Renault launches its revised master this month during a period when the competition in the heavy van sector is reaching unprecedented levels.

The French brand’s contender has its work cut out: Ford and Mercedes are widely acknowledged to have raised the bar in terms of refinement and safety with their respective Transit and Sprinter models, Iveco has a durable and competent new Daily coming imminently, and the partnership between PSA and Fiat has spawned refreshed versions of the Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato.

With three lengths, three roof heights, front- or rear- wheel drive, five 2.3-litre diesel engines and a wide range of conversions on offer, customers do not lack for choice. In fact, Renault says 120 derivatives are available in the UK.

Available in two trim levels, Business and Business+, prices for the panel van range from £21,120 to £32,470, Crew van prices go from £27,000 to £29,500, and the Conversion line-up starts at £23,300 and rises to £33,600. All prices listed exclude VAT.

The panel van comes in short, medium and long wheelbase modes, and renault has now introduced a new L4 single rear-wheel drive version aimed at delivery companies. Low, medium and high roof heights are offered and the master weighs in at, 2.8, 3.3, 3.5 and 4.5 tonnes.

The revised Master features new 2.3-litre twin-turbo engines with power output hiked up to a maximum 165hp but with fuel consumption improved, according to the manufacturer. Outputs range from 110–165hp, up from 100–150hp on the previous iteration, with the more powerful 135hp and 165hp versions being more efficient than their 110hp and 125hp stablemates thanks to the use of twin-turbo technology, says renault. these units achieve an impressive combined cycle fuel economy figure of 40.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 180g/km.

All engines in the line-up are mated to six-speed manual or Quickshift6 transmissions.

Renault has raised standard equipment levels on the revised master. the entry-level business gets rake-adjustable steering, esC with hill-start assist, and the Grip Xtend traction control system, plus DAB radio with Usb connectivity and bluetooth.

The higher specification business+ offers additional kit such as air-conditioning, clipboard holder, hands-free key (although this was not yet included on the van we tested), pivoting seatback table with dual split underseat storage, rear parking sensors and the innovative Wide View mirror introduced on the new trafic, which is set in the passenger side sun visor and is designed to improve, and effectively doubles, the line of sight to the rear.

An extensive options list includes cruise control with speed limiter for £250, climate control at £950 (or a £200 upgrade on business+), and Renault’s integrated Carminat

TomTom satellite navigation with radio, CD, bluetooth, USB and fingertip controls for £650. Also available is air suspension for £2000, auto lights and wipers, plus front fog lights at £250 and cornering lights for £130. Renault says customers could save money by grouping three or more items together through a selection of five options packs.

The brand, however, is particularly keen to draw attention to the changes it has implemented under the bonnet with its facelifted van.

It says the two single-turbo units producing 110hp and 125hp are particularly adept in urban environments carrying moderate loads, while the twin- turbo engines at 135hp and 165hp are suited for intensive use with heavy loads and for longer journeys.

The company claims the twin-turbo energy dCi 165, driven here as a FWD Lm35 long-wheelbase medium roof business+ panel van, drinks up to 7.3mpg less than its predecessor, which was powered by the dCi 150hp engine. Official combined fuel consumption on this version is 40.4mpg with CO2 of 184g/km. by way of comparison, the Citroen Relay 35 L3H2, which has an almost identical payload (1525kg versus the Master’s 1530kg) and the same 13.0m3 load volume but a less powerful 130hp engine, puts its fuel economy at 38.2mpg with CO2 of 195g/km.

To achieve similar economy to the Renault van in the 2.0-tonne Ford transit line-up you would have to opt for the 125hp 330 L3H2 FWD econetic version, which offers an official 40.9mpg with CO2 of 179g/km. but you’d have to settle for reduced loadspace of 11.5m3 and a payload of 1279kg.

Renault says the small turbocharger generates increased torque at low revs with maximum torque available at 1500rpm to enable better acceleration, even when fully laden. At higher revs the bigger turbo takes over providing more power and a broad range that reduces the need to shift down.

The twin-turbo engines incorporate stop-start and renault’s energy smart regeneration technology, which recovers energy when braking. We found the stop- start system worked efficiently and with the minimum of fuss in urban situations, cutting the engine quickly when the van came to a standstill and firing up again the moment the clutch was dipped. Less impressive were the rear parking sensors that come as standard on business+ but otherwise cost £200. they bleep timidly as you back the LWB master’s considerable bulk into tight spaces, making you grateful for the decent wing mirrors with wide-view angles.

The steering is precise in tight city streets and on winding rural roads, taking the strain out of manoeuvring a vehicle of this bulk, and the six- speed shift proved to be reliably crisp under all conditions.

Once out on the motorway the van happily settles into sixth gear at 50mph. the efficient cruise control system optioned on our van reduces fatigue on long journeys and comes with a speed limiter that can be set at 58, 62 or 68mph to keep fuel consumption down.

The description of an LCV’s interior serving as a ‘mobile office’ is becoming tediously overused, but Renault does seem to have taken this concept to an extreme by equipping the Master’s cabin with more stowage facilities than any other van on the market. If you want to lose your house keys, this is the place to do it. In total, Renault claims the Master’s cab boasts 150 litres of storage space.

Much of this is accounted for by a large space underneath the passenger seats, which
is not compartmentalised to enable it to hold larger items. The overhead shelf, however, is split into two with a tachograph holder in the middle. Pulling down the middle seat back reveals a desk with a swivelling table that can hold a laptop. The unit also incorporates two cup holders, (yet another) small oddments bin, and a stationary tray.

We liked the retractable clipboard built in to the dashboard that can hold documents such as delivery notes without impeding the driver’s vision, though it does block the aftermarket-looking stereo’s buttons, and the shelf integrated into the centre of the dashboard top to hold A4 documents or a laptop is also a nice touch. Open shelves sit either side of this.

There’s also a tray above the chilled glove box, which is not lockable, a mobile phone holder and a 12V power point. An intriguing feature that may prove handy for drivers passing through toll booths or car park payment points is the coin holder that looks like a miniature bicycle rack. Oh, and there’s three coat pegs behind the seats.

The load bay can be reached through twin rear doors that can swing open to 180 degrees or through a sliding door on the nearside of the van.

Our model came with full-height ply-lined side panels and a ply-lined floor with a resin protective coating – a worthwhile addition for £400 to protect the cargo bay against damage.

A useful shelf is built into the load box above the cabin at the top of the full bulkhead.

For an extra £600 our test van came with automatic headlights and wipers and the style pack, which costs £500 as a standalone option. It consists of front fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels, which are less useful on a hard-working van in our opinion.



Intelligent upgrades include very efficiernt and powerful  new twin-turbo engines.