After six months of serving as our video team’s runaround van, our Renault Trafic has made its way back to the French brand’s headquarters.
Over its stint with the team, the Renault Trafic was used as a support vehicle on shoots, a daily commuter, an object mover and all the other things you’d expect of a van.
As such, it became part of the furniture at our Sydney office, and the production team is the first to admit that they’d become quite attached to the van.
The entire team – Mitch, Christian, Glen, Brett and Sam – spent time in it, and each had some interesting insights into living with the Trafic.
All of them – and I mean, every single one of them – liked the way it drove.
“I really like the way it drives,” Glen said. “It's just so easy to drive. If I wanted to take it away for a weekend, like a lot of surfer guys do, I could take it down the coast, chuck a mattress in the back, go surfing. I could chuck a bike in the back if I wanted to, easy enough: there’s plenty of room – room for everything, really.”
“It drove a lot smaller than it was, on the road,” said Sam. “The forward visibility was just terrific – you’ve got a great view of the road and your surroundings.
“The entertainment system was very well kitted out with everything you need,” Sam said of the touchscreen with USB input and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
“Shifting through gears is easy, and the clutch isn’t too heavy or too light,” Brett said, adding to the weight of our claim that the lack of an automatic might not be that big of a deal, really.
“The smartphone cradle – if you have a larger phone, it doesn’t fit. But if you flip the phone holder to the side, it fits,” Brett said, thinking outside of the cradle.
Now, what about their dislikes? Having spent plenty of time with the car, these three guys picked up on things that would be harder to judge on a quick review.
“The doors are really heavy – the whole mechanism just felt a bit chunky,” Sam said. That could be a bit of a problem, given that the sliding side door and barn-style rear doors are going to be used as much, if not more than, the front doors.
“The button layout of the steering wheel was a bit strange,” Sam added, referring to the fact the cruise control buttons are the front-facing buttons, while the audio controls are positioned rearward of the steering wheel – and out of sight – on a stalk. They take a bit of learning, but also some adjusting to.
Glen, who is a dad, didn’t like that he couldn’t fit a child-seat to the front passenger-side pew. He made the point that this could be a big deal for dads who need to occasionally (or regularly) do the pick-up or drop-off to and from day care. There were a few optical illusions that Glen didn’t like, either.
“The big flat windows have these weird reflections from all around the cabin,” he said. “Looking straight ahead you can get a reflection from a car that might be next to you, and think it’s coming from the other side – when it’s not actually there.”
This was made even trickier by the fact there was a double reflection action between the windscreen and the glazed bulkhead behind the driver’s head. It’s hard to mitigate, and worse at night in tunnels.
Glen also found the lower split section of the side mirrors to be a tad blurry, making it difficult to make out what was there, if anything.
“Because our van had the roof racks on top of it, you couldn’t take it to any underground car parks,” Brett said – a good point, as the racks would scrape on those 2.1-metre clearance signs.
“The handbrake is really low, so you’ve got to really reach down a lot lower than you’d expect,” Brett said, which is awkward when you’re quite tall like he is.
“There are no roof grab-handles, either. So, instinctively, when I’m a passenger and I go to grab the handle, there’s nothing there. And if you’re in the middle, there’s nothing: you’ve got nothing to hold on to.”
That last point is a good one. There isn't much to keep you stable in your seat if you’re the middle person. But at least there is the option of a three-seat layout, because some vans don't have that.
The only other recurring point made by all drivers from the production team was the lack of an automatic gearbox was just a bit annoying. You couldn’t get in the van at the end of the day and just cruise home – you were always working in this work van.
If you can deal with that, then you could do a lot worse than the Renault Trafic. It’s a brilliant van with a few quirks, one that we’d happily recommend to buyers after our tenure with it.