The Master has always been a versatile van, but the third generation takes that quality to new heights, as Ian Shaw finds out
The original Master, built from 1980 to 1998, was designed from the inside out, giving it excellent load volume and ‘egg-box’ external styling. The second generation from 1998 to 2010 went for a more aerodynamic shape, but was no less a serious working tool for all that, and sired both the Vauxhall Movano and Nissan Interstar versions.
In 2010 the third generation appeared, taking versatility to a new level, offering an even greater mix of shapes, sizes, and a choice of either front- or rear-wheel drive derivatives. In all, these include gross vehicle weights ranging from 2.8t to 4.5t; panel van, chassis cab, chassis double cab, and chassis cowl (for minibus builders) versions; and front or rear-wheel drive depending on the version, and with single or twin rear wheels. In the panel van model, which we are most interested in, all that can add up to 17m3 of load volume and a 2254kg payload. The panel vans have three wheelbase sizes – 3182mm, 3682mm and 4332mm – with a short or long rear overhang, giving a total of four load bay lengths up to 4383mm, plus three roof heights. For this model, Renault increased the side loading door aperture to 1270mm, with a lower loading height at the rear of 542mm for the front-wheel drive models, rising to 672mm for the single-wheel rear-wheel drive version and 700mm for the twin-wheel derivative.
The payload is equally impressive: the front-wheel drive versions have a payload of between 994kg and 1684kg while rear-wheel drive panel vans can carry 1397kg for 3.5t GVW versions and up to 2254kg in the 4.5-tonner.
In 2010 Renault used three power outputs of its widely respected Euro4 2.3-litre dCi, motor with 100hp, 125hp and 150hp all generating maximum torque at just 1250rpm. From 2011, the same unit complied with Euro5 emissions legislation by using a particulate filter in the exhaust, so check that short-run daily use has not caused it to become blocked and bring on an engine warning light.
On the reliability front, we have heard of few issues with the third-generation Master. There was a recall for both the seat belts and seat fixing/adjusting mechanism across the range; however, most problems seem to stem from the rear-wheel drive versions, with wheel bearing, halfshaft and differential issues all being documented. Check the VIN number with a Renault van dealer to ensure these have been done, since none are a cheap fix. Otherwise, we have heard of a few niggles involving the central locking and minor electrical gripes.
Overall, though, with so many model variations, strong engines and impressive payload and load volume figures, the Master represents real value in the used van market.
There are plenty of Masters on the market, but we have stuck with 3.5t panel vans here. They start as low as £3250 for a 3.5t medium wheelbase 2010 on a 10-plate with a rather eye-watering 290,000 miles behind it. A slightly newer 11-plate 200,000-miler commands just £3500, while a grand more will bag you a 2012 62-plate 190,000-mile, long-wheelbase medium-roof version.
Jump to £8250 and we found a one-owner from new, long-wheelbase medium-roof model from 2013 on a 63-plate with 65,000 miles on it, boasting satnav among its attributes.
Find £10,000 and you get a 2014 14-plate, medium-wheelbase, standard-roof, 125hp van with less than 40,000 miles on the clock.