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Driven: Renault delivers manual-only Trafic

Trafic update: Renault’s new manual-only Trafic has a thumping twin-turbo diesel engine and loads of clever design features to make working life easier at the wheel.

Renault says Trafic mid-sized van will continue to grow despite dropping automatic

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Renault logo5 May 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

RENAULT’S third-generation Trafic has arrived on Australian soil, but despite being a manual-only proposition, the French car-maker says its combination of diesel torque, efficiency and clever design will continue to grow sales.

The outgoing Traffic II is Renault’s best-selling commercial vehicle and was offered with an automatic transmission accounting for about 40 per cent of local sales, but according to the company, the six-speed manual version will not forfeit sales.

Instead of an automatic transmission, Renault Australia is planning to attract buyers to the Trafic range with two engine options in place of the outgoing versions single engine, and more grunt in the top-performing dCi 140 variant.

Speaking at the launch of the Trafic, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said while an automatic version would be welcomed, the Trafic is not hamstrung as a manual-only proposition.

“When you look at the specifics of the Australian market, not having an auto right here, right now is not ideal, but that segment is quite large and the key volume is dominated by two players, and they sell an awful lot of manual,” he said.

“Would it be easier for us with two transmission types? Yes, but I think we can work a little harder and do more with the manual until such time we get auto as well.”

Mr Hocevar explained that in the light-commercial vehicle segment, power and versatility were bigger selling points and that a new 104kW/340Nm twin-turbo diesel engine would continue to attract new buyers to the line-up.

“We are not offering it in an auto at the moment but we think that there is still ample opportunity in this segment,” he said. “We’ve been growing in this segment in both transmission variants and the beauty of this new vehicle, particularly the twin-turbo, is that it is such a highly flexible motor.

“With so much torque down low around town you virtually just need third gear.

But because of the very good price point on the entry-model we’ve got some good opportunity to pick up some further sales against petrol manual variants from other competitors.”

While an auto is not offered anywhere in the world, Renault may produce one as an option later and with a predominant portion of global sales in manual commercial vehicles, the company was prioritising the launch of self-serve Trafic first.

“It’s something that we’ll work towards,” said Mr Hocevar.

“Australia is a bit of anomaly when it comes to automatic in LCV. Ninety per cent of our global sales are manual and so there is very high demand for manual and therefore it was very important to get that manual transmission to market as quickly as possible.”

Mr Hocevar also said that the company had worked hard to bring the entry price of the larger Master van close to the Trafic range price for customers insisting on an automatic van.

Now in it's third global generation, the new Trafic is available in a choice of three variants starting with the dCi 90, which gets a 1.6-litre single-turbo four cylinder diesel engine, priced from $33,490, before on-road costs.

The previous-generation Trafic used a 2.0-litre version of the Renault's dCi diesel engine producing 85kW and 290Nm, and the downsizing has reduced output with power falling to 66kW and torque to 260Nm.

Fuel consumption has benefited though. When equipped with a manual gearbox, the outgoing version used 8.3-litres of diesel per 100km, but with its smaller engine the 2015 Trafic uses significantly less at 6.2L/100km.

Interestingly that consumption figure is unchanged when stepping up to the second of the engine options, the more powerful Energy dCi 140 which has the same capacity but an additional turbocharger.

With more induction assistance, the more powerful of the two engines pumps out 104kW and a beefy 340Nm of torque – enough to get the Trafic to 100km/h in 10.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 181km/h.

At low engine speeds the smallest turbo spins up to speed quickly minimising lag, but as engine rpm increases the second larger turbo takes over creating bigger boost pressures and the full power and torque figures.

Along with the extra turbo, the Energy dCi 140 also gains idle-stop technology, which Renault says accounts for the identical fuel consumption.

Prices for the gutsier dCi 140 start at $36,990 for the L1 short wheelbase version and rise to $38,490 for the third option – the L2, which has a 400mm longer wheelbase.

In its previous generation, the Trafic was available with just one engine and two different length wheelbases, but with the arrival of two power options the range now extends to three.

