- Fun drivetrain and handling
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Long service intervals
- No active safety tech
- Expensive to service
- A few ergonomic quirks
The 2020 Renault Trafic has long been a popular choice for Australian buyers in the LCV market looking for a medium-sized van. The only issue for Renault Australia has been convincing its homeland to offer an automatic transmission across the French brand’s commercial lineup since Australians are increasingly suffering from threepedalphobia.
Even despite Australia’s distaste for manual gearboxes, the Trafic has consistently been Renault’s second-best seller in Australia after the Koleos SUV. Luckily for Renault Australia, the planets aligned and the Trafic was gifted with a brand new six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission paired with a new 2.0-litre diesel engine (up from 1.6 in the manual) late in 2019 along with a raft of updates to keep the Trafic competitive.
Equipped with the new self-shifting transmission, does the Trafic have what it takes to fight the Toyota Hiace and Hyundai iLoad for top spot? Read the
DiscoverAuto VanZap review and find out.
Price & Specs: 8.0/10
The 2020 Renault Trafic soldiers on with an all-diesel lineup, but the introduction of the automatic transmission also brings with it a bigger 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. More on in a bit.
The range is simple enough. As a three-seater, you can choose between the Pro and the Premium – the former being the bare-bones base model while the Premium gets a few extra creature comforts. You can pick either short wheelbase and long wheelbase in both models but the automatic is only available in the Premium. Sitting atop the range is the Crew Lifestyle, which is a long wheelbase- and automatic-only six seater. At the time of writing, the range starts out from $36,990 drive away for the SWB Pro manual and tops out at $52,990 drive away for the Crew Lifestyle.
All Trafics come with automatic LED headlights, fog lights with cornering function, automatic wipers, a part-leather steering wheel, a conventional key with keyless entry, cruise control and speed limiter, stability control, hill-start assist and Grip XTend – a stability control setting designed to assist in low-grip situations. You also get reverse parking sensors with a reverse camera hooked up to the rear-view mirror.
Our test car is a Premium Short Wheelbase EDC which swaps the lift-up tailgate for dual rear barn doors and adds an extra sliding door – for a total of two side sliding doors. Inside you get an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a clever fold-down workstation, engine stop/start, deadlocking and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen to brighten up the interior. The infotainment includes TomTom satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Pro can be optioned with a $1,600 Trade Pack, which adds a heavy-duty battery, LED lighting and full-height lining in the cargo area. The Premium is available with a $1,000 Business Pack, which brings with it automatic climate control, tinted windows, 17-inch alloys, Renault’s proximity keycard with push-button start, heated seats and colour-coded bumpers.
Our Trafic Premium SWB EDC didn’t come with any additional kit or premium paint, bringing the total to $39,990 drive away. While that is good value for what is a well-specced van, it’s a shame that it doesn’t offer any active safety kit like the Toyota HiAce or Ford Transit. Renault says the Trafic should get autonomous emergency braking (AEB) among other safety upgrades in 2022.
Performance & Economy: 9.0/10
The Renault Trafic automatic gets an upgrade from the familiar 1.6-litre twin-turbocharged diesel to a new 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The 2.0-litre brings with it a useful 22kW/40Nm bump – offering a healthy 125kW of power and 380Nm of torque.
Even more interesting than the new engine is the new transmission. It may come as a surprise to you that the Trafic’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission (dubbed ‘EDC’, for efficient dual clutch in Renault parlance) was actually pinched from the Renault Sport Megane hot hatch. It may sound odd, but it actually makes a lot of sense. The seven-speed unit used in the Renault Kadjar and Alpine A110 (another odd couple to share the same transmission) is only designed to handle a maximum of 320Nm torque, which simply isn’t ideal for a heavy-duty load hauler. The Megane’s transmission on the other hand happily deals with 420Nm in the RS Trophy, making it the logical choice for the diesel powerplant.
Step into the office and fire up the engine and the first thing you notice is that the diesel unit is quiet and refined on idle – much more so than you would expect from a diesel workhorse. It even put a certain small SUV we had in the DiscoverAuto garage at the same time to shame in terms of noise, vibration and harshness suppression.
Row the shifter into D and tap the accelerator pedal and the Trafic feels like a hot hatch. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it does feel instantly perky and eager to get off the line. It can catch you off guard at first, resulting in the front wheels breaking traction if you’re not careful. The grunty powertrain means you can shuffle the Trafic along quickly and with ease. The dual-clutch is quick and decisive, always grabbing the right gear for the occasion. The only fumble is the slight delay when quickly switching into reverse – if you jump onto the throttle too quickly on a hill it will start to roll before fully engaging. It’s odd, as we didn’t experience this in the RS Megane we drove a while back.
Being a commercial vehicle, efficiency plays an important part in keeping the bean counters happy and the Trafic continues to impress. The claimed consumption of 7.3L/100km is impressive, but even more impressive if that we managed to beat the claimed figure in the week we spent with the Trafic. Admittedly, we didn’t spend a lot of time with a heavy load in the back, but the 7.1L/100km we achieved is still thoroughly impressive. It was no doubt helped by keeping quick-witted stop/start system engaged, driving in eco mode and using the efficient driving coach in the infotainment system. The driving coach would award stars for anticipation and acceleration – making efficient driving a bit of a game. Given the Trafic’s sizeable 80L tank, it could theoretically travel over 1,100km per tank.
