Keith Andrews X-Class Dec17

People mover par excellence - Renault Master Minibus

 

Renault New Zealand is gaining more traction locally by supplying its medium wheelbase mid-roof L2H2 Master van and minibus to a corporate tourism operator.

Words: Robert Barry   |   Photos RB

Renault Commercials New Zealand is gaining more traction locally with its line up of light commercial vehicles by supplying its medium wheelbase mid-size roof L2H2 Master van and minibus to the fleet of a corporate tourism operator.

The Renault Master L2H2 12-seat minibus with automatic transmission arrives in New Zealand as a glazed van, and the PSV compliant seating and luggage barrier is fitted by a local coachbuilding supplier to factory standards, allowing Renault Commercials New Zealand to offer Kiwi customers the full three-year 100,000km factory warranty.

Normally the automatic version of the Renault Master minibus would retail for $81,650 when brand spanking new, however Renault Commercials New Zealand currently has one-year old ex corporate vehicles with less than 20,000km on the clock on sale from $61,990 with the balance of the new warranty remaining.

Because Renault designed the Master as a multipurpose vehicle to carry people as well as cargo the front cabin and dashboard offers some really useful functionality and amenity, it’s almost like driving a mobile office.

Renault is capturing new buyers in the tourism and aged care markets with it's locally built minibus.

There is a refrigerated glovebox, twin overhead shelves above the driver and front passenger, as well as an A4-sized storage bin built into the top centre of the dashboard plus numerous cup holders, and a mobile phone and coin holder.

As you would expect from Europe’s number one selling light-commercial brand the Master Minibus comes equipped with traction control, cruise control, Bluetooth telephony, central locking, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, and an engine immobiliser to protect it from miscreant thieves.

A reversing camera is standard in all NZ-bound Master Minibus models.

The driver’s seat is fully adjustable for height, reach, and rake. There’s a left hand armrest and it was comfortable place to be seated for long periods thanks to the lumbar adjustment.

Not only can you walk through the front cabin with ease thanks to the layout, and due to the lack of a bulkhead between the front and rear cabins, access is made easy between the two as well.

All the rear passenger seats have individual three-point lap and diagonal seatbelts and the entire Minibus fit out is done to Renault Factory standard by a New Zealand coachbuilding specialist.


Renault LCV offers two versions of its 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder diesel engine in the front-wheel-drive Master van range for the New Zealand market.

There’s a single turbocharged variant offering 110kW/350Nm which is exclusive to the AMT automatic models such as the vehicle on test, or a more powerful twin-turbocharged 120kW/360Nm engine which is exclusively mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Automated manuals transmissions (AMT) using a single clutch gained a reputation for being jerky, shuddery, indecisive, and generally horrible, particularly some from other European brands.

Not so with the six-speed unit fitted to the Master Minibus. It is quite an intuitive unit and will quickly learn a drivers style of acceleration and braking, but equally it will also allow driver to use the transmission in manual mode should they wish to.

We took the test vehicle on a day trip from Auckland to Hamilton, which would be a routine drive for many tour or shuttle operators, to gauge the vehicle’s level of performance and economy.

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The AMT acquitted itself faultlessly by happily changing down a gear or two when we were braking heavily on a downhill gradient, or when climbing uphill it would sense the need to shift down without much prompting.

The 2.3-litre turbo-diesel engine proved to be quiet and economical, our average fuel consumption was well under 9L/100km, although we would expect with a full load of passengers and luggage on board that this might increase a little.

For a large front-wheel-drive commercial vehicle the Master Minibus is surprisingly nimble on its feet and very easy to maneuver thanks to a relatively tight turning circle of 13.6 metres kerb to kerb.

It has positive and responsive power steering, and there’s no sign of any torque-steer through the wheel when accelerating briskly off the line or out of a corner.

While the Master Minibus feels car-like to drive, it doesn’t drive like a car. It does have a higher centre of gravity just like many light commercial vehicles and demands respect when driven on winding country roads, least you want some passengers to suffer from motion sickness.

In a straight line down the Motorway it’s a quiet and comfortable cruiser with a bit of wind rustle around the upper windscreen pillars, but nothing of consequence. Tyre roar is also muted across hot chip seal road surfaces which dominates our state highway network.

For many years the Minibus and smaller passenger coach market was dominated by the Japanese brands but now sensing an opportunity as the tourism and aged care markets continue to grow strongly in New Zealand, Renault LCV has struck a good time to boost its presence here with product that has local content within it.

The company has a dedicated technical centre for its LCV division in Villiers Saint-Frédéric, France, where the Master and its smaller siblings the Trafic and Kangoo which are also available to the New Zealand market.

The Renault LCV technical centre’s facilities and engineering teams develop and test new vehicles, including the production of prototypes and simulation work for global markets including our own.

Renault has been the leading light commercial vehicle brand in Europe for more than 18 years, and the company believes its current three-product offer encompassing high levels of safety, proven reliability, and competitive running costs will find favour amongst Kiwi buyers.

Deservedly, Renault LCV New Zealand has one foot in the corporate tourism door with the Master Minibus and we can’t see why more shouldn’t follow.

The Stats

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Model Renault Master Minibus

Price $81,650   Engine 2299cc, 4-Cylinder, 110kW/350Nm

Transmission 6-speed robo manual

Service 40,000km intervals, 3 year / 100,000km warranty

Vitals 8.7L/100km, 3510kg GVM, 1583kg payload,

2500kg towing capacity, 1927kg kerb weight