suited to light duty only.
Renault Trafic 2.0-litre engines
In April 2019, Renault announced the Trafic would be receiving an update to bring it into line with new Euro 6D Temp (or Euro 6.2) emissions regulations.
As such, as well as a minor change to the way it looks (above), all but the entry-level 1.6-litre engine were replaced with new 2.0-litre engines from July 2019 production. In fact, from this point on UK buyers only get the choice of 2.0-litre engines, as we don't get the basic 95hp 1.6 in this country that carries on elsewhere.
First UK deliveries of the new model began in September 2019.
The new 2.0-litre engines are available in 120hp, 145hp and 170hp variants, with the EDC automatic transmission option available on the 145hp and 170hp versions in place of the standard six-speed manual gearbox.
There are also minor changes inside the cab for the facelifted model, including new infotainment systems that finally offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus harder-wearing seat fabrics.
Renault Trafic trim levels
The Trafic currently comes in three standard trim levels: Business, Business+ and Sport. All are well equipped, including full LED headlights as standard following the 2019 upgrade.
However, the total number of available variants has been slashed by some 57% as part of the facelift, with the reduction concentrated on models that don't sell very well (there are far fewer crew vans now, for example). Renault claims this move makes it easier for buyers to choose a van suitable for them.
Trafic special editions aren't unheard of; in 2017 Renault introduced the Formula Edition celebrating the link between Renault vans and the Renault Formula 1 racing team, while 2020 saw the introduction of a Trafic Black Edition. These feature sporty looks and generous amounts of standard equipment, but are often quite pricey.
Renault Trafic verdict
The Renault Trafic is a good choice of medium van if you don’t need the highest possible payload ratings. The 2019 update brings welcome improvements with the introduction of a more powerful range-topping engine and what turns out to be a superbly smooth automatic transmission option.
The new front end design looks sharp, and though the interior changes are less extensive, there are useful enhancements that owners and operators are likely to appreciate.
However, it perhaps isn't as nice to drive as it was (if that matters), it continues to lag behind the smartest competition in terms of connectivity and active safety equipment, and others promise better fuel economy, too.
Still, the Trafic is comfortable over long-distances and easy to handle, and should prove easy to live with. Renault’s long-standing light commercial vehicle expertise continues to be evident throughout.
Skip to our full verdict on...
- Good to drive, with comfortable suspension and precise steering
- Now available with 2.0-litre engine up to 170hp, excellent automatic gearbox
- Older 1.6-litre models still perform well, but go for a twin-turbo if you can
The Transit Custom is generally thought of as the gold standard for medium van driving enjoyment, but the Renault Trafic and its extended family push the Ford hard.
This is a really nice van to drive - though we feel our experiences of the 2.0-litre engines in the UK suggested the bigger motor has dulled the Trafic just a bit. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most buyers.
Renault Trafic comfort and handling
With suspension supposedly similar to Renault’s MPV passenger cars, the Trafic rides bumps well, is quiet at speed and doesn’t go all wobbly in the corners. In fact, you can drive this front-wheel drive van surprisingly quickly, thanks to the accurately weighted steering and a limited amount of body roll.
There are no changes to the way the suspension is set-up for the 2019 update, so the newer models drive largely the same - although the additional weight of the 2.0-litre engines over the front wheels does seem to make the Trafic feel a little less light on its feet.
The steering is heavier than you'll find in a lot of modern vans, too. Not so heavy that you can't easily handle the van around town, but still noticeably weighty.
Overall, the level of control gives you plenty of confidence when positioning the van on the road, and you might even find yourself enjoying the experience - especially in Trafics fitted with the EDC automatic gearbox. More on that in a moment.
What are the new Renault Trafic 2.0-litre diesels like to drive?
The 2.0-litre diesel engines introduced with the facelift from July 2019 production come in three power outputs:
- dCi 120 with 120hp / 320Nm
- dCi 145 with 145hp / 350Nm
- dCi 170 with 170hp / 380Nm
We've driven the 145hp and 170hp versions so far, and found them to be particularly impressive in combination with the new six-speed automatic gearbox - to such an extent that we'd be very tempted to opt for a 145hp auto over a 170hp model with the standard six-speed manual transmission (although the auto would still be more expensive, so it's not a direct comparison).
The reason for this is the awesome effectiveness of the automatic transmission, which is called EDC - Efficient Dual Clutch - and works like Volkswagen's DSG system. It shifts very smoothly, very quickly and does a great job of keeping the engine on the boil, allowing you to make seemingly effortless progress.
