A swivelling mesh bulkhead offers a clever solution to load-carrying dilemmas and protects the driver at the same time. Steve Banner is impressed
Ever been in a situation where you have loaded your van with a stack of cartons and crates only to discover that you've got one - just one - left and there is no space left for it?
OK, you can balance it on the passenger seat - always assuming you're not carrying a passenger - and even attempt to lash it into place using the seat belt. But you know - you just know - that the first time you take a right-hand bend too quickly both it and its contents (because the lid will come off; they always do) will escape from the belt and end up in your lap.
Happily our long-term-test Phase 2 Renault Kangoo Sport 1.5-litre 90hp diesel boasts a solution to the problem, although it is an extra-cost option. Setting you back another £225 - but well worth the money - it is a folding passenger seat combined with a swivelling mesh bulkhead.
You start by folding the passenger seat flat, thereby extending the cargo floor, then you unlatch the section of bulkhead behind the seat and swing it through 180 degrees. By doing so you create a partition between the driver and the passenger area and ensure that the former will not end up wearing whatever has been placed on the load bed extension.
The extension can also be used to help accommodate extra-long items if you do not want to use the girafon; the optional flap at the rear of the van's roof through which ladders and planks can be poked.
Make sure though that any cartons, crates and so on that end up on the back of the folded-down passenger seat are not stacked too high. If they are, they will block the driver's view to the left at junctions.
Stack a load to the roof in the 3.0m3 main cargo area and you will of course be unable to see out of the glazed back doors. That's when the Renault's reversing sensors really come in handy - they should be standard on all vans in the writer's opinion - although their propensity to beep just as energetically when they get within a foot of a waving weed as they do when they get within a foot of a solid brick wall is a continued source of irritation.
Another source of continued irritation is the high level of wind noise and road roar generated by Kangoo at motorway speeds. Cramming the load bay with cargo - gross payload capacity is 600kg - helps reduce it somewhat though and the provision of tie-down points (not suitable for all types of load of course) plus the full-height mesh bulkhead means that whatever you are carrying shouldn't be joining you in the cab any time soon.
Maybe it's because everything is loosening up a little after 4,000 miles or so or maybe it's because we're subconsciously adapting ourselves to its driving dynamics, but Kangoo seems to ride and handle rather better than it did when we first took charge of it.
Flicking it along a particularly twisty, bone-dry stretch of the A40 in Gloucestershire we grew increasingly impressed by just how good its on-the-highway behaviour is these days. Maybe the extended workout it received when we took it over to the Republic of Ireland taught it some road manners.
We are continuing to get to grips with our Kangoo's standard R-Link multimedia system, which embraces TomTom LIVE satellite navigation; for which we are very grateful.
Difficulties entering the postcodes of destinations are still being experienced, although finding towns and villages themselves isn't a problem. Anybody got an A-to-Z we can use when we get there?