WE’VE had to get in a big supply of Yorkie bars here at Fleet Towers ready for driving the latest addition to our long-term test fleet.
The reason is that this Renault Master is the biggest vehicle we’ve ever had on the fleet and one which – for those who don’t drive vans regularly – will certainly sort the men out from the boys.
The Master range is also badged as the Vauxhall Movano and Nissan Interstar, but the other manufacturers don’t offer a stonking great version like this.
Launched last year, this Master features a jacked-up chassis-mounted body, twin rear wheels and a 3.0-litre turbodiesel offering 156bhp and 258lb-ft of torque.
But here’s the twist – despite its muscle-bound proportions (and its £26,095 ex-VAT pricetag), this van only has a payload of 897kg, whereas for just over £20,000 you can buy a front-wheel drive medium wheelbase model with 1,621kg. So who is going to stump up the cash for such a van?
Renault bosses believe that it will be bought by firms in the construction industry which need a van that can cope with rough surfaces. And of course, the separate chassis means the Master can be ordered as a meaty dropside truck. On the outside, there is no mistaking that this van is a bit special. It stands higher than most others and comes with side steps to help occupants climb aboard.
The bottom part of the van is completely swathed in plastic guards (top marks there, Renault) and at the rear is a massively-engineered step which will prove a nasty surprise for any car driver who happens to accidently run into the back of it.
The cab is much the same as with other Master models – the driver’s seat is firm and supportive and standard specification includes a radio/CD player and ABS brakes but driver and passenger airbags are disappointingly a paid-for option at £440 ex-VAT.
Other options that might be worth considering include air-conditioning at £650 and a reversing alarm at £120.
Our test vehicle features a full bulkhead which rather restricts the amount of legroom. As a lanky specimen of 6ft 3in, I only just fitted in behind the wheel.
In the rear, the Master boasts a reasonable load volume of 14 cubic metres, but it might be easy to overload this model, bearing in mind its diminutive payload. Our van is the most powerful you can get in rear-wheel drive format. There is also a 115bhp version available, along with two double-cab versions and two chassis cabs with similar power outputs.
On the road, the Master towers above most vans of this size and feels more truck than light van. The power steering is weighted just right but the dash-mounted gearstick on our test model feels quite notchy.
The gearing is quite low too – first will only be needed on a rough building site with a full load on board. The van will happily pull away in second and will glide along nicely in fifth at quite low speeds.
Several testers have already booked it for a variety of reasons and it will be interesting to see how they fare, as some of them seem to be under the misapprehension that it is the same as your average bog standard Ford Transit. They will learn!
What we expect
THIS vehicle is certainly going to test the parking skills of our staff.
Manoeuvrability problems apart, the Master is going to form a small but important part of our fleet and several testers have already booked it for various weekend activities such as furniture removal and rubbish clearance. And that Nissan-sourced engine is so far proving a real gem.
The manufacturer’s view
‘WE know that some of our key customers have been seeking a rear-wheel drive version of the Master and we’re obviously delighted to be able to meet this demand. The benefits of rear-wheel drive are clear for certain customers requiring extra traction on difficult surfaces, or for towing.’
Mark Lovett, manager, LCV fleet sales, Renault
Model: Renault Master RWD 3.0 dCi 160 MWB
Price (ex-VAT): £26,095
Insurance group: 11
Combined mpg: n/a
Test mpg: n/a
Gross vehicle weight: 3,500kg
Load volume: 14 cubic metres
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,825/18%
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles
Equipment and options
- Radio/CD player
- Dual passenger seat
- Remote central locking
- Twin rear wheels
- Halogen headlights
- Anti-slip load area floor
- Steel bulkhead
- Driver/passenger airbags £440
- Traction control £140
- Satellite navigation £1,250
Total options: £1,830
Standard price (OTR): £26,095
Price as tested: £27,925 (all prices exclude VAT)