What Car? says...
The Renault Trafic Passenger is unusual in the MPV class, because it avoids the irritating situation of having loads of seats but not enough boot space for everyone's luggage. You see, most MPVs have tiny boots when all the seats are in use, which is annoying if you want to take a big family group on holiday.
After all, no one wants to go away without any belongings, or, worse, be the person left behind to make space for a few suitcases.
The Trafic Passenger, though, has space inside for eight or even nine occupants (depending on the spec you choose) plus load-lugging capacity to keep them all in fresh clothes for a while. To achieve that, Renault has based it on the Trafic van.
That also means the Trafic Passenger gets a traditional van engine: a 2.0-litre diesel, available with a choice of 109bhp, 148bhp and 168bhp power outputs. You can have any of them with a six-speed manual gearbox, but if you choose one of the two more powerful engines, you can have a dual-clutch automatic instead.
There are also two different lengths available, a standard wheelbase and (for anyone not likely to venture into a car park too often) a long wheelbase. Both can be had with either eight or nine seats, putting the Trafic Passenger up against other van-based MPVs, including the Mercedes V-Class and Toyota Proace Verso.
In this comprehensive review we’ll tell you what the Renault Trafic Passenger is like to drive, how comfortable it is for the driver and all those passengers and what the running costs are likely to be. We'll also let you know which trim and engine options we recommend.
When you're ready to buy a new vehicle, don't forget that you can track down the best prices available by using the free What Car? New Car Deals service. It's the place to find the best van-based MPV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
For something with the word ‘Trafic’ in the name, the Renault Traffic Passenger struggles to keep up with, er, traffic. The mid-range dCi 150 engine delivers a strong initial burp of pulling power off the line, but the official 0-62mph time is a sluggish 13.6sec.
We’ve yet to try the 109bhp dCi 110 version – which takes 16.5sec to do the same 'sprint' – but we suspect it will feel painfully underpowered, especially when loaded with people. Therange-topping 167bhp dCi 170 should feel much brawnier, although the highest output Toyota Proace Verso is quicker still.
Once you do get up to speed, you'll be able to maintain it because the Trafic Passenger handles quite well once you’ve got over its size and how much it leans in bends.
The steering is reasonably precise, although it requires more arm-twirling during tight manoeuvres than a car-based MPV, plus grip is decent. The ride is on the firm side, but the pay-off is that the Trafic Passenger doesn’t feel floaty at higher speeds.
Unfortunately, higher speeds equate to a lot more noise. That’s a shame, because the engine at idle is quite refined, but the lack of carpet to absorb sound means that sounds from the suspension and engine reverberate off every surface. There's also a lot of wind noise from the steep windscreen and big side mirrors, too, making this a tiring vehicle over long distances.
The Trafic Passenger's standard six-speed manual gearbox feels slick enough and has a positive clutch action. We’ve yet to try the six-speed dual-clutch automatic in the Passenger, but it's smooth in the Renault Trafic van.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The driving position in the Renault Trafic Passenger is good by van standards, and visibility is excellent – save for all those headrests behind you blocking your rearward view (a reversing camera is optional on all trims).
You line up quite nicely with the steering wheel, sitting above the pedals as you do in most vans. There's not a great deal of space to the side of the clutch pedal on manual versions, so the automatic is likely to be more comfortable during long drives. The gear lever in manuals falls easily to hand, though.
Lumbar and seat-height adjustment are standard for the driver. If you stick with the standard nine-seater, the front bench on the passenger side flips up to reveal some hidden storage.
Various textures of plastics, including a grained central dashboard section, make the Trafic Passenger’s interior more interesting than the uniform hard plastic in the Toyota Proace Verso. There are also some chrome highlights around air vents and on the steering wheel to add a touch of glamour.
Entry-level Business Edition versions have a simple radio display, but Sport comes with an 8in infotainment system that looks swish enough and has sat-nav as standard. Unfortunately, its responses are sluggish, although you can bypass the Renault system by using the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Storage is slightly disappointing for a vehicle of this size, but there's a large open compartment in the centre of the dashboard with two USB sockets (and a third one on the touchscreen). A small covered compartment above the steering wheel keeps things hidden from prying eyes.
There are cupholders at both edges of the dashboard and to the right of the steering wheel, and a shallow area lower down that's ideal for keys or passes. If you go for either of the Technology packs, you can charge your phone wirelessly in a compartment below the central screen.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Renault Trafic Passenger's seats are arranged in three rows of three as standard, or you can have just two up front and give the front-seat passenger the same height and lumbar adjustment as the driver’s seat has. In eight-seat mode, space up front is fine, but in nine-seat mode, the middle seat shares knee room with the gear lever. Head room is good wherever you sit.
Passengers in the second row are a bit squished for leg room due to an awkward lump in the footwell, and you can’t slide the bench back for more space. It’s a compromise caused by the need to provide a big enough gap for decent access to the third row.
Opting for the long-wheelbase model doesn't improve matters in the second-row seats – all it does is increase the length of the boot, and the seats are fixed in exactly the same way as in the shorter model.
The rear-most row is, in theory, the comfiest place to be in a Trafic Passenger because you can stretch your legs out under the seats in front of you. Unfortunately, you won't be comfortable for long: there’s not much ventilation in the third row because of a lack of standard air vents and the very small hatch windows.
The rival Toyota Proace Verso provides rear air-con as standard to improve airflow, but that's a costly option in the Trafic Passenger.
There are not many cupholders or electrical outlets in the back, so it’s not ideal for a trip to the drive-through, for example. There are, however, many map pockets, so at least cartographers are well catered for.
The Trafic Passenger does very well when it comes to boot size, even in standard wheelbase form. However, the load area isn’t carpeted and there's no guard to prevent smaller items from easily sliding forward under the rear seats.
You can put the rear parcel shelf in various positions to divide up the area, if required. Sadly, you must leave plenty of room behind the Trafic because the tailgate is huge and needs plenty of clearance, plus the back window can’t be opened separately, like the Proace, in order to load smaller items.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Renault Trafic Passenger has a lower starting price than the Toyota Proace Verso but that’s because the Trafic has less equipment and the Proace's entry-level engine is more powerful. By less equipment, we mean it’s incredibly stingy. For example, if you want air-con and rear parking sensors, you'll have to go for top-spec Sport trim or get busy with the options list.
That stinginess extends to safety tech because automatic emergency braking (AEB) is absent from the Passenger version (even though it’s standard in the Renault Trafic van in Sport spec). You don’t get a handy electric switch on the dashboard for child safety locks and the Isofix child-seat points are only on the outer positions in the second and third row. Every Proace has a handy button on the dash to lock out the rear doors and Isofix across all rear seats. Even an alarm isn’t standard with the Trafic, only the wiring for it.
Entry-level Business Edition has cruise control, a DAB radio and LED headlights, but not a great deal else. In contrast, a Proace that costs a little more has dual-zone climate control with rear air-con, a 7in touchscreen with sat-nav, rear parking sensors, and automatic lights and wipers.
Fuel economy is on a par with the Proace, as are its emissions. Renault couldn’t match Toyota in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey though, coming midway down the list in 16th place out of 30 manufacturers featured. The Trafic’s three-year/100,000 mile warranty (or five years with an extended policy) is short of Toyota’s 10-year plan, although you have to get your Proace serviced at a Toyota dealer regularly to qualify for that.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here