Renault Master van review
The Renault Master is a smart-looking large panel van with efficient engines and masses of space
The Renault Master is the biggest van for sale in the French company's line-up, and it delivers lots of space in a variety of van body shapes, as well as a number of useful conversion options. An update in 2019 introduced revised 2.3 dCi diesel engines with improved emissions, thanks to the addition of selective catalytic reduction (SCR), while twin-turbocharging helps efficiency as well as performance.
The update in 2019 also introduced a revised look for the Renault Master. It now has a more upright grille that is flanked by angular headlamps that feature Renault's signature C-shaped daytime running lights. Additional chrome trim on the nose features on higher spec models to give the van a bit more of a lift.
The updates in 2019 left the load area unchanged, save for the addition of LED interior lighting and additional internal grab handles. Cargo volumes go up to a simply massive 22 cubic metres (there are nine different panel van body styles offered, with different wheelbases, body lengths and roof heights available), while gross weights of up to 4.5 tonnes are available for those licensed to drive them.
In the cab, the dashboard was given a thorough overhaul. The new layout is logical, and sees the infotainment screen moved to the dashboard. Before the facelift, the screen was mounted where the rear-view mirror would normally sit, but now that has been replaced by a monitor for the rear camera system. It's a more logical arrangement, and glancing at the screen soon becomes second nature.
There's plenty of storage on board, with space on top of the dashboard, deep door bins, an overhead shelf and hidden storage under the twin passenger seats. It's a very practical interior, while seat comfort is good for long periods at the wheel and a high seating position giving a clear view of the road ahead.
The 2.3 dCi diesel is smoother than before, and comes in five power outputs called dCi 130, 135, 145, 150 and 180 (the dCi 130 and 145 engines are heavy-duty motors only available in the Long-Overhang body). The more powerful versions feature twin-turbochargers to smooth out power delivery, and these motors feel responsive. We tried the more powerful version in a van loaded with 640kg of ballast, and it shrugged off the extra weight with ease. The only downside is the slightly notchy manual gearbox, which doesn't quite have the same positive shift as you'll get in a VW Crafter, for example.
Because the Master is designed to carry heavy loads, the suspension can get rather bouncy when unladen. But that sacrifice isn't too great because the seats are comfortable, while the clear view of your surroundings - including that rear camera and the large door mirrors - helps to position the van. One surprise we found was that when selecting reverse, you get an image on the infotainment screen, rather than on the high-set screen where the standard rear-view camera image appears, which can be a little confusing.
Overall, though, the Master is a decent large van. With three lengths and three roof heights for the panel van, plus seven-seat crew cab, platform cab, tipper, Luton and all sorts of other conversion options available, as well as the all-electric Master ZE, there should be a Master van available to suit your work needs.
MPG, CO2 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 upgraded in 2019 with new emissions systems including selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which means the Master now has an AdBlue tank that will need refilling - although the van's trip computer between the dials will tell you when this needs to be done. These dCi engines were redesigned specifically with efficiency in mind, and Renault claims improved economy of around 2 per cent across the board, which will build up into significant fuel savings.
Official WLTP figures for the updated 2019 Renault Master vary according to body size and engine power output. The most efficient version we have figures for under WLTP testing is the smallest (but not actually very small) L1H1 with the dCi 135 engine, with an official figure of 32.5mpg. Go for the dCi 150 diesel with Quickshift6 auto box and this falls to 31.4mpg, while increasing roof height or length also has a marginally negative impact. The worst performer in the panel van range is the vast L3H3 with the dCi 150 auto set-up, which has an official return of 28.5mpg.
We've seen that real-world fuel economy is now closer to the official WLTP figures, so you can expect these kind of figures in everyday driving.
Renault has made an effort to promote its CV dealerships in recent times, with dedicated Renault Pro+ van centres appearing across the country with specialist staff and longer opening hours tailored to suit fleet operators.
Load Space and Practicality
All panel van 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 you get depends on the model length. 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 2019 update saw the addition of bright LED lighting for the load area, while new grab handles make getting in and out of the load area easier.
Business trim models come with remote locking and an immobiliser, electric heated door mirrors and an alarm, while rear-drive models also get a step at the rear doors to compensate for their higher load floor when compared with the front-wheel-drive vans. Business+ adds a Wide View mirror on the inside of the passenger sun visor, rear parking sensors and electric windows with one-touch driver’s window as part of the specification, while front parking sensors and automatic city braking are available, too.
The model range isn't easy to follow, particularly because 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 17 cubic metre 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.
If you need something more specialist than a panel van, the Master is available as a crew van, platform cab, passenger transport, dropside and tipper in single and double cab guise, a Luton low loader and box van.
Reliability and Safety
The Renault Master’s reliability record seems fairly unblemished to date, and this should continue with the revised model, because the updates use tried-and-tested tech from elsewhere within the Renault range. 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 on Business+ models 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 around £800.
Also fitted is a rear-view camera in place of a rear-view mirror. It provides a constant feed to a monitor where the mirror should be, and is a useful addition to the safety kit. It works well on the move, but be aware that if you've added a reversing camera, the images from that appear on the touchscreen on the dashboard, while the rear-mirror view switches off temporarily.
Renault also offers a range of Ready4Work racking and storage solutions for the Master. There is a Basic system or a Specialist system, for individual trades. The Specialist system comes with additional tool storage with telescopic drawer modules and additional shelving. Both systems can be included in the cost of the van and installed by the supplying dealer.
Driving and Performance
The 2.3-litre engine is of a similar size to most rivals and is one of the more refined diesel engines in the large van sector. It comes in a wide range of outputs, although the 110hp engine is no longer offered. Instead you get dCi 130, 135, 145, 150 and 180 badged models.
All bar the 130 and 135 use a twin-turbo set-up, and they're the pick of the range if your budget will stretch. Their superior performance and fuel economy should make a big difference to operators. The 148bhp engine delivers the optimum balance of performance and economy, and can be had with six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.
On the road, 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 when unladen and noise from the suspension can sometimes be heard in the cabin as the van deals with rough surfaces. In general though, the Master is good to drive, and is helped by that 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.
The high driving position means you get a clear view of the road ahead, while the big door mirrors with wide-angle sections combined with the rear-view camera where the interior mirror would normally be, mean it's easy to see the van's extremities when placing it on the road or dealing with low-speed manoeuvres.
Cab and Interior
Renault has really done its homework on the Master's cab. It's one of the best thought-out large vans, and the update in 2019 delivered some choice improvements. There are numerous storage compartments, with several 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 valuable items can be stored away out of sight.
The Renault MediaNav screen has been moved from above the windscreen to a more conventional position on top of the dashboard. It's a similar system to that you'll find in Renault's car range, so TomTom navigation is offered. The system is a little fiddly to use, but once you get used to it, it's straightforward enough.
Crew van models are fitted with seven seats and a full-height bulkhead. A range of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel means most drivers will be able to find a comfortable driving position.
The cabin is tough and well-thought out, while the redesign has given it a slightly more upmarket look than before. However, 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)