Not all van drivers and drivers’ mates are as young, slim and spry as they once were. In some cases they need a wee bit of help from a handily placed grab handle when they are hauling themselves up into the cab for another hard day’s graft.
Ideally, the handle should be large, easy to grasp and mounted on the A pillar, the pillar that divides the door aperture from the windscreen. Unfortunately, our long-term test Master is bereft of such aids, leading to a good deal of puffing and dark mutterings from one of the cab’s regular occupants.
The only handle fitted is one that sits above the passenger door aperture – fine if you desperately need something to cling on to when the driver is thundering down the M5, but not so great if you want to use it as a cab-access tool.
Try to employ it in that role, and you will quickly discover that it is difficult to reach. What is more, it is invisible if you are standing on the pavement, and you have to grope around in order to find it.
Once you are safely aboard, however, you soon realise how good the all-round vision from the cab is thanks to a deep windscreen and deep door windows, large exterior mirrors with a lower wide-angle section, and the cleverly conceived wide-angle mirror set into the passenger-side sun visor. It covers the blind spot on the van’s nearside and is becoming an increasingly important safety aid.
The Covid-19 pandemic plus some hot summer weather appear to have combined to trigger an outbreak of cycling mania.
Every time the Master stops at the traffic lights you can guarantee that a couple of Lycra-clad pushbike riders will try to sneak up on the inside, oblivious to the fact that the driver has signalled that he is turning left and that they risk getting crushed. The wide-angle mirror means that whoever is behind the wheel can see them, and is proving to be a potential lifesaver.
It is of far more use than the permanent rear-view camera, which annoyingly switches itself off whenever you engage reverse, which is when you actually need it. The camera is of limited use, and frankly not worth the money.
Returning to regular motorway driving post-lockdown, one characteristic of the Master that immediately stands out is its stability at speed. It feels firmly planted on the highway, which breeds confidence if you are having to tackle an extended intercity trek.
Worthy of mention too is the effective air conditioning system, which cools the cab down quickly. The light that tells you whether it is on or off could stand to be brighter though – a minor point, agreed, but minor criticisms can loom large if you are sitting in the same cab day after day.
Happily there have been no further unexplained triggerings of the Master’s alarm – a relief to the van’s regular custodian, and to his neighbours.
Fuel consumption has remained at the same level, and I’m going to try to improve it by making more regular use of the Eco button on the dashboard. Doing so alters the van’s torque settings and rate of acceleration among other functions, and should hopefully cut diesel usage by up to 10%.
I cannot help but wonder why Renault doesn’t make Eco the standard setting, and provide the driver with a Power button instead if a bit more performance is required, if you are tackling a steep hill with a full load on board, for instance. The problem with the Eco button is that people can forget to press it, and burn more diesel and emit more CO2 as a consequence.
Report card: Equipment = 4/5
One or two omissions, but most of what you need is there.
Renault Master LM35 dCi 150 Business+
Official combined fuel economy 47.1mpg
Our average consumption 43.0mpg
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