THE latest member of the ever-burgeoning Renault Trafic family is this natty nine-seat minibus.
Since its launch in 2001, the Trafic – and its twin brothers the Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan Primastar – have been steadily adding new models.
First there was a long wheelbase version, then high roofs, followed by a 2.5-litre diesel engine which boosted power from 100bhp to 140bhp.
The minibus takes the Trafic into previously uncharted territory and its stylish exterior and car-like driving qualities are bound to appeal to those with a need to transport a driver and eight passengers in comfort. This model – in short wheelbase format – comes in two guises, offering payloads of either 900kg or 1,100kg.
Both feature a silky smooth 1.9-litre common rail diesel powerplant offering 100bhp and 177lb-ft of torque and standard specification includes a six-speed gearbox, double side sliding doors, ABS brakes and ESP traction control. Prices (ex-VAT) are £15,563 and £16,040.
Behind the wheel
I MUST have driven more versions of this van than any other in my career and every time has been a sheer delight. I can’t think of another commercial vehicle that quite manages to combine so much style, comfort and sheer driveability.
Many van manufacturers boast that their vehicles have a car-like feel, but few come as car-like as the Trafic, so any drivers taking to a minibus for the first time will not feel intimidated. And with glass panels all round, reversing should prove a doddle.
The driver’s seat adjusts in all directions and is firm and supportive on long journeys, with a good deep squab. In the rear, the outer middle seats tilt forward for easy access to the back seats and the surprise here is that even for lanky specimens of 6ft 3in like me, there is plenty of legroom in the third row. Access to the rear is via a tailgate and even with all the seats in the upright position, there is still plenty of room for luggage, unlike some of the Trafic’s rivals.
Firing up the engine shows just how much sound-proofing this vehicle has. It’s uncannily quiet, allowing everyone on board to talk to each other without shouting.
Under way, the Trafic is a nimble performer and it is top marks to Renault for including traction control as standard, although we were disappointed to note that a passenger airbag is a paid-for option at £220. Other accessories include electric windows and mirrors at £275 and air-conditioning at £650. For those intending to carry paying passengers, that ‘luxury’ may prove more of a necessity.
THE Trafic makes a superb van – and now it’s a superb minibus, too. We’d have no hesitation in recommending it.
Model tested: Renault Trafic nine-seat minibus
Payload (kg): 900/1,100
Max power (bhp): 100
Max torque (lb ft): 177
Prices (ex-VAT): £15,563/£16,040