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First drive: Renault plans to Master large van market

In the van: Renault's new Master has already racked up 100,000 sales in Europe.

All-new Master to give Renault more bite in light commercial vehicle market

16 Feb 2012

RENAULT – western Europe’s long-reigning king of light commercial sales – will attempt to broaden its reach in Australia’s LCV market with the launch of its new Master large van range.

With refreshed looks, medium and long wheelbase versions with the same mid-height roof, a new Euro 5 diesel engine and the choice of six-speed manual or semi-automatic transmissions, the new model replaces the slow-selling previous generation that went on sale here in early 2007.

Medium wheelbase variants kick off from $43,990, an increase of $4500 over the previous generation entry-level model. The long-wheelbase body style is an extra $1000, while the semi-automatic transmission adds another $2500.

Renault is the clear leader in western Europe’s LCV market, having held the sales crown for the past 14 years with its Kangoo, Trafic and Master range. Since its launch on the continent in early 2010, the brand has already sold more than 100,000 new Masters.

Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said the brand was confident the New Master would be even more popular than the previous iteration. “We are working hard on extending the reach of our LCV dealer network,” he said.

As we have reported, Renault experienced 89.9 per cent sales growth in 2011, largely thanks to the relative success of its volume-selling new Megane hatch, cabriolet and Sport line-up launched in late 2010.

However, the release of a new Kangoo compact van in December 2010 and a facelifted Trafic medium van in March 2011 saw sales boosts on both models of 320 per cent and 59.1 per cent respectively in 2011, from low bases.

35 center imageThe sole powerplant offered is a dCi turbocharged four-cylinder unit channelling 107kW and 350Nm of torque (between just 1550rpm and 2750rpm) through the front wheels – a jump of 19kW and 50Nm over the previous 2.5-litre model.

This Quickshift transmission allows the Euro 5 emissions-compliant engine to return fuel economy figures of 8.5 litres per 100km (the manual is 0.5L/100km thirstier), equating to a theoretical range of more than 1200km from its 105 litre diesel tank.

The fitted-for-life timing chain, coolant that lasts 60,000km and 48 months, 20 per cent longer lasting brake pads, stronger clutch and maintenance-free exhaust system particulate filter are all sure to appeal to delivery drivers who rack up a lot of clicks.

The French brand claims big improvements in ride and handling over the old model. At the front is a MacPherson strut set-up with anti-roll bar, while the rear single-leaf springs are equipped with long polyurethane bump stops to aid ride comfort.

Active safety is catered for by ABS brakes with emergency brake force distribution, stability control (ESP) and ASR traction control. Twin front airbags and three-point pre-tensioned seatbelts are also standard fare.

The optional $1890 Safety and Security Pack adds head and thorax airbags, automatic headlights and front wipers, an alarm, heated rear window and cornering headlights.

The ventilated front discs are 302mm, while the 305mm solid rear discs give the Master stopping performance at the pointy end of the class, with the laden big van able to come to a complete halt from 100km/h in 44.7 metres.

A dash button automatically engages second gear to ease take-off in slippery conditions and another that changes the clutch mapping when carting heavy loads.

Medium wheelbase models have a turning circle of 13.6 metres, while the long wheelbase variants manage 15.7 metres. Steering in both configurations is 3.76 turns lock-to-lock.

The three-seater cabin (single driver’s seat and a two-passenger bench) is 57mm longer than before, bringing claimed improvements to legroom, while Renault also offers a fully adjustable suspension seat as an option for long-distance drivers.

A glazed steel bulkhead and twin mass-damping flywheel bring claimed improvements to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, particularly at low speeds.

An Australian standard cargo barrier is fitted as standard, while storage locations include a full-width shelf above the windscreen, laptop-sized dash-top cubby, tray above the 7.6 litre chilled glovebox and four cupholders.

Despite the addition of the bulkhead and cargo barrier, the new Master offers similar cargo space as the previous model.

The MWB model accommodates 10.3 cubic metres – big enough for two standard Australian pallets – while the LWB variant fits 12.5 cubic metres (three Australian pallets.) Both body styles feature a 1200mm wide kerb-side sliding door that fits a single pallet, while the rear barn doors open to 270 degrees.

MWB variants are 5548mm long, 2470mm wide including mirrors and 2481mm high – about the same as a LWB Ford Transit.

LWB versions of the Master (6198mm long, 2470mm wide and 2492mm high) are, in turn, close to (but slightly smaller than) the Jumbo LWB Transit.

The payloads are 1645kg and 1602kg for the MWB and LWB respectively, while towing capacity is listed as 2500kg braked (750kg unbraked).

The new model features a sleeker front-end design than the previous generation that includes a bold three-bar grille and large headlights, while the asymmetrical side windows, steeply-sloped bonnet and higher (by 49mm) driving position have improved all-round visibility.

Clever steps have been integrated into the front bumper to make it easier to clean the windscreen.

The large array of colours include white, red, bright orange, dark and light blue, dark green and yellow, while the metallic Star Grey and Grey Blue hues cost an extra $1000.

Standard equipment includes cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors, driver’s seat armrest, electric windows and mirrors (with smaller integrated blind spot mirrors), manual air conditioning, MP3-compatible sound system, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a pair of 12-volt outlets.

The optional $1490 Premium Pack adds an integrated TomTom satellite navigation system that folds down from the roof and sits above the rear view mirror, as well as a rear parking camera with its screen fitted to the driver’s sun visor and a USB stereo input.

It should be noted that earlier this month Fiat fitted a similar TomTom navigation system to its Ducato large van range as standard equipment.

A rotating table on the seat backrest, floor anchorage points, front and rear mud flaps, protective plastic side mouldings and a full spare wheel with a cover mounted under the body are also fitted.

As with all Renault commercial vehicles, the Master is covered by a three year/200,000km factory warranty plus three years of 24-hour roadside assist.

Service intervals are either 15,000km or one year, whichever comes first.

The Master was designed and engineered in partnership with General Motors, which markets it as the Opel Movano. Renault’s alliance partner Nissan also offers a version of the van in Europe called the NV400.

The industrial co-operation between Renault and GM dates back to 1996, and both the Master and the Movano are built exclusively in Batily, France.
Renault Master pricing (plus on-road costs):
MWB $43,990
MWB (a) $46,490
LWB $44,990
LWB (a) $47,490

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