The manual override available by pushing the gear selector to the right even works like a racing car, which is to say you pull back to change up and push forward to change down, adding to the experience. Yes, we know - it's just a van, but that doesn't mean you can't have a bit of fun driving it.
The engines themselves don't seem to be quite as refined as the old 1.6-litre units (though we do need to spend a little more time with them), but with variable geometry turbos they are certainly responsive, and likely to prove less stressed during normal operation. Which should bring real-world fuel economy improvements.
As for the manual gearbox, this is reasonable in van terms but not quite as mechanically precise as we'd like, and we suspect it will feel increasing loose as the miles pile on.
What are the Renault Trafic 1.6-litre diesels like to drive?
When this Trafic was launched in 2014 with 1.6-litre engines, it joined a class where most rivals were still using 2.0-litre motors.
Renault's decision followed the 'downsizing' trend of fitting smaller engines to achieve better fuel economy then current across the automotive industry. We've never thought this was bad move on Renault's part, as we've always enjoyed driving the 1.6-litre Trafics.
The best choices are certainly the twin-turbo models, however. Offering 120hp or 140hp in Euro 5 guise and 125hp or 145hp when upgraded to Euro 6 from late 2016 onwards, alongside 320Nm or 340Nm of torque (regardless of emissions standard), these are smooth, refined and easily grunty enough to shift their maximum payloads.
The cheaper single-turbo versions come with either 90hp or 115hp at Euro 5 levels, 95hp or 120hp at Euro 6. With a relatively slight 260Nm, the very entry-level models are going to feel a little overwhelmed in some circumstances, but the more powerful ones have a useful 300Nm so should do most jobs well.
What the single-turbo models aren't is as refined, effortless or economical. We’d definitely go twin-turbo given the option.
- Car-like cab design that looks and feels good quality
- Latest infotainment systems now Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible
- Large amounts of storage, but how practical is it really?
Some thought has clearly gone into making the Trafic's cab an attractive design, and many of the components have been borrowed wholesale from the Renault car range. But it is starting to feel a little bit old now.
The driver’s seat is very comfortable and offers plenty of adjustment – so longer journeys shouldn’t be a chore. The dashboard is relatively low-slung, giving a good view of the road ahead, and the cab has a spacious air, so you’re unlikely to feel cramped.
That is unless you’re two-up on the dual passenger seat, which some may find a little narrow. This is considerably more spacious than in the Dispatch / Expert / Proace / Vivaro family, however, which are far more claustrophobic inside and leave even less room for the middle passenger's knees.
Controls for the audio player are handily located on a stalk below the right-hand side of the steering wheel; within easy reach of your fingertips it quickly becomes second nature to use these to adjust the volume or change the radio station.
The ventilation controls are also within easy reach, unlike in some rivals such as the Transit Custom, which practically has them on the opposite side of the cabin. The cruise control, though (where fitted) is split between the steering wheel and a switch on the dash, which isn't particularly intuitive.
2019 Renault Trafic interior updates
Renault hasn't made a great number of changes to the Trafic's interior for the 2019 facelift - most obvious being the addition of new 'satin chrome' trim pieces, which do admittedly look very smart.
What's not so immediately apparent is that it's also upgraded the upholstery with harder-wearing fabric. So the cab should stay looking good for longer.
Other changes for 2019 are centred on the infotainment systems. As before, all Trafics get DAB radio and Bluetooth, but the touchscreen options now offer Android Auto compatibility, with the top of the range Media Nav Evolution (standard on Sport) also including Apple CarPlay as well as built-in sat-nav and a multi-touch screen.
Pre-2019, Sport models got a basic MediaNav setup as standard, there was an R&GO app for use with phones and tablets on other models, or you could option a fully-integrated R-Link infotainment system like that fitted to Renault’s cars. It's an updated version of this that now works with Android Auto.
An office on wheels?
Renault describes the Trafic’s interior as an office on wheels.
Not only can you get a passenger seat with a centre section that folds down to form a desk (standard from Business+ trim upwards), cradles for smartphones and even tablets are available to attach to the top of the dashboard. The phone cradle has become more of a joke in recent years, though, as you won't find many recent models that actually fit in it.
Renault also says there are 14 stowage areas with a total of 90 litres of internal space - though 54 litres are under the dual passenger seat.