The automatic diesel Toyota HiAce might have a slightly higher output, but the engine is notably larger in capacity and it also drinks more than the Trafic with a claimed figure of 8.5L/100km.
Ride & Handling: 8.0/10
Gone are the days of bouncy vans that suffer when unloaded. The 2020 Renault Trafic felt car like majority of the time, so much that we even almost drove into an underground carpark forgetting that the sub two-metre clearance might be too low for the van. The ride is well judged and it dispatches the lumps and bumps of Sydney’s roads with ease – the ideal companion to get you through your daily grind.
The steering is well-weighted – light, but feelsome enough to give you confidence once up to speed. The turning circle is a not unreasonable 11.8m, meaning the it felt as manoeuvrable as many SUVs.
Push a bit harder and it remains competent and composed despite a bit of body roll. The eager drivetrain and pleasant handling means it’s actually a bit of fun to drive the Trafic with enthusiasm.
Interior & Practicality: 8.0/10
The Trafic’s cabin is a nice place to spend time. Sure the plastics are hard wearing but did you expect a stitched leather dash? The steering wheel is an interesting combination of stitch leather and moulded plastic, with the leather sections placed where your hands most commonly rest on the wheel. The automatic gear selector is also wrapped in leather and the seats are upholstered in a good quality cloth. They’re comfortable enough for hours behind the wheel but do leave you wanting for lateral support.
Most function and controls are logically laid out and in terms of practicality, there are endless storage areas and clever touches to make life easier on board. The old-school digital dials are basic but clear and easy to read. Along with the usual array of trip computer functions, there’s also a coloured bar below the speedo to tell you how efficiently you’re driving – gentle on the throttle makes it green and a heavy right foot makes it turn amber and then red.
The 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is the same as the unit in the Renault Master we recently tested and while simple in its functions and UI, it gets the job done. There’s bluetooth connectivity, radio, TomTom satellite navigation and that aforementioned eco drive coaching app. It’s also equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a notable upgrade over the Mitsubishi Express we had a little while back and its single-DIN unit. Speaking of the Express, the Trafic gets the same mobile phone holder which is well-intentioned but ultimately fails to fit a modern smartphone in it.
Other ergonomic bugbears? Renault continues to remove the cruise control and speed limited master switch from the steering wheel, instead placing it on the dash away from the rest of the cruise controls. The USB port for the infotainment system is also located just above the touchscreen, meaning the cord will often dangle in front of the screen and the top-mounted reverse camera takes some getting used to.
Practical highlights include a flip up middle seat that reveals a secret storage spot that also has a load-through door to the main cargo area. That same seat also folds down to make a tray table or work bench that even comes with its own clipboard. Neat. And even thought the Trafic might lack the latest active safety technology – at least its passive safety it good thanks to six airbags and the usual array of ABS, EBD and so on. Those excellent LED headlights will also help keep you out of trouble at night.
Moving to the cargo area, the short wheelbase Trafic can happily take a 2,537mm long and 1,662mm wide load – although it narrows down to 1,268mm between the wheel arches – for a total capacity of 5.2m³ The barn doors open 160º to make for easy loading and the kerbside sliding door provides another 907mm entry point.
While minuscule, the automatic’s payload is 1,216kg, or 21kg less than the 1.6-litre manual.
Running Costs & Warranty: 7.5/10
In July, Renault upgraded its commercial range’s warranty to five years or 200,000km worth of coverage as a promotional offer, finally bringing Renault in line with much of its competition. Rather than switching back to three-years, Renault announced in August that the extended coverage is not permanent across its LCV range.
Even though limiting coverage to 200,000km seems a bit mean, the Mitsubishi Express only gets five years or 100,000km of peace of mind.
Renault Australia says that the average Trafic drives 30,000km a year, so it’s good to see the French brand stretching the servicing intervals to match. The five years of capped-price servicing adds up to $1,797 in three years or $3,295 in fives years, so you’ll want to get your kilometres worth. The Express’ shorter 15,000km intervals are offset the lower cost per service, adding up to a tiny $750 in three years.
2020 Renault Trafic
DiscoverAuto VanZap Rating: 8.1/10
There’s no doubt that the 2020 Renault Trafic is a good thing. It’s spacious, practical, comfortable and a brilliant workhorse. The new automatic only makes it easier to live with and even adds a bit of zest with its spritely yet frugal drivetrain.
Drawbacks? Yes, the lack of active safety is hard to ignore in 2020 and, while Renault promises a self-braking Trafic by 2022, the Toyota HiAce and Ford Transit have both been equipped with autonomous emergency braking for two years. If that doesn’t deter you, the Trafic is an excellent all-rounder that finally offers a class-leading automatic transmission with a powerful and efficient diesel engine.