The entry level version is more affordable than the equivalent it replaces to the tune of $1500 (down from $34,990), while the new middle of the range dCi 140 L1 costs $1000 more than the outgoing $35,990 long wheelbase.

With its more abundant power and frugal economy, the new long wheelbase costs $2500 more.

L1 Trafics with the dCi 140 engine can accommodate objects up to 3750mm long while the longer L2 can take loads up to 4150mm thanks to a bulkhead flap that extends the load area to a class leading capacity, says Renault.

The storage solution allows longer slender objects to protrude from the load area into the cabin under the passenger seat making use of space that would usually be wasted in similar commercial vehicles.

Overall the new Trafic is 210mm longer than the outgoing version increasing total load volume to 6.0 cubic meters for the L2 and 5.2 cubic meters for L1 versions, and both versions can accommodate two standard-size pallets.

The cargo bay measures 1387mm high and 1662mm wide and is accessed through a 1391mm by 1320mm rear door, or 907mm by 1284mm sliding side door.

Short wheelbase versions offer a maximum payload of 1235kg, while the longer version can carry up to 1274kg. All versions have an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg or 2000kg with brakes.

Owners of the second-generation Trafic will appreciate the identical cargo area layout which enables them to install any customised fittings and equipment when upgrading to the third-gen model.

Carrying options can be increased with optional interior overhead roof-rack for bulky items up to 13kg and can be offset to one side of the bay to avoid hindering headroom. L2 versions get 18 tie-down points, while L1 has 16.

Renault has engineered in a selection of design features to enable easier retrofitting and specialisation by aftermarket fitters such as a double engine crank pulley for easy installation of a secondary refrigeration compressor for vehicles with chilled load areas.

In the Trafic cabin, up to three occupants can be accommodated with “MPV-like” comfort and seating positions. Seat adjustment has been improved over the Trafic II, as has the seat material quality and comfort says Renault.

Up to 90 litres of storage is offered by 14 cubbies allowing easy access to tablets and mobile devices via a retractable bracket in what Renault describes as “an office on wheels.”

The centre seat back folds down creating a desk surface with storage area underneath for a laptop, and the work-top also accommodates a clipboard that can be mounted to face the driver.

Bluetooth wireless connectivity and two USB sockets are standard on all Trafics, as is the 7.0-inch touchscreen that gives access to Renault's Media Nav information and entertainment systems.

Suspension is MacPherson up-front and has been tuned to maximise road-holding even when the loaded body rolls, while the back end is dealt with by flexible beam and Panhard rod for optimum load lugging and reduced road noise. Steering is electrically power assisted.

Active safety systems include hill-hold, load-adaptive ESC with Extended Grip function for slippery surfaces, anti roll-over protection and ABS with EBD. A reversing camera is also standard.

Automatic headlights and windscreen wipers are standard fare for both twin-turbo versions of the Trafic.

Passive safety technology includes driver and passenger airbags with optional curtain bags, load-limiting seat belts with pretensioners and anti-submarining seats with reinforced mountings.

Renault is offering an extensive range of options with the Trafic, but a choice of three packages simplifies the process of customisation for a specific purpose.

For $1290, the ProPack adds more airbags, the flexible phone cradle, a fitted plywood cargo lining, timber floor and a wide-angle mirror on the passenger sun-blind increases rearward vision.

Moving up to the $1990 Premium Pack brings the extras of the Pro Pack minus the cargo linings but adds navigation, a higher quality sound system, 17-inch alloy wheels replace standard 16-inch hoops, more luxurious Java cloth upholstery, heated seats and more premium dashboard trims and storage.

A Lifestyle Pack is the third option costing $2490 and includes all of the Premium kit plus automatic climate control, body-coloured bumpers and door trims, and a hands-free key card which allows entry without having to push a button.

The new Trafic is available in a choice of 10 colours including three new tones – Bamboo Green, Copper Brown, Laser Red and, of course, white.

It is on sale now and joins the Renault commercial range nestled between Master large van and smaller Kangoo.

Renault Trafic pricing*
L1H1 dCi 90$33,490
L1H1 Energy dCi 140$36,990
L2H1 Energy dCi 140$38,490
*Excludes on-road costs.

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