But to us it always feels that looking good has been prioritised over practicality in the Trafic, and finding suitable places to stuff things doesn’t come as easily as it does in the latest Transporter and facelifted Transit Custom. The Trafic is better than the above PSA vans in this respect, though.
For a full breakdown of standard equipment see the Costs section of this review.
- Typically impressive real-world fuel economy
- No longer available with four-year warranty
- Three standard trim levels with lots of fitted kit
Will the Renault Trafic be cheap or expensive to run, and is it good value? Find out here.
Renault Trafic mpg
Official fuel economy figures for the latest 2.0-litre Renault Trafic engines are as follows:
- dCi 120: 49.6-52.3mpg
- dCi 145: 49.6-52.3mpg
- dCi 145 EDC: 48.1-48.7mpg
- dCi 170: 49.6-51.4mpg
- dCi 170 EDC: 47.1-48.1mpg
While there are rivals with better on-paper mpg, these figures are still impressive - and they comply with the latest WLTP standard, which as supposed to be more realistic.
The most recent figures for the older 1.6-litre engines gave an official claimed fuel economy best of 47.2mpg; so the newer 2.0-litre engines are a distinct improvement, though out in the real world the 1.6-litre engines typically prove genuinely efficient.
So the Trafic is a good choice if you’re looking to minimise your per-mile fuel costs. Stop-start technology comes on nearly every version (it's standard across the facelifted range, in fact), and there’s a button-activated Eco mode reduces power and softens the accelerator in an effort to help you save fuel.
Euro 6 models require AdBlue, as with most rivals.
Renault Trafic warranty
Until February 2018, other positives included the standard four-year, 100,000-mile warranty and the four-year roadside assistance package.
However, this has now been dropped in favour of a more conventional three-year warranty and road-side assistance combo, though still covering up to 100,000 miles. This is what applies to the 2019 facelift model, too.
If you intend to keep the van longer, but aren't likely to cover more than 100,000 miles, it might be worth checking out the Nissan NV300, which is based on the Trafic but comes with a five-year warranty.
As part of a limited-time '5-year Pro+ Promise', launched in March 2021, Renault is also extending its standard warranty to five years / 100,000 miles for buyers taking out five years of HP finance. Sweetening the deal, the package also includes five years of servicing and five years of breakdown cover. This offer runs until 30 June 2021 for vans registered before 30 September 2021.
Renault Trafic service intervals
The Trafic can travel up to 25,000 miles or for two years between servicing, whichever comes first.
Renault offers EasyLife service plans that allow you to spread the cost of maintenance.
Renault Trafic standard equipment
The Trafic comes comprehensively equipped right across the range, adding to its sense of value. From the 2019 update, all models come with full-LED headlights as well.
The range has been rationalised over time, and at the time of writing (June 2019) the Trafic now comes in three standard trim levels: Business, Business+ and Sport.
Renault Trafic Business standard equipment highlights:
- DAB radio, Bluetooth, aux-in connection and USB socket
- Height- and lumber-adjustable driver’s seat with arm rest
- Reach and rake adjustable steering wheel
- Electric front windows
- Heated, electric door mirrors
- Passenger bench seat
- Steel bulkhead
- Sliding side door on the passenger side
- Twin rear doors that open to 180 degrees
- Remote locking with alarm and immobiliser
- 16-inch steel wheels
Renault Trafic Business+ standard equipment highlights (in addition to Business):
- Mobile Office – fold-down middle passenger seat with detachable A4 clipboard and laptop storage
- Smartphone cradle
- Underseat storage for passenger bench
- Body-coloured front bumper, door rail and rear light surround
- Load-through flap in bulkhead
- Wide View Mirror blindspot mirror in passenger sunvisor
- Rear parking sensors
Renault Trafic Sport standard equipment highlights (in addition to Business+):
- Automatic lights and wipers
- Leather steering wheel
- Premium dashboard with closable upper storage
- Metallic paint, including body-coloured door mirrors
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Front foglights
- Cruise control with speed limiter
- Better build quality than many Renault cars
- If buying used, ensure all safety recall checks have been carried out
Writing in March 2021, it's still a little early to comment on the latest 2.0-litre engines (which only started reaching customers in September 2019), but there are no immediate obvious signs of trouble. There should also be plenty of data available on forums and owners' groups on Facebook for the older 1.6-litre models.
While the Trafic doesn't typically get outstanding results in reliability surveys, neither does its customer satisfaction get slated.
