Renault Master review
Renault's large panel van, the Renault Master has a vast model range, a well-thought-out cab with plenty of storage space
The Renault Master range was launched in 2010 on a shared platform with the Nissan NV400 and Vauxhall Movano. The range is comprehensive, with numerous different body styles in the front and rear-wheel-drive line-up with 4x4 conversions also available. Load capacities now extend up to 17m3 in the L4 H3 panel van version and gross vehicle weights of 2.8, 3.3, 3.5 and 4.5 tonnes are offered.
Debut, Core and Sport are the trim options and all models are powered by the same 2.3-litre diesel engine, available with power outputs of 108bhp (dCi 110), 123bhp (dCi 125), 133bhp (dCi 135) or 163bhp (dCi 165). A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, operated from a dash-mounted gearshift. Alternatively, the Quickshift6 automated transmission, based on the same gearbox, offers clutchless, automated changes.
Renault’s flair for interior design gives the Master a well thought-out cab with a wide choice of storage spaces (150 litres in total) and ideas for drivers who use the cab as a mobile office. Build quality may not match that of the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter or VW Crafter, but the Master feels well put together.
MPG and Running Costs
Fuel consumption will vary according to model and use but generally the Master returns good fuel economy for a large van. The 2.3-litre engine was designed specifically with this in mind and these days the range is split between the less powerful single turbo models and the range topping twin-turbo units.
Taking the core of the range as an example, the medium-wheelbase medium-roof (L2 H2) front-wheel-drive models can be driven by all car licence holders, and all return more than 35mpg on the combined cycle. That should mean that mpg in the high 20s should be within reach for most operators.
Thanks to the addition of twin-turbo technology in the more powerful Master models, there's now quite a fuel economy gap in the middle of the range. The dCi 110 entry-level engine returns 36mpg or 38mpg if you add Renault's Start & Stop tech. It's a similar story with the dCi 125 model but the twin-turbo dCi 135 engine manages an excellent 41mpg, the same combined cycle return as the range-topping dCi 165.
Service intervals are set at 25,000 miles/24 months, only bettered by the Fiat Ducato at 30,000 miles. The Master needs fewer visits to a dealer than either the Ford Transit (20,000 mile intervals) or Mercedes Sprinter (24,000 miles intervals).
Load Space and Practicality
All models of the Renault Master come with a full-height steel bulkhead to help protect cab occupants from a shifting load and there are load-lashing points in the load floor – the number depending on the model. An unglazed nearside sliding side load door is also standard equipment, while the rear doors open to 180 degrees and are also unglazed as standard.
The entry-level Debut model comes with the basic equipment and no options apart from metallic paint. So, if you want remote central locking – a useful way to keep loads secure while unloading – and other desirable extras you need to buy the Core and Sport versions.
The model range is not easy to follow, particularly as body sizes overlap – the FWD LWB load space is the same length as the RWD MWB load space, for instance. The largest of all, the RWD long-wheelbase, high-roof model has the largest body available in the range with a 17m3 load volume.
The sliding side door is 1,050mm wide on short-wheelbase models and 1,270mm wide on larger models, so a Euro pallet will fit in either way. For single rear-wheel models, there is 1,380mm between the wheel arches – so again a Euro pallet will fit. Although twin rear-wheel models can carry the greatest load, it narrows the gap between the wheel arches to 1,080mm, so a Euro pallet would only fit through end on. The Master’s payload is comparable with its rivals although the likes of the Mercedes Sprinter and IVECO Daily will carry more.
Reliability and Safety
The Renault Master’s reliability record seems fairly unblemished to date. The Master now offers electronic stability control (ESC) as standard along with Hill Start Assist, load adaptive control and trailer sway control. There's also a Wide View Mirror behind the passenger sun visor that lets the driver see into the van's bind spot and an Extended Grip mode that helps the van get moving on slippery surfaces. A passenger airbag is an option, included in a package with side airbags for £770.
Driving and Performance
The 2.3-litre engine is of a similar size and power output to most rivals and is one of the more refined diesel engines in the large van sector. You can get 108bhp versions with all front-drive vans, but restricted to short and medium-wheelbase, rear-drive models. While that entry-level unit is best suited to short-trip urban work, the 123bhp version is a more capable all-rounder, offering a good performance/economy compromise.
