Master Stroke: 2017 Renault Master SWB


Renault New Zealand are targeting tradespeople and owner-drivers with the short wheelbase Master automatic as an alternative option to the Trafic manual.

Words: Robert Barry   |   Photos RB
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It’s a short but tall van which offers a loading volume of 8 cubic metres within a vehicle that’s just just over five metres in length, notably shorter than some mid-size utes.

Thanks to its more compact dimensions, the Master SWB panel van will more than easily fit into city-sized parking spaces negating the search for a loading zone, and its relatively small turning circle of 12 metres allows drivers to get in and out of them more easily.

this Master van is ideal for moving bulk or bulky goods around the city

It will easily swallow two 1200 x 1200 pallets thanks to its shorter and wider frame which means that a wide variety of van users from tradies to couriers to service providers will find this Master van is ideal for moving bulk or bulky goods around the city.

The Master SWB provides 1.6 tonnes of payload, 2.5 tonne braked towing capacity and an internal load length of more than 2.5 metres, and because it’s a front wheel drive model, it offers a low step-in height to the load bay, greatly reducing fatigue for drivers hopping in and out of the van all day.

Despite a smaller overall size, the Master’s cabin continues to provide three-abreast seating up front. Or if you’re riding solo, the middle-seat backrest can flip forward to provide a handy centre tray workspace.

The cabin and dashboard offers useful functionality and amenity, such as 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.

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.

As you would expect the Master 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 thieves.

A reversing camera is a standard feature in all New Zealand bound Master models.


Renault offers two versions of its 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder diesel engine in the front-wheel-drive Master 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.

Automated manuals transmissions (AMT) using a single clutch gained a reputation for being jerky, shuddery, indecisive, and horrible.

Not so with the six-speed unit fitted to the Master. 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.

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 though we would expect with a full load that this might increase.

For a large front-wheel-drive commercial vehicle the Master is surprisingly nimble on its feet and very easy to maneuver. 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 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 with a load on board.

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. Tyre roar is also muted across hot chip seal road surfaces.

The Stats

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Model 2017 Renault Master SWB panel van auto

Price $53,990   Engine 2299cc, 4-Cylinder, 110kW/350Nm

Transmission 6-speed auto

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

Load 8m3 volume, 2583m length, 1700m height

Vitals 8.7L/100km, 3510kg GVM, 1694kg payload,

2500kg towing capacity, 1816kg kerb weight

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