Renault has a comprehensive nationwide dealer network, including dedicated van centres called Pro+.
As most of the mechanical parts are shared with other models in the Renault range, keeping your Trafic roadworthy should a component fail, shouldn’t prove difficult.
Renault Trafic safety recalls
Having said all that, the 1.6-litre Trafic has been subject to some interesting safety recalls since it was introduced in 2014 - though these do mostly relate to early models, so newer examples should prove less problematic.
There are some fairly routine issues, such as the possibility of cracked exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and potentially ineffective parking brakes.
But then there's one listed on the UK government's official recall checking website as 'rear axle may detach'. The one that suggests the 'bonnet may open without warning' also catches the eye.
It's important to remember that these are recall notices - so refer to mostly precautionary activities to ensure the vehicle's safety, rather than any deeply rooted problems.
- Sadly lacking in the latest active safety aids
- Does include alarm as standard, though
Renault has a reputation for building very safe passenger cars, so it is a little disappointing that the Trafic only received three out of five stars when tested by independent crash safety body Euro NCAP in 2015 – scoring just 52% for adult occupant safety in the process.
Child occupant safety was a much more reassuring 91%, but it’s the lack of standard safety equipment that really lets it down overall – though this is hardly unusual for a van, having just one airbag fitted (for the driver) doesn’t help.
And while a further three airbags can be optioned, the Trafic also misses out on some of the latest driver aids – such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – which are available on rival models. VW, for example, began fitting AEB as standard across its entire van range in mid-2017.
Nothing changes here with the 2019 model update, either, which is even more disappointing.
Renault Trafic standard safety and security equipment
You do get a steel bulkhead included on all Trafic panel vans, plus an alarm system for security, and electronic stability control (ESC) with Grip Xtend function to help keep you moving in tricky conditions.
Hill-start assist and Renault's wide-view blindspot mirror in the passenger sunvisor are also standard. Though the latter can be tricky to use effectively, wobbles a lot and isn't a patch on a proper blindspot monitoring system.
Standard-fit LED headlights from July 2019 production do improve visibility at night. An Extra Security Lock is also available from this point onwards, with further lock upgrades offered via Renault Pro+ dealerships.
Which Renault Trafic is best for me?
Need a little more information about which trim level or engine to go for? We've got your back.
Which is the best Renault Trafic trim level?
Traditionally, the bestselling van trim has always been the entry-level model, but these days more and more medium vans are being sold in higher specifications.
The UK doesn't even take the most basic Trafic variant, starting at well-equipped Business trim instead, but most buyers opt for Business+, which includes such creature comforts as air-conditioning and useful features such as rear parking sensors.
From the 2019 model update onwards, Renault is even predicting that it will sell more Sport models than regular Business models; with their 17-inch wheels and standard-fit sat-nav, fully-loaded mid-size vans are increasingly popular with sole traders and owner-drivers.
Which is the best Renault Trafic engine?
If you're looking at a 1.6-litre model, we'd strongly suggest going for the extra performance (and efficiency) of one of the twin-turbo models.
We're yet to try the 120hp 2.0-litre, but found the 145hp version more than adequate when equipped with the excellent EDC automatic, and believe this engine will provide all the power most users will need.
The 170hp is notably faster, but also likely to provoke increased front tyre wear, so is perhaps best left to those with particularly heavy loads to haul or a keen need to impress their mates down the pub.
Renault Trafic individual model reviews
Looking for more information about individual Renault Trafic models? We've driven the following variants extensively:
- Renault Trafic SL27 1.6 dCi 145 Formula Edition - tested January 2018
- Renault Trafic SL27 1.6 dCi 125 Sport Nav Euro 6 - tested January 2017
Tested January 2018 by CJ Hubbard
- Sharp, sporty looks for Renault’s mid-size van
- Celebrates links with Renault F1 team
- Comfy and good to drive but modest power and payload
After a distinctly different sporty looking van that still comes with a bit of a proper pedigree image? Then the Renault Formula Editions could be for you. Biggest seller is likely to be the Renault Trafic Formula Edition in the medium van sector, which we’ve got for review here – but matching versions of both the Kangoo small van and Master large van are also available.
Just one thing, though: you’d better like black and yellow…
Whoa. The Renault Trafic Formula Edition is certainly striking to look at
Yep. Finished in Pearlescent Black with Sirius Yellow detailing, it sure does stand out – so it’ll be pretty easy to find again in the carpark.
