What Car? says...
Evolution might be a slow process for some, but the Renault Trafic shows that it’s possible to accomplish a lot in a short timeframe.
Indeed, regular incremental updates have been key to the Trafic’s success since it replaced the ageing Estafette in the UK 40 years ago. Over its four decades on the road, the Trafic has adapted and kept with the times, and this latest version is no different.
As is becoming commonplace in the van world, the Trafic can also be found in other guises from different manufacturers. In this case, the Trafic shares many parts with the Fiat Talento and Nissan NV300.
This latest Renault Trafic has been treated to a heavier update than might usually be expected in the middle of a model's life. That includes giving it a more angular and chiselled front-end design, a more high-tech interior and new engine options and safety gear.
Customisation remains the order of the day, and there are now 44 variants of Trafic to choose from, so the chances are there’s at least one model that suits your needs. They include a passenger version, which we’ll cover in a separate review soon.
Here, we’ll let you know how this latest Trafic compares with its rivals in terms of performance, interior quality, day-to-day usability and, of course, load-lugging ability. We'll also let you know whether it should be on you or your company's shopping list.
Remember, we can help you find the best leasing deals through the free What Car? Leasing section, where you can get a quote for whichever make and model of car or van fits your personal or business needs.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The medium van segment is a hotbed of vehicles that are exceptionally good on the road, and while the Renault Trafic didn't used to be one of them, it's evolved into a great van to drive.
With this latest update, the Trafic’s core 2.0-litre diesel engine is now available with four outputs, rather than three. They produce 109bhp, 129bhp, 148bhp and 167bhp, and are labelled the dCi 110, dCi 130, dCi 150 and dCi 170 respectively.
All versions are front-wheel drive, and come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. A six-speed automatic is available as an option with the two highest-powered engines. The auto is worth going for if you can, because it has a smooth shift action and makes the business of driving easier.
We’d advise you to look at the higher-output engines if you're planning to move heavy loads regularly, because they offer better low-down grunt. The entry level dCi 110 can feel breathless quickly, so it's only really worth considering if you won’t be loading up the Trafic very often.
No matter which version you go for, the 2.0-litre diesel engine is nicely refined and quiet enough at all speeds. Even on a motorway, you won’t find much noise penetrating the Trafic’s interior.
The Trafic rides well on bumpy UK roads and has purposeful steering, making it greatly improved over previous versions and on a par with the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro. It hasn’t quite got the finesse of a Ford Transit Custom, but it feels planted and responsive with or without a load.
The interior layout, fit and finish
You’ll quickly notice where Renault has focused its efforts when you step on board the Trafic: a new 8.0in touchscreen now sits in the centre of the dashboard. This is standard on all but entry-level versions, and most Trafics also get a 3.5in or 4.2in information screen in the instrument cluster.
The infotainment system looks swish enough, but we found it sluggish in its responses, and had trouble connecting our own devices. At least there are physical shortcut buttons below the screen for commonly used functions, and you can adjust the temperature using chunky knobs on the dashboard, rather than having to delve into the touchscreen.
Various textures of plastics make the Trafic’s interior a more interesting place to be than the old model. For example, there's a grained central dashboard section and chrome highlights around air vents and on the steering wheel.
Storage is slightly disappointing for a medium-sized van, but there's a large open compartment in the centre of the dashboard where you’ll find two USB connections (as well as a third on the infotainment screen) and a small, covered compartment above the steering wheel. To the right of the steering wheel, there's a smaller area that's ideal for keys or passes, and you can charge your phone wirelessly in a compartment below the central screen.
There's also a larger storage space under the passenger seat – you lift the seat cushion to a reveal it, and it's a great place to stow a bag or two. The doors each have a small recess suitable for keys or coins higher up, plus a relatively shallow lower storage area split into three areas. In reality, you can't put anything too big in it because of the risk of it falling out as you open the door.
There are cupholders at the A-pillars, and while they have internal grippers that adjust to the cup size, they seem too shallow to hold a tall can or cup in place without risk of it toppling over.
If you order a Trafic in Business+ trim or above, you get a workbench on the back of the central seat, which also includes a clever clipboard that can be angled towards the driver.
One of the best attributes, though, is its locking system, which is controlled by a hands-free keycard that enables keyless entry (and start). What's more, it automatically locks the vehicle when you leave the immediate vicinity.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Renault Trafic gives you plenty of space in the front, with a comfortable driver's seat, with a good deal of seat travel to help you get comfy, and a rake and reach adjustable steering wheel.
So what about the most important feature in a medium van – load space? Well, this is one area where the Trafic has remained unchanged for several generations, but that’s no bad thing. It can accommodate up to 8.9 cubic metres, and has a payload of up to 1166kg depending on the version you go for (the lowest payload available is 886kg).
There's a maximum 2937mm length in the rear of the Trafic, but if you use the load-through hatch to the passenger footwell, there's the potential to carry items as long as 4150mm. That's longer than any immediate rival.
There are a generous number of lashing points in the load bay, with 16 hooks in the short-wheelbase models and 18 in the longer versions. The space is lit up with a bright LED light.
The Trafic is available in a range of body types, including double-cab crew vans and minibus variants with seating for up to nine people. The panel van variant is available in standard (L1) or long-wheelbase (L2) versions with a standard (H1) or high (H2) roof.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Renault Trafic just undercuts the rival Ford Transit Custom on price, and is a comparative bargain next to the Volkswagen Transporter. You get a four-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard, increased to five years if you buy using Renault hire purchase.
There are four main trim levels to choose from: Business, Business+, Sport and Sport+. There are often special-edition models available too, and they're worth looking out for because they tend to offer good value for money.
We think Business+ is where most buyers should start their Trafic journey. It comes with a good amount of useful kit, and the automatic door locking in particular is likely to become a feature you'll never want to live without.
The Trafic is now available with more safety equipment. Adaptive cruise control has become an option, while automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition and lane-keep assist have been added.
More powerful automatic headlights with cornering lights have also been added, along with a new passenger airbag designed to better protect the middle-seat occupant.
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.
The Renault Trafic van has a strong reputation for reliability. However, watchouts include turbo failures, which are expensive, the sliding doors popping out of their channels, which can be expensive and potentially dangerous if it happens on the road, and bodywork issues, especially on older vehicles. Read our full Renault Trafic review.
The latest Renault Trafic and Vauxhall Vivaro vans are entirely unrelated. However, previous generations of the Trafic and Vivaro were closely linked, with Renault badging its van as a Vauxhall (or Vauxhall) until 2018. Read our latest Renault Trafic review.
The Renault Trafic is classed as a medium sized van. Rivals to the Renault Trafic include the Citroen Dispatch, Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes Vito, Peugeot Expert, Toyota Proace, Vauxhall Vivaro and VW Transporter. Read our ratings of the best medium vans.
Diesel-powered Renault Trafics offer strong economy figures, and therefore strong ranges per tank of fuel of hundreds of miles, albeit also dictated by how you drive them. The Renault Trafic E-Tech is an all-electric version of the same van, which has an official range of 149 miles on a charge. Read more on the Renault Trafic’s engine range.
The Renault Trafic E-Tech is all-electric, offers 118bhp and has a 52kWh battery that delivers an official range of 149 miles. It is based on the diesel-powered Trafic, but with the battery and electrical running gear under the bonnet and boot floor. There’s also a smaller Renault Kangoo E-Tech, Renault Master E-Tech and Renault Zoe van.