Get smart

The Re­nault Trafic Crew and an up­dated Kan­goo Com­pact re­cently ar­rived on the Aussie mar­ket. Let’s grab the keys to both for a closer look

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS MATT W OOD

Isat at the wheel of the Re­nault Trafic Crew re­cently look­ing very much like a goose, though while geese do in fact have tongues, I doubt they poke out of the cor­ner of their beaks while they’re con­cen­trat­ing.

The rea­son I was look­ing so per­plexed was the Trafic Crew I was sit­ting in uses Re­nault’s smart key card, and I was hav­ing dif­fi­culty fi nd­ing the slot to put it in.

Clearly the rea­son that it’s called a smart key is that only smart peo­ple are al­lowed to drive Re­naults. I was in dan­ger of not mak­ing the grade. It turns out that the ap­pro­pri­ate slot for the key was right in front of my face. Go fig­ure. KEYCARD In fact, it also turns out that Re­nault doesn’t of­fi­cially call it a smart key at all. It calls it a Keycard, which just goes to show how smart I am. Maybe they should call it Your Pass­port to Re­me­dial Dex­ter­ity Train­ing. I was never good with a Shape-O ball.

The Re­nault Trafic Crew is aimed at ex­pand­ing the ap­peal of dual-pur­pose LCVs for small-busi­ness own­ers as well as pro­vid­ing com­fort­able wheels for those need­ing to get staff on site in rel­a­tive com­fort. With the op­tion of seat­ing for six (in­clud­ing the driver), the Trafic crew sep­a­rates the pas­sen­gers from the cargo with a glazed bulk­head. The cargo area still has four cu­bic me­tres of load area and can han­dle a pay­load of a tonne. It will also tow a braked load of a cou­ple of tonnes.

Slowly but surely Europe’s best-sell­ing LCV brand has been chip­ping away at Aussie van buy­ers with the aim of pro­vid­ing a light com­mer­cial-fo­cused dealer network schooled in the dark arts of keep­ing working wheels working. One thing that will no doubt ap­peal to po­ten­tial van buy­ers is the Trafic’s 30,000km ser­vice in­ter­vals as well as the clearly com­mer­cial three-year/200,000km war­ranty. Capped price ser­vic­ing of $349 for the first three ser­vices also ap­plies.

Crew vans aren’t new to the mid-sized van mar­ket; all the ma­jor players have a crew op­tion. How­ever, this may be the fi rst time that we’ve seen a van that uses the rear seat­ing as a

“It turns out that the ap­pro­pri­ate slot for the key was right in front of my face”

plush ded­i­cated pas­sen­ger com­part­ment rather than util­is­ing a bolt-in or roll-and-tum­ble bench seat ar­range­ment.

The rather up­mar­ket-look­ing work­horse I was driv­ing bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to a peo­ple mover. In fact, I was even stopped in car parks on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions by peo­ple want­ing to have a closer look but ex­pect­ing more seats.

LIFE­STYLE HAULER

This Life­style Pack Long Wheel Base Trafic Crew utilises the DCi 140 twin-turbo ver­sion of Re­nault’s diminu­tive 1.6-litre en­gine. There is no auto op­tion and the front wheels turn via a 6-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

The de­cep­tively small DCi donk puts out 103kW (138hp) at 3500rpm and makes 340Nm of torque at a low 1500rpm.

This en­gine is clearly heav­ily de­pen­dent on se­quen­tial tur­bocharg­ing to gather its oomph. But this also leads Re­nault to claim a not-too-shabby 6.2L/100km com­bined in the fuel econ­omy stakes.

The Crew of­fers two op­tion packs on top of the base crew vari­ant: a vo­ca­tion­ally fo­cused Pre­mium Pack that fea­tures 17-inch al­loy wheels and a 7-inch touch­screen multimedia sys­tem with sat-nav; or the more fam­ily-friendly Life­style Pack.

The Life­style adds touches like speak­ers in the rear and courtesy light­ing. Roller blinds for the slid­ing door win­dows are also a part of this op­tion. There’s also the choice of a three-across bench-style seat in the front or two sin­gle buck­ets.

While there’s no doubt in my mind that the Trafic Crew would have to be the cushi­est crew van cur­rently on the Aussie mar­ket, there are still some com­pro­mises in the pas­sen­ger area that re­mind you of its vo­ca­tional in­ten­tions.

