Renault Master van review

Category: Large Van

The Renault Master delivers a rewarding drive and a rough-and-tough interior

Renault Master front right driving
  • Renault Master front right driving
  • Renault Master front left driving
  • Renault Master interior dashboard
  • Renault Master interior front seats
  • Renault Master interior infotainment
  • Renault Master front cornering
  • Renault Master front cornering
  • Renault Master rear right static
  • Renault Master front detail
  • Renault Master load bay
  • Renault Master front right driving
  • Renault Master front left driving
  • Renault Master interior dashboard
  • Renault Master interior front seats
  • Renault Master interior infotainment
  • Renault Master front cornering
  • Renault Master front cornering
  • Renault Master rear right static
  • Renault Master front detail
  • Renault Master load bay
What Car?’s Master (2019) NEW deals


What Car? says...

To Doctor Who fans, The Master is very much bad news, but the one this review is about – the Renault Master large van – is in fact pretty good.

Against its rivals, the Renault Master holds up as a flexible option. Just look at the array of body styles available: not only are there three lengths and three heights of panel van available, but there are also Luton box van (available in standard or low-loader form), tipper truck, dropside truck, platform-cab, and single and double chassis-cab body styles. Basically, you name it, and the Master has probably done it.

That flexibility has made it a stern competitor to big vans such as the Ford Transit, as well as the Peugeot BoxerMercedes Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter.

With many of these, Renault gives you a choice of front or rear-wheel drive, with a manual gearbox as standard and the option of an automatic gearbox. Most Masters come with a diesel engine, but there's also an electric van version – the Renault Master E-Tech, which we've reviewed separately.

Far from being the villain of the piece, then, the Renault Master could well be your hero character. But to find out whether it is or not, you’ll need to read through the rest of our review, where we’ll cover its driving dynamics, interior ambience, payload, and of course, how much it’ll cost you and your business to own and run.

Read more: How we test vans


The Master is a surprise package in a busy segment, delivering a rewarding drive and a rough-and-tough new interior. It’s not quite up to the standard of its German competitors, but it’s not far off at all, and pricing is keen.

  • Huge amounts of storage
  • Great to drive
  • Strong engines
  • Poor automatic gearbox option
  • Big vans will have to be RWD

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Considering its size, the Master is capable of an impressive turn of pace. The 2.3-litre engine comes in 133bhp, 147bhp and 178bhp power outputs on front-wheel-drive vans. The latter is astonishingly quick for a big van, thanks largely to its 295lb ft of torque. Rear-wheel-drive models get a slightly different set of power ratings, at 128bhp and 143bhp. 

The Master doesn't ride as well as a Volkswagen Crafter, being a little crashy when completely empty. However, it does settle down once you've put some weight in the back. It's also impressively stable at motorway speeds for a high sided vehicle. 

Compared with the Ford Transit, the steering is a little on the light side and has a relatively low rate of response. This makes the Master difficult to place on country roads. More impressive is the manual gearbox, which has a reassuringly firm action. There’s an option for a Quickshift six-speed automatic gearbox on the 147bhp and 178bhp front-wheel-drive models, although we’d steer clear of it because it tends to shunt ponderously through the gears.

Renault Master (2019) NEW image
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Driving overview

Strengths Large range of engines; strong performance; impressive manual gearbox

Weaknesses Doesn't ride as well as a Crafter; overly light steering; dim-witted automatic option

Renault Master front left driving


The interior layout, fit and finish

Storage, storage and more storage. The Renault Master is blessed with an abundance of places to put stuff. From the enormous glovebox to the large door pockets, an overhead shelf that could likely store a bag and under-seat compartment that definitely can store one, the Master has it all.

This latest version of the van also combines that practicality with an interior that looks smart and coherent. Take the navigation screen, for example, which blends nicely into the centre of the dash, while the overhead storage compartments in the main dash all get lids in top-spec trim.

The central seat also folds down to reveal cupholders and trays and there’s a rotating section designed for laptops. What's more, the overall quality is better than in previous Master vans.

The seating position is ideal for a big van, and the large mirrors make visibility in all directions a doddle. The seat is also one of the better ones in the segment: it's supportive and comfortable, even after a long time at the wheel.

Interior overview

Strengths Abundant storage options; superior quality compared with the old model; ideal seating position

Weaknesses Ford Transit uses nicer materials

Renault Master interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

To avoid confusion, it's best to think of the Renault Master range in terms of front (FWD) and rear-wheel-drive (RWD) models.

