Hi world! It was a couple months from the end of my lease, and I was needing an update for my work car. So with the end of my lease approaching, I started looking and dreaming. The work vehicle had to be robust, safe, fun to drive, comfortable and reliable. I have had four-wheel drive dual-cab utes for the last two leases (a Holden Colorado and a Mazda BT50) but I was growing sick of the sore back and rough lumpy ride out on country roads. As I was thinking about going back to a van again, I stumbled across the Renault Trafic Crew van. I have had Hyundai iLoads before and while I had found them really good, they were getting a bit dated now.
I asked the local Renault dealer if I could borrow a demo with a towbar to see if the Renault could tow a trailer out bush, given my curiosity about any limitations of the little 1.6-litre twin-turbo diesel. Unfortunately, they couldn't provide a van, so then I asked Renault Australia instead, and received a YES!!! I borrowed the van for two days and came away very surprised with how well the van performed up hills and on bumpy roads.
I went back to the dealer and ordered a Blue Trafic Crew with the five seat option and Premium Pack. Now came the fun bit; the van came in at $47k, which was in the budget, BUT there was a delivery lead time of 6 months!!!! It was a longgggg wait for the van! After that long wait, I finally received the call exactly 6 months after the order date and collected the "Croissant" (as it's known at work) and set about getting some big kilometres on the odometer.
I travel around 65 to 70,000kms a year as part of my work as a field service diesel mechanic, and as a result I carry around 500 kilograms at all times in the back. I am 6-foot-7 and find the driving position and seat very comfortable. There is no footrest so your left foot sits under the clutch pedal, which was odd at the start but after a couple of days became a very little concern. I no longer get a sore back from driving more than 700 kilometres a day, even whilst working and jumping in and out of the van all day. The ride and handling on rubbish Victorian highways and back roads is absolutely amazing with the standard suspension, as with the other dual-cab utes, I've had to upgrade the suspension to get the ride to an acceptable quality. The "Croissant" isn't the greatest car on dirt roads but it's still capable for my work on forest tracks, gravel roads and snow roads up to telecommunication towers and the like.
The back seat in the Trafic is massive and comfortable for three big buggers back there, and it even has under-seat storage there for items you don't want people to see. Even with the big back seat, the area in the back is still 1700mm long, and wide enough for a pallet if you wish.
It has a great stereo with the usual USB, Bluetooth and what is a very good DAB radio. The Premium Pack has the touch screen with the best factory sat-nav I have ever used, with easy-to-find locations, great mapping and user-friendly menus. The van also has cruise control, a speed limiter (never used) and heated front seats, which I surprisingly love and use more than I would have ever thought!
The Trafic tows a 1500kg trailer with no problems, and will haul two-tonne when required. With some of the bigger hills you will need to feed it a gear or two, which isn't a problem as the gearbox is a joy to use, with a nice light, and easy to modulate clutch. The little 1.6L puts in the hard yards when asked and doesn't mind revving out to the 4300rpm limit.
The only things I don't like with the driveline is the gearing in reverse. When reversing up hills, the Trafic needs loads more revs than you would normally think. This means there's a need to ride the clutch and give it a hard time (especially with a trailer on), but thankfully I have never had the clutch go to smoke or slip at all. There is also an anti-stall software feature, so that when you pull the clutch out, the revs increase to 950rpm from idle to avoid the engine bogging down. But if you don't give it the throttle quick enough it turns the engine off and restarts straight away, which can (and will) cause you to stall. It's odd and it still takes me by surprise at times.
The fuel use is very impressive given the Trafic weighs in at 3 tonnes with all my tools and parts inside. Around town and on the Monash car park it averages 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres. On the open road it gets down to low 7's, and on a flat trip in 100kph zones I regularly see high 6's. When towing 1500kg the van then averages around the 9-10L/100km. I easily get 1000km from a tank of diesel, and the tank also takes high flow nozzles as well.
The service intervals are every 30,000kms and it doesn't use a drop of oil in that time.
The only upgrades from factory would be just that anti-stall and the gearing in reverse. Honestly that's all I would change. I think the lack of an auto hurts Renaults sales, but they keep saying it's coming...
I was extremely surprised at the "Croissant" and how great it has been. It receives a lot of attention from workers and clients about the space inside and how nice it looks. People thought I was a little strange (which I am normally) for choosing the Trafic as a work car for what I do, but I really enjoy driving this van every day! The van has now hit 100,000kms in 18 months and it has had ZERO(!!) issues. Just refuel and go!
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I strongly recommend a test drive if you are in the market for a different sort of dual-cab ute, van or family car.