Ven­ti­la­tion, for ex­am­ple, is via a cou­ple of pop-and-slide win­dows. There are no air vents in the back, so rear-seat pas­sen­gers have to be nice to those in the front to make sure they keep the AC cranked for the com­fort of ev­ery­body on board. There are, how­ever, a cou­ple of 12-volt power out­lets tucked away back there to keep the charge in pas­sen­ger gad­gets.

The rear pas­sen­ger com­part­ment is roomy and the seats are quite com­fort­able, es­pe­cially when com­pared to com­pet­ing crew haulers.

QUIET DRIVE

It may only be 1.6 litres, but the DCi en­gine is a pretty so­phis­ti­cated hauler. Keep­ing the tacho nee­dle in the torque range above 1500rpm makes for a civilised drive around town.

The bulk­head nicely iso­lates the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment and cock­pit; there’s none of the cav­ernous rum­ble that you get from com­pet­ing rear-drive crew vans.

“The Trac Crew would have to be the cushi­est crew van cur­rently on the Aussie mar­ket”

Of course, from an Aussie point of view, the lack of an auto means that the Trafic won’t be able to re­alise its full sales po­ten­tial lo­cally.

Not that there are any com­plaints from me on that re­gard; the 6-speed stick shift is easy to stir and the driv­ing po­si­tion is com­fort­able and er­gonomic.

I’m not so keen on the key card ig­ni­tion, though. It feels like a bit of a gim­mick.

UTE OR VAN?

There are ob­vi­ous com­par­isons be­tween this van and a dual-cab ute.

These days, utes are get­ting more and more life­style fo­cused, and the Trafic Crew does do a bet­ter job than most in meld­ing to­gether a dual-pur­pose van. There’s also a 6-seater op­tion.

The added bonus is also a much more us­able load area and a slightly bet­ter pay­load ca­pac­ity. Plus, with barn doors and

room for a pal­let in the back, it’s a hell of a lot more ver­sa­tile.

Pint-Sized Petrol Kan­goo

I stood in front of the lit­tle blue van, con­tem­plat­ing it with a critical eye. The van glared back … well, as much as a van with a happy bug-eyed stare can glare. Which, of course, it can’t, be­cause it’s a van, and to as­sign some sort of emo­tion or ma­chine in­tel­li­gence to it would be silly … be­cause it’s a van. You’ll have to ex­cuse the Dr Seuss mo­ment.

Star­ing con­tests aside, the Kan­goo and I have never re­ally gelled. It’s not be­cause of any par­tic­u­lar fail­ing, it’s just be­cause the Kan­goo seems a lit­tle wonky and weird.

I think it’s just a styling thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure Re­nault is prob­a­bly sick of me us­ing the words “wonky” and “styling” in the same sen­tence. I’ll try to stop.

NEW 1.2

The short-wheel­base front-wheel drive Kan­goo Com­pact scored a 1.2-litre turbo petrol en­gine ear­lier this year and, just as sig­nif­i­cantly, this also now comes with a 6-speed EDC dual- clutch au­to­mated trans­mis­sion. This driv­e­train is also shared with the Clio and Me­gane pas­sen­ger car mod­els, though in this case with a tweak for ex­tra torque.

The driv­e­train replaces the out­go­ing 1.6-litre petrol and 4-speed AMT model. The lit­tle 1.2 uses forced in­duc­tion to make 84kW (113hp) at 4500rpm and puts out 190Nm of torque at 2000rpm.

This Kan­goo is also of­fered with a 6-speed man­ual ‘box as well.

The en­gine sees a 30 per cent gain in torque over the old 1.6 it replaces and a touted gain in fuel econ­omy at a claimed 6.2L/100km

In the back are three cu­bic me­tres of load space; man­ual vari­ants can carry 675kg while the AMT-equipped mod­els can carry up to 540kg.

The man­ual Kan­goo is also rated to tow 1050kg (braked). Tow­ing be­hind the auto, though, is a no-no.

LOAD-AREA OP­TIONS

The baby Re­nault has also seen im­prove­ments in NVH with more load-area in­su­la­tion to ad­dress the in­evitable res­o­nant rum­ble from the rear.

There are plenty of load-area op­tions for the lit­tle van: from a re­tractable roof flap over the load area to a fold-flat pas­sen­ger seat and swivel­ing load bar­rier.