Neat details include the blacked-out Renault badge, grille and 17-inch alloy wheels; we’re not so taken with the yellow foglight surrounds. On the inside there’s a standard-fit Luxe pack (more details below) and special Formula Edition mats.
How the looks compare to the likes of the Ford Transit Custom Sport or the VW Transporter Sportline is probably a matter for personal preference. And how much you like yellow.
Beyond the eye-catching colouring, you might argue Renault hasn’t actually gone far enough in the transformation. Compared with both the Ford and – especially – the VW, the Trafic’s physical alteration is really rather mild.
But then, you might also be glad it lacks a ground-hugging front bumper the next time you’re faced with a particularly aggressive sleeping policeman.
What was that about the Renault Trafic Formula Edition having proper pedigree?
The clue is in the name – these vans celebrate the link between the Renault Pro+ light commercial vehicle (LCV) business and the Renault Formula 1 team.
Tenuous, maybe, but Renault F1 does use Renault vans as support vehicles.
In terms of the Trafic range, the Formula Edition sits alongside the regular Sport model as an upgrade to the Business+ specification. And unlike those rival sporty vans, its added bells and whistles are available on all Trafic engine options as well as both short and long wheelbase lengths – though only the standard low one rather than high roof.
Is the Formula Edition faster than a regular Renault Trafic?
Sadly, no. This is a van in a fancy suit, not an F1 car in disguise. The best you can hope for is the top-spec 145hp twin-turbo version of the Trafic’s regular 1.6-litre diesel engine, which we’re testing here.
There’s no particular shame in this – it’s a smooth, surprisingly potent engine.
And for all that it’s significantly out-gunned on paper by those Ford and VW rivals, which boast 170hp and 204hp respectively, in isolation you’re rarely going to find yourself wishing this Renault was faster: 0-62mph is quoted at just 10.9 seconds.
So the Renault Trafic Formula Edition is good to drive?
Really good. Not that this should be a surprise – the Trafic was already one of the best vans to drive, and there are no changes to the Formula Edition that might ruin this.
A nicely mechanical and pleasingly quick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox puts most of Renault’s car transmissions to shame, helping to make the most of the impressive engine – which really does go very well for just 1.6 litres in a sector where the best rivals have 2.0-litre power.
With 340Nm of torque it should still cope with the Formula Edition’s modest maximum payload capacity just fine, while typically delivering real-world fuel economy to shame most medium rivals. Great motor.
Better yet is the Trafic’s tidy handling. Not only does it ride bumps well – despite the 17-inch wheels, and even when unladen – bodyroll is limited, predictable and controlled, while the keen steering provides an unexpected level of detail and feedback for a van.
This makes the Trafic fun on a B-road, and the driver confident in the throes of city-centre, uh, traffic.
The standard-fit electronic stability control system also features a Grip Xtend function, improving traction in slippery conditions such as snow and ice as well as mud. Don’t expect to go off-roading, but it could get you out of trouble.
What’s the Renault Trafic Formula Edition like in the cab?
The test van was awash with optional extras – including the car-like R-Link infotainment console with sat-nav, a climate control system, keyless go and handy reversing camera, not to mention additional curtain and passenger airbags – but even so, the Formula Edition is a comfortable place to spend time.
Supportive, comfy seats and clear dials cover the basics, while the Luxe pack standard on this model adds a touch of extra quality with its leather-finished gearknob, satin radio and speaker surrounds, gloss black air vents, chrome detailing and closed upper glovebox area.
If you’re not familiar with Renault’s control layout it might take you a short time to get used to the position of things such as the steering column-mounted audio controls – and it’s a shame the buttons on the steering wheel for the cruise control aren’t illuminated, making them tricky to use at night – but otherwise everything is very user-friendly.
In fact, we’d argue Renault’s designers have gone a little too far in making the Trafic homely, as one of our routine criticisms of this van is the lack of useful storage in the cab.
Should I buy a Renault Trafic Formula Edition
One of the nicest driving vans around, the Renault Trafic is certainly a top choice for those who do lots of miles over lots of different types of road – but aren’t worried about maximising payload capacity.
Priced from £25,850 (ex-VAT) with this, the most powerful engine option, the Formula Edition is good value, and the attention-grabbing looks could be a great way to promote your business.
On the other hand, if you’re not sold on the black and yellow, the regular Trafic has all the same strengths with added subtlety.
