RENAULT’S third-generation Trafic has been a quiet achiever since production began in 2014, consistently selling in healthy quantities behind rivals from Toyota and Hyundai despite not enjoying quite the same volume of fleet sales as either of them.
Eight years on, the arrival of fresher van product like the Toyota HiAce, Volkswagen Transporter and Hyundai Staria Load have been shining some harsh light on the Trafic’s wrinkles – principally outdated in-car tech and a lacklustre safety fit-out – however the Trafic now benefits from a facelift that attempts to correct both of those shortfalls.
You can find out more about the full list of changes at GoAuto’s price and features story, but here’s the executive summary: all Trafic variants are now powered by the 125kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel as standard, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure warning (LDW) is now standard across the range, the front end is thoroughly redesigned, the dashboard is entirely new, the door cards are reprofiled and tow capacity has been raised to a very handy 2500kg for the base model Trafic Pro short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase manual.
There are other detail changes too – such as a 29kg increase in max payload for LWB variants and the addition of active cruise control, blind spot monitoring, tyre pressure warning and speed sign recognition for Premium and Lifestyle grades – but the vast bulk of the changes are concentrated ahead of the B-pillar.
Do the changes go far enough? Sure, the van segment moves at a much slower speed than passenger cars and SUVs – and indeed utes – but van owners and operators certainly don’t deserve to be saddled with yesterday’s tech, so how does the Trafic’s 2023 fit-out shape up?.
The elimination of the low-output 1.6-litre diesel from the range is also a welcome change, but while entry models now enjoy a lift in power, torque, fuel efficiency and (in some cases) towing and payload capacity, the powertrain rejig and plumped-up safety suite also sees the price of admission soar to $48,00 for the Trafic Pro SWB manual.
Renault isn’t too worried by the added cost. The company’s Australian distributor Ateco says the core Trafic customer has been transacting at or around that level for a while now, and it has no qualms about leaving the ‘budget van’ segment to the likes of low-cost brands like LDV – which is another brand it distributes in this country.
The Trafic is largely pitched at owner-operator tradespeople, the kind of folk who see value in paying a bit more for a better product.
So is the rejuvenated Trafic indeed a better product? We travelled to Sydney to put some miles on the dial of the mid-spec Trafic Premium in order to find out.