Renault’s large van, the Master, has tended to be overshadowed by its bigger-selling siblings, the medium-sized Trafic and compact Kangoo, not to mention better-known names in the large van sector itself.

But What Van? recognised the myriad strengths of the Master, which was facelifted last year, by crowning the model its Light Commercial Vehicle of the Year 2020, together with the Vauxhall Movano.

The Master first appeared in 1980, but since the second generation arrived in 1998 it has provided a platform for the Vauxhall (and Opel) Movano.

Both vans are assembled at Renault’s factory in Batilly, France. This arrangement, however, will come to an end in the next few years when the Movano will come under the umbrella of Vauxhall’s new owner, the PSA Group, and likely become a rebadged version of the Citroen Relay and Peugeot Boxer.

Renault took the wraps of its revised Master in April 2019, revealing a handsome van sporting a restyled front end, with an elevated bonnet line and revised vertical grille, along with a new C-shaped lighting signature.

Changes have also been made to the cabin, including a revised dash and instrument panel, a fully integrated touchscreen and increased storage, up to 105 litres.

New LED lighting and entry and exit handles have been added to the load area. Engines are 2.3-litre diesels, available with up to 180hp and, depending on the version, compliant with Euro6d or Euro6d-Temp (6.2) emissions standards. These are paired with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.

Front-wheel drive (FWD) panel vans are generally more compact and come in L1, L2 and L3 lengths. They offer payloads up to 1,623kg with load volumes going up to 14.8m3, while rear-wheel drive (RWD) versions, which are L3 and L4 lengths, offer a top payload of 1,207kg for 3.5t models and a maximum load space of 17.0m3.

The Master also provides the basis for Renault’s off-the-shelf Pro+ conversions, a Luton box van, Luton Loloader, tipper and dropside, as well as remaining the backbone of the Accredited Converter scheme.

Renault’s LCV boss in the UK, Steve Whitcombe, is keen not to understate the van’s significance. He comments: “The Master has long been a competitive vehicle in the large van segment, and the recent updates have strengthened the competitiveness of the product, including new engine technologies, which have improved efficiencies and reduced TCO.

“The new Master’s qualities have obviously been recognised by What Van? judges, and we are delighted, as the accolade is held in high regard by van buyers.”

Whitcombe acknowledges the Trafic will always be a core model for Renault but adds that the improvements to the Master allow the brand to compete across the board. He adds what is in today’s market an increasingly important point, that “with Master and Kangoo [Z.E.s] we have established all-electric vans ideal for small businesses and large corporate fleets”.

The compact Kangoo Z.E. is well established, having blazed a trail for electric vans across Europe, and Whitcombe says the Master Z.E. is now moving the game on.

“We are committed to developing our established electrified LCV model range, and the Master Z.E. has proven popular with large corporate companies with challenges in last-mile delivery,” he explains.

While Whitcombe could not disclose details about Renault’s future product plans, he says the manufacturer’s strategy is to maintain its position at the forefront of emission-free technology.

“We will continue to expand the choice for customers of electrified LCVs,” he says.
Renault is also working to ensure its dealerships are prepared to sell electric vans.

“We are honing the Pro+ [retail] network of specialists, with renewed training on both selling and maintaining electric vans and ensuring that the facilities are well suited for our product offering.”

Hydrogen Kangoo And class=

Renault has produced hydrogen-electric versions of its Kangoo and Master

(Continued from page 1) Whitcombe adds that within its fleet field team Renault has dedicated EV fleet support specialists, who work with businesses and public sector bodies on a consultancy rather than sales basis to explore whether the switch to electric is possible and beneficial for them.

“We are unique in offering such a resource,” Whitcombe claims.

 As a result of its well-established supply chains (Renault has been making and selling electric vans since 2011), he says the manufacturer has been able to supply customers with electric vans with comparable lead times to internal combustion engine (ICE) variants.

“This ability to supply world-class all-electric vans has seen major fleets approach us, as we capitalise on the growing demand for these vehicles,” he says.

Aside from plug-in electric vans, Renault has recently produced hydrogen-electric versions of its Kangoo and Master with respective ranges of 230 and 217 miles, according to the manufacturer. So, is there a market for these vans in the UK, which is behind other countries in exploring the potential of this fuel source? (There are currently just 14 charging stations in the UK.)

“Whilst the infrastructure for hydrogen is in its infancy in the UK,” says Whitcombe, “there is growing interest for hydrogen-powered vehicles, and Renault UK is exploring with our customers possible opportunities.”

The brand has not abandoned diesel yet, however, and has this year launched a sporty and highly-specced Black Edition to sit at the top of its Trafic range.

Whitcombe expects the model to appeal to owner-operator customers looking for a style-led mid-size van. He adds that its residual value forecast in comparison to the established Sport trim has indicated its desirability with a 2.2% uplift.

Whitcombe reckons van buyers are increasingly turning towards higher trim levels.

“There is a growing demand for higher-specification models. Whether it be user-choosers looking for more style and car-like comfort and convenience, or company fleets choosing to look after their drivers with comprehensive ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) features to protect their wellbeing and reduce accidents,” he observes.

So what’s in the pipeline for this year? Well, a new Kangoo based on the 2019 Kangoo Z.E. show van will be launched for a start.

The Kangoo, of course, is the model that Mercedes’ Citan is based on, but Whitcombe is a tad coy when it comes to revealing whether this arrangement will continue, while acknowledging that platform-sharing deals are strategically important for manufacturers from a financial perspective.

“Groupe Renault will continue to explore all partnerships that allow us to bring world-class products to market whilst sharing economies of scale and development costs with like-minded partners,” he says.

The government has set a deadline of 2035 to phase out the ICE, and Renault appears to be better prepared than most for an alternative future.

“If government continues to support businesses to switch to electric, then we could anticipate a reduction in diesel van volumes,” says Whitcombe.

“Currently, Renault is working to offer customers a wide choice of powertrains across all our products to best meet the needs and usership of LCV buyers.”