Style and flair are two words you wouldn’t normally associate with white vans, but as Sean Willmot finds out after a week with a Renault, it seems you can have your croissant and eat it too.
Renault has held the accolade of Europe’s best-selling van range for 18 years, and while the oddly named brand is a bit of a best kept secret here, the Trafic is certainly worth crowing about. In this version – the “tradie’s pick” – there’s a lot to love, but not a lot to óoh la la over. If you want that, ask us about the ‘lugshurry’ Black Edition or the Crew Cab, which gives a happy combo of six-seats and secure cargo space. But for those hunting a hauler with a dash of panache, the Tradie’s Trafic is le business. Trafic gives you a 6 cubic metre load space, with access from both sides through huge side sliding doors, which you can have as glazed or blind panel. At le rear, two big, barn-style doors with 270-degree opening ability, afford easy access with a low load height. The cargo bay is lined, lit and loaded with lash points, and features a sophisticated through-the-bulkhead-under-the-front-seatto-the-firewall stowage system for those times presumably, when you want to carry a deconstructed Eiffel Tower. And so we come to the cab. Sacre Bleu, check out all the cupholders! Seriously, the cab is a wonderland of clever cubby spaces and concealed tricks. The centre seat of three does the fold down trick to reveal a pop-out clip board, yet another cup holder and a stash spot for a slim laptop or tablet, complete with Velcro straps. The two main crew seats are very comfortable places to be, since the French marque has worked out that those who buy vans tend to spend a lot of time in them. I’m picking they’d be as comfortable as each other, but my time was spent in the right seat, giving me access to all the toys, like the cruise control and speed limiter, multifunctional trip computer, audio system (steering wheel mounted controls) the Blueteeth connectivity, the automatic engine start and stop system and oh yes, my own cupholder. You have ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, just as you get electronic stability control and hill start assist. Renault’s RAID (anti intruder device) secures all doors once the vehicle reaches 30km/h, while front airbags form a second line of defence after the long crumple zone of the bonnet. That long bonnet is also home to automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, and it’s also your first taste of that style and flair we mentioned earlier. Let’s face it, there’s only so much you can do to make a white van appealing or stylish. The Renault Trafic is distinctive, daring with restraint, and it delivers, thanks to its twin turbocharged 1.6-litre diesel with a six-speed manual transmission. With that combination and a 3498mm wheelbase, the Trafic is something of a Le Mans racer in vanland, and its handling is astonishing, considering the vehicle’s purpose. Just quietly, I reckon Renault’s top van laurels are safe for another few years, at least if the Trafic is any indication.