Renault’s mid-size Trafic van has been around for quite a few years now with mild changes along the way including an engine upgrade to the base model, new bumpers and new grille.
The test van is the higher grade 140CDi Trafic (140 hp) in short wheelbase.
I lined up bunch of jobs for the Renault Trafic including moving stuff (again), general running around like a courier and a big tow of about 600 km with a car and trailer on the back.
The trailer rig was right on Trafic’s maximum towing weight at 2.0 tonnes.
And it’s a front wheel drive – not an issue when running solo but a tad concerning when towing.
The engine is a relatively small capacity 1.6-litre diesel but the 140CDi unit runs two turbos giving Trafic similar power to sundry Ford, Volkswagen and Hyundai competitors, with a distinct fuel consumption advantage.
Then there’s the drive feel of the Trafic – pretty darn good for a van, especially the sharp steering and brakes.
Looks like it has a beret on from the front and real boxy down the back but Trafic isn’t hard on the eye at all and the shape lends itself perfectly to load carrying.
The face is typically Renault with big headlights and big smiley grille complete with the large diamond logo.
Plastic protection panels festoon the bodywork in key places lending a workmanlike appearance to the Trafic.
There are the two large cab doors, two side sliders and barn doors down the back all opening wide for easy access with the rears going around through 240 degrees.
Plastic here too as you’d expect but more car-like than some competitors with a large central touchscreen and three seats.
The instrument pod has a large digital speedo and two dials with flared surrounds.
Wheel placement is upright like a car and the seats provide adequate adjustment restricted a tad by the cargo barrier behind the driver.
The test van missed out on a load bay floor liner but some side protection is provided. Plenty of load hooks and noise levels are low for a van.
A rally car style high mounted gear change makes swapping cogs easy.
Trafic’s engine is its defining feature, specifically the small capacity with no penalty to performance but a huge boost to fuel economy.
Renault has selectively equipped Trafic to match competitor vehicle features and the plan seems to have worked.
Making a choice between half a dozen medium size vans is difficult to say the least especially if you look at the specs…
- Heated driver’s seat
- Reverse camera
- Digital instruments
- Decent audio and infotainment
- Rear park assist
- Cruise control
- Auto stop/start
- 1237kg payload
- Auto headlights and wipers
- Hill start assist
Drive and Engine
This is the interesting part because the Trafic 140 CDi might have a small capacity engine but it punches way above its weight cranking out a handy 103kW and 340Nm.
That’s down to the twin turbos force feeding the small engine that would undoubtedly feature stronger forged internals.
Manual only though which is a big issue for many van operators/drivers. Swapping cogs by hand in traffic in Trafic is a pain in the butt.
Lucky the clutch seems up to the job.
It goes really well and gets on boost readily so there’s no waiting for the power to kick in. The gears are well spaced in terms of ratios for the engine’s power.
It spins out to about 5000rpm but the action stops about 4300rpm when an upchange makes more sense.
The test vehicle maintained an easy 110kmh towing the two tonne trailer rig mentioned before and returned 11.3-litres/100km in the process.
Driving around unladen you can easily get it down into the 7.0s.
Ride and handling are surprisingly nimble for a van with a simple rear axle and strut front suspension.
The front wheel drive does have grip limitations under heavy loads starting uphill… despite Renault’s Grip-X-Tend system.
Gets six airbags and sundry traction/stability but no advanced driver assist technology because it came out in 2014 and was designed before then.
Trafic isn’t rated by ANCAP and probably won’t be due to the model’s age. The next gen’ will have a crash rating.
The reverse camera is handy as are the park sensors. Hill hold can be construed as a safety feature and so is the bulkhead barrier to the load bay.
Four wheel discs have plenty of bite and quality tyres are fitted.
So from this you can deduce Renault has optimised the Traffic safety as far as possible.
- 1237kg payload
- Impressive fuel economy rated at 6.2-litres/100km combined
- Punchy engine
- Easy to use manual selector
- Powerful brakes
- Sharp steering with smallish turning circle
- Two side sliders, two barn doors
- Two pallet capacity
- Low load height
- Comfortable cabin
- Passes EU6 emissions regs
Not So Good Bits
- No sat-nav
- Manual only
- Front wheel drive can be an issue
- Lack of a crash rating
- No advanced driver assist technology
I didn’t expect this van to be as good as it was certainly when towing. It’s roomy and carries a good payload as well as having a relatively low floor.
The manual change is slick and there’s plenty of poke from the small capacity engine.
Best thing is the fuel economy which pretty much beats everything else in the class – and that’s really important for a commercial vehicle.
No auto availability is a big problem though.
Facts and Figures: 2018 Renault Trafic 140 CDi SWB
- Engine: 1.6-litre twin turbo diesel 103kW/340Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Safety: Not rated
- Origin: France
- Warranty: 3 years/200,000km