FWD vans are available as L1, L2 or L3 length vehicles. L1 models can have a standard or high roof, while L2 and L3 get the option of either a high or extra-high roof. That means a maximum of nine-cubic-metre capacity in an L1 with a maximum payload of 1623kg, a 12.3-cubic-metre capacity in L2 vans with a 1529kg payload and 14.8 cubic metres with a 1434kg maximum. Load lengths of up to 2583mm are possible in the L1, 3083mm in the L2 and 3733mm in the L3.

Rear-wheel-drive vans come in L3 and L4 lengths, with high and extra-high options. Their maximum load capacity ranges from 12.4 to 17 cubic metres and can move lengths from 3733mm to 4383mm. Payloads for a 3.5-tonne van range from 1207kg in the L3 to 1160kg for an L4. There's the option of a 4.5-tonne Master that increases payloads in the L3 to 2151kg and 2128kg for the L4.

While the maximum sizes for the Master are in line with competing vans, many examples of which can transport 17 cubic metres or more, most frequently with front-wheel drive.

Those looking to move bigger volumes with a rear-wheel-drive van will have to live with the disadvantage of a much higher rear load deck. The loading height for a front-wheel-drive Master is 546mm and a rear-wheel-drive version 700mm – a tiresome difference for those who'll be in and out of the back all day.

Twin side doors are fitted as standard and there is also the option of 270-degree rear doors that can fold against the bodywork for even better rear loadspace access.

There’s new LED lighting in the rear as well, and 10 load lashing points come as standard, along with a protective floor covering.

Practicality overview

Strengths Lots of configurations available; maximum sizes are competitive with rivals

Weaknesses High loading height on some versions

Renault Master interior front seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Running costs for large vans are always high, but the latest Renault Master engines mostly show significant improvements over older units. The most economical engine is the dCi 150 diesel, which has an official fuel consumption of 47.9mpg.

Front-wheel-drive models can be around 10mpg more economical than the equivalent rear-wheel-drive version. However, it's worth noting that if you do a lot of motorway miles, you can expect your fuel economy to dip quite significantly into the high 20s and low 30s.

Safety systems in the Master include Side Wind Assist and Active Emergency Braking (AEB). There’s also the option of new ‘advanced driver assistance systems’ which include a Rear View Assist – a permanent display of the rear of the vehicle (much like a mirror would allow) on a small screen where the mirror would usually be. Blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and front parking sensors also help keep the driver and vehicle safe.

The Master is available in two trim levels. Entry-level Business comes with a DAB radio with Bluetooth, automatic headlights and wipers, a fully adjustable driver’s seat, electric and heated door mirrors and an alarm.

We’d encourage you to go for the Business+ version, however, because that gets you under-seat storage with lidded compartments and rear parking sensors – the latter being hugely beneficial for a large van.

Business+ also adds manual air-conditioning, one-touch driver’s side electric front window and an additional 12V power supply in the load area. Disappointingly, the Renault 7.0in MediaNav infotainment system is optional no matter which trim you go for.

Costs overview

Strengths Surprisingly economical

Weaknesses Infotainment system is optional across the board

For all the latest van reviews, news, advice, and videos visit our dedicated van section here

About the author

George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.

Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.


Renault Master interior infotainment


  • It depends which version you choose. The H1 (i.e. lowest roof) panel van is 2.3 metres high, while the H3 (the highest roof) version is 2.7 metres tall. Tipper and dropside models are all the same height as the H1 panel van, while the Luton model is 3.2 metres tall, and the Luton low-loader stands at 2.8 metres. Choosing a rear-wheel-drive model instead of front-wheel drive adds around 0.1 metres to the Master’s height.

  • Currently, the centrepiece of the Master range is a 2.3-litre diesel engine, in a variety of outputs stretching from 128bhp to 148bhp. Van, platform-cab and chassis-cab versions are available in electric van form with a 75bhp motor and a 52kWh battery.

  • The Master’s reliability record is good, but not outstanding – Renault does pretty well in most van reliability surveys, and while the Master doesn’t top the tables as one of the most dependable large vans its solid mid-table placings suggest its reliability isn’t a matter to be too concerned about.

  • No – the 2.3-litre diesel engine has a timing chain, rather than a rubber belt, which shouldn’t need changing for the life of the vehicle.

  • You can have front or rear-wheel-drive versions of almost every body style (the exceptions are the Luton box van and the platform cab model).

  • The battery is located beneath the passenger seat, behind the passenger-side sill trim. To access it, you need to open the passenger-side door and remove the sill trim piece.