The more powerful twin-turbo versions are the pick of the range if your budget will stretch. The superior performance and fuel economy should make a big difference to operators. The 133bhp dCi 135 is a strong unit but the range-topping dCi 165 (163bhp) is stronger still and offers greater refinement.
On the road, the Master's steering is on the light side and this can be an issue when you're trying to position the van on the road. The ride isn't as smooth as the Ford Transit's either and noise from the suspension is prevalent in the cabin as the van deals with rough surfaces. In general though, the Master is good to drive helped by its impressive range of power options.
The standard full-height bulkhead helps to limit road noise from the load area and overall noise levels are generally quite acceptable. All models are equipped with a gear change indicator to suggest when to change up or down for best economy.
Cab and Interior
Renault has really done its homework on the Master's cab and it's one of the best thought-out large vans. There are numerous storage compartments, with several door pockets and storage spaces in each door, including space for a two-litre drinks bottle. The dual-passenger seat cushion lifts up to provide a large storage space where expensive items can be stored away out of sight.
Options include a clipboard, which slides out of the dashboard like a drawer and can then be set vertically to hold documentation. Another option provides a folding seatback for the centre seat, which is fitted with a swivelling tabletop, which can be used as a laptop table.
The optional TomTom sat-nav screen is mounted in an unusual position up above the windscreen. The navigation system itself works well but using the infotainment system would try the patience of a saint. It's far from intuitive and finding your way through the menus is not easy.
Crew van models are fitted with four seats and a full-height bulkhead. This provides seating for a driver and up to six crew. A range of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel means most drivers will be able to find a comfortable driving position.
Although it's tough and well-thought out, Master's cabin is starting to show its age a little. Rivals incorporate more of a car like feel with higher quality materials and more attractive design. Renault's effort does the job, however, and that's what really matters.
|FWD SWB low-roof van||2,307mm||2,070mm||5,048mm|
|FWD SWB medium-roof van||2,496mm||2,070mm||5,048mm|
|FWD MWB medium-roof van||2,499mm||2,070mm||5,548mm|
|FWD MWB Crew Van medium roof||2,499mm||2,070mm||5,548mm|
|FWD MWB high-roof van||2,749mm||2,070mm||5,548mm|
|FWD LWB medium-roof van||2,488mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|FWD LWB high-roof van||2,744mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|RWD MWB medium-roof van SW||2,527mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|RWD MWB high-roof van SW||2,786mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|RWD MWB medium-roof van TW||2,549mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|RWD MWB Crew Van medium-roof TW||2,549mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|RWD MWB high-roof van TW||2,815mm||2,070mm||6,198mm|
|RWD LWB medium-roof van TW||2,557mm||2,070mm||6,848mm|
|RWD LWB high-roof van TW||2,808mm||2,070mm||6,848mm|
Width including mirrors 2,470mm
Load area dimensions
|FWD SWB low roof van||1,700mm||1,765mm||2,583mm||8.0m3|
|FWD SWB medium roof van||1,894mm||1,765mm||2,583mm||9.0m3|
|FWD MWB medium roof van||1,894mm||1,765mm||3,083mm||10.8m3|
|FWD MWB Crew Van medium roof||1,894mm||1,765mm||2,175mm||6.9m3|
|FWD MWB high roof van||2,144mm||1,765mm||3,083mm||12.3m3|
|FWD LWB medium roof van||1,894mm||1,765mm||3,733mm||13.0m3|
|FWD LWB high roof van||2,144mm||1,765mm||3,733mm||14.8m3|
|RWD MWB medium roof van SW||1,798mm||1,765mm||3,733mm||12.4m3|
|RWD MWB high roof van SW||2,048mm||1,765mm||3,733mm||14.2m3|
|RWD MWB medium roof van TW||1,798mm||1,765mm||3,733mm||12.4m3|
|RWD MWB Crew Van medium roof TW||1,798mm||1,765mm||2,825mm||8.3m3|
|RWD MWB high roof van TW||2,048mm||1,765mm||3,733mm||14.2m3|
|RWD LWB medium roof van TW||1,798mm||1,765mm||4,383mm||14.9m3|
|RWD LWB high roof van TW||2,048mm||1,765mm||4,383mm||17.0m3|
Width between wheel arches 1,380mm SW, 1,080mm TW (SW single rear wheels, TW – twin rear wheels)
- Power: 108bhp – 163bhp
- Weight (GVW): 2,800kg – 4,500kg
- Payload: 994kg – 2,254kg
- Loading height (approx, unladen): 542mm – 724mm