Steve Banner waved the Master off with a largely favourable end-of-term report, but was more impressed with some features than others.
After almost 1,600 miles I have now parted company with our long-term test Renault Master. Had I been driving it last year the mileage would have been far higher, but the restrictions on travel imposed at the height of this year’s Covid-19 pandemic meant that it was limited to short journeys on local highways for several weeks.
The time I spent in it allowed me to draw a number of conclusions about the vehicle and its advantages and drawbacks, however. So here goes.
On the plus side it handles remarkably well for a van of its size. Nimble and sure-footed, it tackles tight bends with confidence, always feeling firmly planted on the highway.
The Master rode well and performance was seldom an issue even with the eco button depressed. It alters the van’s torque settings and rate of acceleration among other functions, and should cut diesel usage by around 10%, says Renault.
Fuel consumption was respectable even without the eco button’s help.
By the time I returned the vehicle to Renault I was still averaging around 45.0mpg over a mixture of A, B, C and narrow, twisting unclassified rural roads – the height of the driving position and the deep windscreen made it relatively easy to spot tractors coming the other way – with more and more motorway work possible as the pandemic rules gradually relaxed.
I had 450kg in the back for much of the time. Front-wheel drive equals a low cargo bed, which made the Master easy to load, especially given that the cargo space was accessible through a sliding door on each side as well as through twin rear doors.
The Master’s gear change cannot be classed as the smoothest in the world and Renault needs to tighten up on build quality. There were far too many creaks, squeaks and rattles for comfort.
I could see little point in the optional permanent rear-view camera given that it did not operate when reverse was engaged, and the satellite navigation system was so confusing and counter-intuitive that I eventually gave up on it. I blew the dust off my trusty old Garmin and stuck that to the windscreen instead.
On the other hand, the air-conditioning system was marvellously effective in blazing-hot summer weather, and whoever invented the intelligently conceived wide-angle mirror that is set into the passenger-side sun visor deserves a major road safety award.
With the coronavirus making the use of public transport less attractive than it used to be, more and more people are taking up cycling instead. That means more and more riders who might be tempted to sneak up on the inside of a light commercial vehicle halted at a junction, ignoring the risk that it might be about to turn left – with potentially calamitous consequences for them.
The mirror allows the driver to spot them and take steps to ensure they are not hurt. The presence of optional electronic blind spot monitoring plus an optional advanced emergency braking system made the Master even safer – but it is the simple yet effective wide-angle mirror that sticks in the memory.
Safety = 4/5
Love the wide-angle blind-spot mirror to bits, but the optional permanent rear-view camera is a novelty that is not worth the expense.
Options list = 4/5
Comprehensive, but one or two of
the items listed (cruise control for instance) could stand to be included in the basic specification.
Driving = 3/5
Handling is exemplary and both the ride and the performance are acceptable, but a smoother gear-change would have been appreciated.
Load bay = 4/5
Low loading height is to be welcome when you are heaving heavy items on and off the cargo bed, and access from three sides was a real advantage.
Cabin = 4/5
Roomy with comfortable seats and plenty of places to put oddments. Grab-handles were poorly sited, however.
Build quality = 3/5
There are too many squeaks and creaks, which means that there is definite room for improvement.
Overall score = 73%
Renault Master LM35 dCi 150 Business+
Official combined fuel economy 47.1mpg
Our average consumption 45.0mpg (est.)
Price range £26,350-£37,020
Price (ex VAT) £33,000
Service intervals 2yrs/25,000mls
Load length 3,733mm
Load width (min/max) 1,380/1,765mm
Load bay height 1,894mm
Load volume 13.0m3
Gross payload 1,359kg
Engine size/power 2,298cc/150hp