The petrol power plant and EDC gear­box are a nicely in­te­grated unit. As far as AMTs go, the EDC auto is not bad. It does hes­i­tate and bog down a lit­tle be­hind the revvy lit­tle en­gine but once it gets some pace up it does pretty well.

Clutch en­gage­ment on the EDC auto was a lit­tle hes­i­tant on oc­ca­sion, mainly when low-speed park­ing. How­ever, it’s a much more de­ci­sive unit than the DSG ‘box found in the com­pet­ing base Volk­swa­gen Caddy.

The ad­di­tion of a cou­ple of ex­tra gear

“There’s a very denite sense of space around the driver”

ra­tios to the auto has dropped cruis­ing rpm sig­nif­i­cantly, mak­ing it a much nicer drive when cruis­ing.

FOMO

As a base van, the in­te­rior of the Com­pact is pretty spar­tan, which makes sense as a fleet ve­hi­cle. How­ever, tick a cou­ple of op­tion boxes and you’ll have a touch­screen media unit and a re­verse cam­era, which rounds out the Com­pact nicely.

The blank spots where these op­tions sit in the dash­board on the base ve­hi­cle un­for­tu­nately re­mind you of what you haven’t got. Which then makes me feel sad and unloved, which then makes me want to eat burg­ers.

There’s a very defi nite sense of space around the driver. The wind­screen and roof are a long way from the driver; it kind of feels like you are in a bub­ble, though not in a par­tic­u­larly bad way. Con­se­quently, vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent and it’s very much at home ply­ing the city streets. Slid­ing doors on both sides make for easy cargo bay ac­cess, and the load area is easy to work with.

I didn’t carry a huge amount of weight in the back, though I am guilty of fi lling it with Land Rover parts, but that’s a whole dif­fer­ent story. Need­less to say the mis­sion was ac­com­plished suc­cess­fully.

NVH lev­els are also pretty good; it is, af­ter all, a lit­tle tin shed on wheels.

SLICK AND SO­PHIS­TI­CATED DRIV­E­TRAIN

The Kan­goo Com­pact has be­come quite a slick and so­phis­ti­cated lit­tle par­cel hauler, and the driv­e­line works well – even with the AMT.

This van has a hard job ahead of it try­ing to lure po­ten­tial Caddy buy­ers into the Re­nault fold. But the re­al­ity is that if you’re af­ter a lit­tle auto work van, the base Kan­goo is ac­tu­ally nicer to drive than the V-dub around town.

But it’s the Trafic that I find quite in­ter­est­ing. The base Crew vari­ant is a $3500 op­tion over the cur­rent stan­dard van.

It’s like a dual-cab ute for peo­ple that dig vans, and it also has the op­tion of be­ing a 6-seater. And, to be hon­est, it drives bet­ter than a ute and is far more eco­nom­i­cal. It just doesn’t have the tough guy image.

The lack of an auto rightly or wrongly ham­strings its ap­peal.

That said, it’s a smart op­tion for those that are into haul­ing both peo­ple and prod­uct.

Op­po­site: The Trac Crew looks a lit­tle less vo­ca­tional than a lot of the com­pe­ti­tion

Above: The Kan­goo’s driv­e­train is shared with the Clio and Me­gane pas­sen­ger car mod­els

Top: The Trac’s well-laid­out in­te­rior makes for easy op­er­a­tion, ex­cept maybe for the ig­ni­tion key

Op­po­site be­low: Enough room for a pal­let and a one­tonne pay­load

Above L to R: The Keycard ig­ni­tion key feels a lit­tle gim­micky; It … er … took me a lit­tle while to nd the key slot

Op­po­site top L to R: Easy fork­lift ac­cess at the rear; It all seems a lit­tle posh in the back. The seats and seat­ing po­si­tion are comfy enough

Op­po­site top to bot­tom: It ain’t fancy, but it works. The gear in­di­ca­tion dis­play on the in­stru­ment clus­ter takes a lit­tle get­ting used to, though; Plenty of room for an Aussie-sized pal­let, though you’ll need to opt for barn doors at the rear if you want fork­lift ac­cess; The neat lit­tle 1.2 petrol ac­tu­ally has more torque than the 1.6 it replaces Top: Well, it is kinda cute

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.