Tested January 2017 by CJ Hubbard
- No significant performance upgrade with Euro 6 engine
- BUT refinement and comfort are exceptional for a van
- Large load area but limited payload, four-year warranty
This is our first crack at the Renault Trafic medium-duty van with a Euro 6 engine. The Trafic was the seventh best-selling van of 2016, and the new engine range – which brings more power and improved fuel efficiency at the expense of extra weight – should see this success continue into 2017.
Renault has also been the best-selling commercial vehicle manufacturer in Europe for the past 18 consecutive years, so it’s fair to expect it to know what it’s doing.
Which Renault Trafic is on test?
In this instance we’re testing the Renault in SL27 Energy dCi 125 Sport Nav specification. That means it’s the Short body length, Low-roof version with the smallest gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating, powered by a 125hp twin-turbo 1.6-litre diesel engine.
Sport is the top trim level, above Business and Business+, while Nav means satellite-navigation is fitted.
What’s the Trafic’s new Euro 6 dCi 125 engine like?
The entire engine line-up gains 5hp over the old equivalents, so there isn’t a massive leap in performance. Fuel economy for the dCi 125 is a claimed 47.2mpg – which is a mere 0.1mpg more than the old twin-turbo dCi 120 engine.
So it hardly seems worth the expense of the newly fitted AdBlue tank, which is now needed to make the Euro 6 emissions control systems work. Although it is some 3.6mpg better than the single-turbo dCi 120 Euro 6 engine also offered in the Trafic.
Fortunately, the extra heft of these items has been counterbalanced on most Trafics by increasing the gross vehicle weight; this particular van is up to 2,820kg GVW, leaving room for a 1,077kg payload.
On top of which, AdBlue helps reduce those nasty NOx emissions, which are physically harmful to the environment. The Energy badging means this Trafic is equipped with start-stop, which works seamlessly.
More importantly to most operators, this is an excellent engine. With 320Nm of pulling power this is smooth and powerful – so much so that you can actually use the (supposedly) fuel-saving Eco driving mode without feeling like someone’s added an anchor to the back – and incredibly refined.
There are few quieter van choices in any area of the market. Genuinely: excellent.
In fact, we’d apply the word excellent to the entire driving experience. Renault has made no secret of raiding the parts bin of its car division here, and with suspension components derived from its people carriers, the Trafic is direct and confidence-inspiring from behind the wheel.
Steering assistance is very well judged, being light enough to make tight manoeuvres easy but with enough substance to ensure the Trafic feels superbly stable at motorway speeds. The shift action for the six-speed gearbox is mechanical and precise, and it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position.
What’s more, the ride quality is exceptional for a van – particularly when travelling unloaded, which usually results in a harsh and bouncy rear. You will be able to cover big distances in one of these with very little complaint.
Renault even includes a low-traction mode as standard in addition to the usual electronic stability control, helping you get a grip on slippery surfaces such as gravel and light snow.
Car-derived mobile office
There are more car-derived elements in the cab. The entire centre console area with air-conditioning controls and sat-nav infotainment screen looks like it could have been lifted directly out of a Clio, and the rubber-trimmed adjustment dials are again of the very highest quality in van terms.
The infotainment takes a bit of figuring out, but this comes with time, and the major instruments are clear and modern. Renault has also incorporated a number of mobile office elements: the middle seat back folds down to form a desk, there are laptop and tablet holders available, plus a built-in clipboard. Great, functional stuff. Most of the cubbies have covers, too.
However, nothing is perfect and the Trafic is no exception. The built-in mobile phone holder is too small for a Samsung Galaxy S7 – which means it will be too small for plenty of other modern smartphones, too – the door trims are more style than substance with limited storage space, and the fixed steel bulkhead of our test example rattled continuously.
Renault Trafic SL27 load area
The interior wood panelling was finished to an extremely high standard on our test van, and there were no fewer than 16 load lashing points in the back, not including the optional internal roof rack that was also fitted. This comes with a reinforced panel to protect the bulkhead from damage.
Renault also offers full racking solutions.
Should I buy a Renault Trafic Sport Nav?
Shopping for a medium van? The Renault Trafic isn’t the best option for those seeking the heaviest possible payload rating, but in all other respects it should be right near the top of your list. And the dCi 125 engine is a great choice – more efficient than the lesser alternatives, powerful enough to make the pricey dCi 145 at the top of the range seem an unnecessary extravagance.
That said, it’s also worth checking out the Nissan NV300, because it’s a very similar van that comes with a five-year warranty.