Renault Trafic Crew and updated Kangoo Compact road test

By: Matt Wood


The Renault Trafic Crew and an updated Kangoo Compact recently arrived on the Aussie market. Let’s grab the keys to both for a closer look

 Well, it is kinda cute
Well, it is kinda cute

I sat at the wheel of the Renault Trafic Crew recently looking very much like a like a goose, though while geese do in fact have tongues, I doubt they poke out of the corner of their beaks while they’re concentrating.

The reason I was looking so perplexed was the Trafic Crew I was sitting in uses Renault’s smart key card, and I was having difficulty finding the slot to put it in.


Check out our exclusive test drive report of the new renault Trafic variant and Kangoo engine


Clearly the reason that it’s called a smart key is that only smart people are allowed to drive Renaults. I was in danger of not making the grade.

It turns out that the appropriate slot for the key was right in front of my face. Go figure.

 Plenty of room for an Aussies sized pallet, though you’ll need to opt for barn doors at the rear if you want forklift access
Plenty of room for an Aussies sized pallet, though you’ll need to opt for barn doors at the rear if you want forklift access

Keycard

In fact, it also turns out that Renault doesn’t officially call it a smart key at all, it calls it a Keycard, which just goes to show how smart I am. Maybe they should call it Your Passport to Remedial Dexterity Training. I was never good with a shapo-ball.

The Renault Trafic Crew is aimed at expanding the appeal of dual purpose LCVs for small business owners as well as providing comfortable wheels for those needing to get staff on site in relative comfort.


Video: Renault Trafic van review


With the option of seating for 6 (including the driver) the Trafic crew separates the passengers from the cargo with a glazed bulkhead. The cargo area still has 4 cubic metres of load area and can handle a payload of a tonne.

It will also tow a braked load of a couple of tonnes.

 The neat little 1.2 petrol actually has more torque than the 1.6 it replaces
The neat little 1.2 petrol actually has more torque than the 1.6 it replaces

Slowly but surely, Europe’s best-selling LCV brand has been chipping away at Aussie van buyers with the aim of providing a light commercial focused dealer network schooled in the dark arts of keeping working wheels working.

One thing that will no doubt appeal to potential van buyers is the Trafic’s 30,000km service intervals as well as the clearly commercial 3-year/200,000km warranty.

Capped price servicing of $349 for the first three services also applies.


Video: Renault Kangoo minivan review


Crew vans aren't new to the mid-sized van market, all of the major players have a crew option.

However, this may be the first time that we’ve seen a van that uses the rear seating as a plush dedicated passenger compartment rather than utilising a bolt in, or roll and tumble bench seat arrangement.

 It ain’t fancy, but it works. The gear indication display on the instrument cluster takes a little getting used to though
It ain’t fancy, but it works. The gear indication display on the instrument cluster takes a little getting used to though

The rather upmarket looking workhorse I was driving bears more than a passing resemblance to a people mover.

In fact, I was even stopped in car parks on a couple of occasions by people wanting to have a closer look but expecting more seats.  

Lifestyle Hauler

This Lifestyle Pack Long Wheel Base Trafic Crew utilises the DCi 140 twin-turbo version of Renault’s diminutive 1.6 litre engine. There is no auto option and the front wheels turn via a 6-speed manual transmission.

The deceptively small DCi donk puts out 103kW at 3,500rpm and makes 340Nm of torque at a low 1500rpm.

 The Trafic Crew looks a little less vocational than a lot of the competition
The Trafic Crew looks a little less vocational than a lot of the competition

This engine is clearly heavily dependent on sequential turbo-charging to gather its oomph. But this also leads Renault to claim a not too shabby 6.2l/100km combined in the fuel economy stakes.

The Crew offers two option packs on top of the base crew variant, a vocationally focused Premium Pack which features 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen multi-media system with sat-nav or the more family friendly Lifestyle Pack.

The Lifestyle adds touches like speakers in the rear and courtesy lighting. Roller blinds for the sliding door windows are also a part of this option.

There’s also the option of a three across bench style seat in the front or two single buckets.

While there’s no doubt in my mind that the Trafic Crew would have to be the cushiest crew van currently on the Aussie market there are still some compromises in the passenger area that remind you of its vocational intentions.

 The Trafic’s well laid out interior makes for easy operation, except maybe for the ignition key
The Trafic’s well laid out interior makes for easy operation, except maybe for the ignition key

Ventilation for example is via a couple of pop and slide windows.

There are no air vents in the back, so rear-seat passengers have to be nice to those in the front to make sure that they keep the AC cranked for the comfort of everybody on board.

There is, however, a couple of 12v power outlets tucked away back there to keep the charge in passenger gadgets.

The rear passenger compartment is roomy and the seats are quite comfortable, especially when compared to competing crew haulers.

Quiet Drive

It may only be 1.6 litres, but the DCi engine is a pretty sophisticated hauler. Keeping the tacho needle in the torque range above 1500rpm makes for a civilised drive around town.

The bulkhead nicely isolates the passenger compartment and cockpit, there’s none of the cavernous rumble that you get from competing rear drive crew vans.

 Enough room for a pallet and a 1 tonne payload
Enough room for a pallet and a 1 tonne payload

Of course, from an Aussie point of view the lack of an auto means that the Trafic won’t be able to realize it’s full sales potential locally. N

ot that there are any complaints from me on that regard, the 6-speed stick shift is easy to stir and the driving position is comfortable and ergonomic.

