Van of the Year - Renault Master and Vauxhall Movano

Date: Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Given the close similarity between these Renault Master and Vauxhall Movano twins, it seems only fair and right that we make them share What Van?’s 2011 Van of the Year Award.

Impossible to separate, the Vauxhall Movano and Renault Master were launched in spring 2010 as the latest joint development between the
two brands, and the massive step forward in the latest- generation models was obvious from the outset.

The two are now available in, for the first time, rear-wheel drive with either two or four wheels at the back, as well as with the front-wheel drive also offered with their predecessors. The vans therefore span a wider weight range, with a 4.5t gross vehicle weight version available, and payloads stretching from 1000kg-2254kg. Power comes from three outputs of a new 2.3-litre diesel engine – 100hp, 125hp and 150hp – and there is a total of four load lengths and three roof heights.

We sampled various versions of both models over the course of 2010, and our conclusion can be summed up by the verdict taken from the Movano’s UK road test: “Its engines, its handling, its build quality and the sheer breadth of the range should give the competition some sleepless nights, and customers a lot more choice”.

But probably the key reason for handing the top What Van? award to these models is a cabin that is a step-change over the predecessor, and probably the best in the market in terms of layout and usability. Remarkably well thought-out and stacked with useful storage, the biggest worry with the Movano and its Master sibling is remembering where everything has been stashed. Each of the three-man cabin’s doors have four separate compartments, three separate overhead shelves, a deep glovebox, smaller holes at either end of the dashboard, and three other shelves across the dashboard. On top of that, an array of extra storage can be added from the options list, making it the most comprehensive cab in the business. 

On the road, the two vans are both sure-footed and stable, while offering decent levels of ride comfort, especially once there’s a load in the back. Loading is easy, while a couple of good-quality interior lights will be a boon in the darker winter months in particular.

Refinement impresses in both the Movano and the Master, and the steering offers plenty of reassuring feedback to relax drivers, helped by a slick gear shift. The 100hp entry engine is fine for urban-based work, but stepping up the range will make more sense for longer journeys or anything heading towards the maximum payload.

Pricing puts the two models somewhere in the middle of the market, above the Citroen/Fiat/ Peugeot trio of rivals but below the likes of the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter, while running costs are helped by good quoted economy and emissions figures. The range kicks off from a very competitive official fuel economy of 35.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 211g/km, although the rear-wheel drive versions drop away from that to 30.4mpg and 247g/km.

All models get a 100,000-mile three-year warranty, and service intervals of 25,000 miles.

The one fly in the ointment that could have cost the Movano and Master twins the title was the lack of standard ESP anti-skid control. Only fitted to the rear-wheel drive variants as part of the standard offerings, it’s a £400 option on the rest of both the Master and Movano ranges and is something we’d recommend all responsible operators opt for. In fact, we know of some companies that won’t even consider acquiring vehicles where it’s not standard. It’s a feature we’d hope to see added to the standard kit list in the future.

But overall, the Vauxhall Movano and Renault Master are new models that impress in many ways, and demonstrate a huge step forward in quality, appeal and choice over their predecessors. The addition of a rear-wheel drive version is a particular area of opportunity, giving some competition to vehicles such as the Ford Transit, Iveco Daily, Volkswagen Crafter and Mercedes Sprinter that had traditionally had the big boys’ playground to themselves. The new Vauxhall and Renault vans add some genuine improvement to a van market already offering better quality product than ever before, and are worthy winners of our 2011 Van of the Year title.

The Master and Movano also take the top spot in the large panel van category, with a Highly Commended prize going to the Mercedes Sprinter. The first large van to meet Euro5 emissions regulations in 2009, the Sprinter has continued to impress. We’re a fan of the cabin build quality, performance and handling, while safety equipment is also top notch. Although prices start high compared with rivals with less prestigious badges, residual values are untouchable, which means overall running costs impress.


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