The previous-generation Renault Trafic was available with a six-speed manual or six-speed robotized manual (automatic) transmission, but the new version – which comes with the option of a single-turbo or a twin-turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel engine – only has a six-speed manual gearbox available.
Sounds like bad news – but Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar claims that it shouldn’t hurt sales of the new, third-generation Trafic too much.
“The sales split has been around 60 per cent manual, 40 per cent auto. We’re not offering [the new Trafic] in an auto at the moment, but we think that there’s still ample opportunity in this segment,” he said.
"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 manuals," he said, referring to the two highest-selling models in the mid-size van segment, the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad. Both of those vans have diesel automatic drivetrain options, and overall they account for more than 70 per cent of the mid-sized van segment.
"Would it be easier for us if we had two transmission types? Yes. But I think we can work a little harder and do more with the manual.
“We’ve been growing in this segment in both transmission variants, and the beauty of this new vehicle is, particularly with the twin-turbo variant, is that it is such a highly flexible motor,” Hocevar said.
“We’ve already known from some early testing with some customers that they find there’s virtually no need for an auto. It’s a flexible motor with so much torque down low,” he said – the twin-turbo model has 103kW of power at 3500rpm and 340Nm of torque at 1500rpm, with 270Nm available from just 1250rpm.
“We think that also, 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 our competitors,” he said of the base model single-turbo van, which pumps out 66kW and 260Nm and is priced from $32,990 driveaway.
The Trafic has been selling reasonably well in the competitive mid-sized van segment, running third overall behind the HiAce and iLoad.
CarAdvice understands there is limited opportunity for any such diesel automatic drivetrain to eventuate in the third-generation Trafic in the near future, though Hocevar claims “it’s something we’ll work towards”.
“This is the thing – Australia’s a bit of an anomaly when it comes to automatic in LCV vans in particular; 90 per cent of global sales are manual. And so there is very high demand for manual, and therefore it was very important to get that transmission to market as quickly as possible,” he said.
Renault is not alone in offering only a manual transmission in its mid-sized van. The Ford Transit - which won CarAdvice's mid-size van comparison in 2014 - can currently only be had with a six-speed manual, too.