Verdict: Clever design features, car-like driving position and affordable running cost make Trafic the van to beat

Renault, Trafic, green

The Renault Trafic’s styling is all new and has a more modern look, with large diamond badge.

What is it?

FOR those fairly new to the world of light commercial vehicles, it is difficult to explain what a huge impact the Renault Trafic and Vauxhall Vivaro had on the industry when they first broke cover.

The vans,  designed and built by both Renault and Vauxhall, were unveiled to the press back in 2001 and at that time we were all wowed by their dashing good looks and superior build quality.

Once we got behind the wheel a few months later, we soon that beauty was not just skin deep. These vehicles were the first panel vans to drive just like big cars and offered levels of comfort and efficiency that left the opposition standing.

It is a tribute to the designers that some 13 years later, the old models can still hold their heads up against a number of stunning newer models such as the Volkswagen Transporter and Ford Transit Custom.

But things move on and in a world where staying still means going backwards, buyers are demanding fresh shapes, new technology and ever greater fuel efficiency.

And that’s exactly what the new Trafic and Vivaro are offering.

We did wonder just how Renault, which designed this van and will build its versions in France (the Vivaro will be built at Luton) could improve much on what was already a cracking product but the lads (or should we say les hommes) have done us proud.

As can be seen from the pictures, the exterior is new and has a more modern look, including the enormous Renault diamond badge.

Renault, Trafic, rear, green

The styling of the new Trafic from the back is more familiar. We’re not sure who will be brave enough to choose the Bamboo Green paint finish.

In the cab, the dash is more car-like for and the seats have been dropped by 36mm, with the seat backs are in a more reclined position.

The steering wheel is also height and rake adjustable and the driver’s seat adjusts for height, giving more options for a comfortable position. There is also 18mm more fore and aft travel on the driver’s seat.

There are no fewer than 14 stowage bins in the cab and most are specially designed to fit particular items that van drivers might have, such as water bottles, coffee cups, mobile phones, notebooks, pens, hard hats and boxes.

Gone are the old 2.0-litre common rail powerplants, replaced by 1.6-litre units offering smoother power and fuel economy savings of around 5.8%.

Four options are available, two with a single turbocharger and two with twin turbo technology. The singles have power outputs of 90bhp and 115 bhp, while the twins offer 120bhp and 140bhp. The more powerful units work by having a first low inertia turbo that gives high torque at low speeds, meaning swift getaway even with full loads on board.

The second turbo cuts in at higher revs. These engines also have standard stop-start units which can save up to 15% on fuel on urban usage. Fuel economy, meanwhile, is 43.4 – 47.8mpg while CO2 outputs range from 155g/km to 170g/km.

Torque figures improve too and range from 260 – 340Nm.

The van’s cab is designed to be used as a mobile office. There is a clip for a mobile phone, another for an iPad and the back of the middle seat pulls down to reveal a little desk with an A4 clipboard that can be stood up right or even removed to give a hard board for, say a customer to sign for a delivery.

Meanwhile the passenger seats lift up to reveal a large storage area for bigger items that need to be hidden from prying eyes.

At launch, short wheelbase low roof models will be on offer, with the long wheelbase high roof versions being filtered in later. Three trim levels are on offer – Business, Business + and Sport. Prices range from £18,245 to £25,595