Renault’s Master-craft

2012 saw the introduction of a new model of the Renault Master into Australia’s competitive large van market. The upgraded model had been available in Europe for almost two years prior to its release here, so it should be well-sorted and suited to Australian conditions.

The revised exterior certainly portrays an image of toughness, especially when viewed from the front – but like all working vehicles, it’s what’s underneath that counts.

The 2.3 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine is slightly smaller than its predecessor, but has much improved performance. Power of 107kW is produced at 3500 rpm (an increase of 19kW) while maximum torque of 350Nm is developed between 1550 and 2750 RPM (50Nm more than the earlier model).

Despite having plenty of grunt, the manual version claims to return 9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on combined cycle. Consider that frugal consumption with a 105 litre fuel tank, and visits to the service station will be few and far between. We burned slightly more than half a tank during our 800 kilometre assessment, so a 1,200 kilometre fuel range seems to be quite realistic.

The standard transmission is a six speed all synchro manual with an automated version available as an option, which would make metropolitan work less of an effort for the driver, although we had no complaints about the short throw gearbox even after around 800 kilometres of driving in a variety of traffic and road conditions.

The engine is mounted transversely and drives through the front wheels, which results in a rather large kerb to kerb turning circle of 13.6 metres for the medium wheel base Master (3,862 mm – our test unit) and 15.7 metres for the long wheelbase (4.332 mm). Most of the European vans have similar manoeuvrability, but once we got more familiar with that characteristic, we managed to avoid doing too many three point turns. After all, this is a “big” van.

The driver/passenger compartment is separated from the cargo area by a steel bulkhead, which incorporates a window. This confers several advantages upon the Master – safety of course, reinforced by a separate mesh cargo barrier mounted to the back of the bulkhead; noise reduction and optimum efficiency of the air conditioner/heater functions, as there is a relatively small area in which climate conditions need to be controlled.

A possible down side for a few drivers is that the bulkhead prevents the seat backs from reclining very far from the vertical. This should not prove an issue for most, as we found the six way adjustable driver’s seat to have no comfort problems at all. In fact, we really liked the driving position and coupled with a folding armrest on the left and an adjustable steering wheel, had no fatigue problems even after two-hour stints.

Driver’s forward and peripheral vision are good and enhanced by the design of the front doors, which have the window openings cut very low to the front which reduces blind spots, as do the large electric mirrors that each have a separate blind spot lens.

A rear parking sensor alarm system is a welcome standard inclusion as is the Bluetooth cellular phone facility incorporated into radio/CD/MP3 sound system, which also has auxiliary RCA audio inputs. The steering wheel mounted cruise control (again, standard) is very straightforward to operate. In fact, some other passenger vehicle manufacturers should take note.

The now expected Anti-lock Brake System and Electronic Stability Program and driver and passenger airbags are standard equipment. Extra airbags are available as an option. There are plenty of storage facilities including cup holders and the centre seat when folded flat features a nifty turntable ideal for locating a laptop computer. The air conditioner evaporator is located such that the glove compartment can be used as a cooler. There are storage facilities in the doors that look suspiciously suited for bottles of wine – a typically French touch perhaps.

The cargo area is 10.3 cubic metres (12.5 cubic metres in the long wheelbase version) and is accessed by a sliding door on the left hand (kerb) side and the 270 degree opening barn doors at the rear. A right hand slider is available as an extra cost option.

The operation of the rear doors is uncomplicated and Renault has cleverly fitted magnetic holders to the side mounted buffers to hold the doors firmly in place when open.

There’s room for two pallets (plus a bit more) in the cargo bay of the mid wheelbase, while the longer wheelbase model can accommodate the footprint of three standard pallets. The wheel arches intrude very little into the otherwise flat floor and the cargo area is well served by two interior lights and plenty of floor mounted load restraint anchor points.

Gross Vehicle Weight is 3,500 kilograms for both mid and long wheelbase models, providing payloads of 1,645 kilograms and 1,602 kilograms respectively.

With its European engineering and build quality, impressive performance and good fuel economy plus an extensive list of standard features, the Renault Master may be a sleeper among its better known competitors but one certainly worthy of consideration.

Leave a Reply

  1. Australian Truck Radio Listen Live
Send this to a friend