Having covered over 7,500 miles our Trafic proved itself to be a durable and practical workhorse with a lot to commend it and precious little to criticise.
OK, the power steering made some unearthly noises from time to time - loud enough to provoke concerned comments from passing pedestrians as we manoeuvred into parking spaces - and Trafic was recalled briefly because of a supposed problem with the, really rather comfortable, driver's seat. The power steering quietened down of its own accord however and the intermittent creaking that emanated from the dashboard during our first few weeks of custodianship vanished too.
What remained of course was the blind spot mirror fitted to the passenger sun visor. A simple yet brilliant idea, it allows the driver to spot cyclists sneaking up on the van's nearside and avoid squashing them.
It was a worthy winner of the What Van? Innovation Award for 2015.
Something else we'd like to applaud is the ample provision of in-cab storage space, especially the huge concealed cavity beneath the dual passenger seat. That's in addition to an almost-bewildering variety of shelves, cubby-holes and compartments.
The cavity has a dual role. Open a little hatch at the base of the passenger seat and it allows you to increase the length of the load bed and avoid having extra-long items projecting out of the twin rear doors.
We're in two minds about the ECO button. That is not because it does not work - pressing it can cut fuel usage by up to 10% by reducing engine power and altering throttle response - but because we kept forgetting to push it.
Perhaps Renault should make the ECO setting the standard one, with the button used to cancel rather than engage it.
With 120hp on offer from Trafic's 1.6-litre dCi twin-turbo diesel performance has never been an issue even with the ECO button depressed, and the slick, quick, gear change delivered by the six-speed box has allowed us to make the most of what is available. A low rear loading height and access through the nearside sliding door as well as the back doors has helped us make full use of the 5.2cu/m cargo bay; and while we never made maximum use of the 1056kg gross payload capacity, there were times when we came pretty close.
As we hurled all sorts of junk on board we were grateful for Trafic's ply-lining.
OK, it's an extra cost option, and one some operators on a tight budget might be tempted to do without. That would be a mistake however given how easily unprotected metal can be dented and scraped during loading and unloading; and dents and scrapes can eventually turn to rust.
No matter whether we were heavily-laden or almost empty, Trafic continued to offer the same compliant ride and predictable handling. Nor was in-cab noise ever an issue; not that we were able to judge if we're honest as we usually had the DAB radio at maximum volume.
We appreciated our Trafic's Business + specification because it gave us air-conditioning, the aforementioned load-through flap and blind spot mirror, and rear parking sensors. The latter are essential accoutrements for any van fitted with a full-height steel bulkhead and/or opaque rear doors.
You also get a centre seat with a back that folds down and turns into a desk.
In theory you can use it to complete your paperwork. In practice you don't because of the way in which you have to twist around in order to use it and the detachable clipboard that comes with it will eventually get lost.
So would we recommend a Trafic?
We would if Ford's Transit Custom didn't exist, but alas for Renault (and for Vauxhall, which sells a re-badged and made-in-the-UK Trafic under the Vivaro banner) it does. And good though Trafic is, it will always be in the looming shadow of the ever-present Big Blue Oval.
|Renault Trafic SL27 ENERGY dCi 120 Business +|
|Claimed combined consumption 47.9mpg|
|Our average consumption||46mpg|
|Price (ex VAT)||£20,445|
|Price range (ex VAT) £18,245-£23,455|
|Price as tested (ex VAT) £22,360|
|Gross payload 1056kg|
|Load length 2537mm|
|Load width (min/max) 1268/1662mm|
|Load height 1387mm|