I’m not so keen on the key card ignition though, it feels like a bit of a gimmick.

Ute or Van?

There are obvious comparisons between this van and a dual cab ute.

These days utes are getting more and more lifestyle focused and the Trafic Crew does do a better job than most in melding together a dual-purpose van.

 The Keycard ignition key feels a little gimmicky
The Keycard ignition key feels a little gimmicky

There’s also a 6-seater option.

The added bonus is also a much more usable load area and a slightly better payload capacity.

Plus, with barn doors and room for a pallet in the back, it’s a hell of a lot more versatile.

Pint Sized Petrol Kangoo

I stood in front of the little blue van, contemplating it with a critical eye. The van glared back...well...as much as a van with a happy bug eyed stare can glare.

Which of course it can’t, because it’s a van and to assign some sort of emotion or machine intelligence to it would be silly...because it’s a van.

You’ll have to excuse the Dr Seuss moment.

 Easy forklift access at the rear
Easy forklift access at the rear

Staring contests aside, the Kangoo and I have never really gelled.

It’s not because of any particular failing, it’s just because the Kangoo seems a little wonky and weird.

I think it’s just a styling thing. In fact I’m pretty sure that Renault are probably sick of me using the words "Wonky" and "Styling" in the same sentence…I’ll try to stop.

New 1.2

The short wheel base front-wheel-drive Kangoo Compact scored a 1.2 litre turbo petrol engine earlier this year, and just as significantly this also now comes with a 6-speed EDC dual clutch automated transmission.

This drive train is also shared with the Clio and Megane passenger car models though in this case with a tweak for extra torque.

This drivetrain replaces the outgoing 1.6 litre petrol and 4-speed AMT model. The little 1.2 uses forced induction to make 84kW at 4,500rpm and puts out 190Nm of torque at 2,000rpm.

This Kangoo is also offered with a 6-speed manual ‘box as well. The engine sees a 30% gain in torque over the old 1.6 it replaces and a touted gain in fuel economy at a claimed 6.2l/100km

 It all seems a little posh in the back. The seats and seating position are comfy enough
It all seems a little posh in the back. The seats and seating position are comfy enough

In the back there’s 3 cubic metres of load space and manual variants can carry 675 kg while the AMT equipped models can carry up to 540kg.

The manual Kangoo is also rated to tow 1050kg (braked).

Towing behind the auto, though, is a no-no.

Load Area Options

The baby Renault has also seen improvements in NVH with more load area insulation to address the inevitable resonant rumble from the rear.

There are plenty of load area options for the little van from a retractable roof flap over the load area to a fold flat passenger seat and swiveling load barrier.

The petrol powerplant and EDC gear box are a nicely integrated unit. As far as AMTs go the EDC auto is not bad. It does hesitate and bog down a little behind the revvy little engine but once it gets some pace up it does pretty well.

 It…..er…….took me a little while to find the key slot…
It…..er…….took me a little while to find the key slot…

Clutch engagement on the EDC auto was a little hesitant on occasion, mainly when low speed parking.

However it’s a much more decisive unit than the DSG ‘box found in the competing base Volkswagen Caddy.

The addition of a couple of extra gear ratios to the auto has dropped cruising rpm significantly which makes it a much nicer drive when cruising.

FOMO

As a base van the interior of the Compact is pretty Spartan, which makes sense as a fleet vehicle, however tick a couple of option boxes and you’ll have a touch screen media unit and a reverse camera which rounds out the Compact nicely.

The blank spots where these options sit in the dashboard on the base vehicle unfortunately remind you of what you haven’t got.

Which then makes me feel sad and unloved which then makes me want to eat burgers.

 

There’s a very definite sense of space around the driver, the windscreen and roof are a long way from the driver. It kind of feels like you are in a bubble, though not in particularly bad way.

Consequently, visibility is excellent and it’s very much at home plying the city streets. Sliding doors on both sides make for easy cargo bay access, and the load area is easy to work with.

I didn’t carry a huge of weight in the back, though I am guilty of filling it with Land Rover parts, but that’s a whole different story. Needless to say the mission was accomplished successfully.  

NVH levels are also pretty good, it is after all a little tin shed on wheels.  

Slick and Sophisticated Drivetrain

The Kangoo Compact has become quite a slick and sophisticated little parcel hauler and the driveline works well, even with the AMT.

This van has a hard job ahead of it trying to lure potential Caddy buyers into the Renault fold. But the reality is that if you’re after a little auto work van, the base Kangoo is actually nicer to drive than the V-dub around town

But it’s the Trafic that I find quite interesting. The base Crew variant is a $3,500 option over current standard van. It’s like a dual cab ute for people that dig vans and it also has the option of being a 6-seater.

And to be honest it drives better than a ute and is far more economical. It just doesn’t have the tough guy image. The lack of an auto rightly or wrongly hamstrings its appeal.

That said it’s a smart option for those that are into hauling both people and product.   

 

Specifications: Renault Trafic Crew

Engine: 1.6 litre twin-turbo diesel

Power: 103kW/340Nm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Towing: 2,000kg braked

Payload: 1,000kg

Seating: 5 (6 optional)

Warranty: 3 years/200,000 kilometres 

 

Specifications: Renault Kangoo Compact

Engine: 1.2 litre turbo-petrol

Power: 84kW/190Nm

Transmission: 6-speed EDC dual clutch automated

Payload: 540kg

Warranty: 3 years/200,000 kilometres

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