Over the last three years, day in and day out, I have been driving my work's 2013 Renault Trafic LWB van. Coming from a Suzuki Swift, the first things I noticed were its extremely high seating position as well as its overall dimensions.
Starting off, the biggest thing I noticed was the horrible automatic gearbox. I drive a mixture of freeways and inner city each day, and boy does it get frustrating. In stop-start traffic it gets jerky and feels like it is going to stall (I even had one person say "put the clutch in"), and it seems that the busier it is, the worse it gets.
The gearbox also tends to get confused as to what gear it needs to be in. Sometimes it will shift down on a small increase of throttle, or hold gears for a long time with no reason. Under full acceleration (to get in front of those trams) it will hold first to then skip into third, leaving it with no power. There are a few positives about it, though – the six-speed is nice on the freeway, and for about 60 per cent of the time it seems to know what it is doing.
Other than the gearbox, there is a lot to like about this van. It has a fair few nice features – cruise control, Bluetooth connect, headlight adjustment and a nice little info display between the rev counter and the speedometer that shows things like the range, average speed, current fuel use and more. Funnily enough, you can only display one thing at a time, so you can choose to see how much fuel you have left or what your average speed is. Another odd thing about it is there's no engine temp gauge – whatsoever.
The driving experience is nothing special, it's a van after all. In saying that, it handles better than I expected, and once moving it is a fairly comfortable drive. It soaks up the bumps fairly well, although the steering can become a bit vague at higher speeds. Rattle-wise, well it does get a lot of them, and that is more to do with phones rattling on the plastic storage or the pallets in the back, but the diesel engine does seem to vibrate a bit on idle as well as under load.
Once fully loaded, the van does show some weak spots. The brakes are pretty poor, the engine becomes a bit strained at times, and the rear sags and becomes a bit wishy-washy over dips.
Seating-wise, there were a fair few options when bought new, and my work opted for the three-seater. It is comfortable enough for three people for short bursts, but is a bit squishy for the passengers on the long haul. Also, the middle person gets no cupholder, sorry.
Being a van, it has a lot of storage:
- Large door bins that can fit about four 600ml bottles in them
- Large glovebox
- Two can-sized cup holders; one can be turned into an ashtray with this cup thing that goes into it
- Storage above and below the radio
- Weird shelf-type storage at knee height. I put the owner's manual there
In the back, it has a lot of tie-down points, as well as adjustable sliding ones along the side of the van, and enough space for two chef pallets (with a little more room in front). Height-wise it's good, with a 1.3m opening, although there is an annoying plastic catch/scuff plate (that has been ripped off on mine by an impatient forklift driver).
After 50,000km, I have found some issues:
- A lot of paint chipping and plastic fade
- Oil sump has a leak (found at last service)
- Can blow a fair bit of black smoke. I know this isn't uncommon for turbo diesels, but it has gotten worse over time
- Weirdly, all the seals around the back two doors are coming off as well as the sliding and passenger door stick, needing a good pull to open
- Somehow a spider got into my tail light and died in there and I can't get him out
- Driver's headlight has a burn mark on it, I assume from the standard globe
None being major though.
Overall, I think the van is good at what it is designed for. Improvements could be made in the safety department with it only having two airbags and ABS, chucking out the automatic gearbox for a manual or a new one, and some build-quality aspects could be improved – the seals and paint.