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Expert Review

Renault Master Panel Van (2020) review

Rejigged engines and updated safety technology are the highlights of a 2019 update that make the Master a bit more compelling, but still short of the class best.

The Auto Trader expert verdict:

3.1

The Renault Master is one of the elder statesmen of the large van class. It isn’t alone in being rather long in the tooth though, and it is not set to be replaced for a few years yet. The addition of new technology is welcome, particularly as some of it is centred around safety, while the updated engines bring emissions compliance and strong on-road performance if not huge strides forward in terms of power.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickStrong updated engines
  • tickElectric option on sale
  • tickWide range of body styles

At a glance:

Cargo & practicality

There is an impressive amount of diversity from the Master range, with three heights and four lengths on offer and a choice of front- or rear-wheel drive models. You can also get a twin-rear axle on larger models to boost the van’s robustness and interior space. The biggest of them all is only available in rear-wheel drive, and comes with a huge 17 cubic metres of space in the rear, but the extra weight of the rear-wheel drive models means that this isn’t the version to go for if you want to carry more weight. The version with the biggest payload is the front-wheel drive short version with the medium roof – this can take in excess of 1550kg. The electric model still offers a decent payload, too, even if Renault reckons that the courier market that is after such a van is more about space than weight carrying ability. There are four different sizes of Master Z.E. and even the least capable can take a 975kg payload. The loading bay itself is pretty standard, with new LED lights offering a welcome level of visibility. There are eight lashing points and one side door as standard, while the rear doors open to 180 degrees as a matter of course.
Expert rating: 4/5

Interior

The Master’s cabin is, as to be expected for a van that was first launched in 2010, some way short of the classiest and most modern among its rivals. There are very few frills when it comes to the materials around the cabin and on the dash. Everything has a rigid, plasticky feel to it, and there are several large gaps between the panels that just wouldn’t feature on more recent rivals, while there can be a notable degree of flex on certain elements of the dash There are several blanked off panels too – the left-hand drive model gets some clever features such as a desk that slides out of the dash, but sadly these don’t make it to the right-hand drive market. The storage offering that we do get in the UK is impressive, though, with several open and closable boxes on the top of the dash and a couple of good-sized cup holders. A full-width parcel shelf above your head, a large glovebox and plenty of space in the doors mean that the cabin is well thought out. The dedicated slot for a mobile phone is a handy and often overlooked element in a van, and that it comes with the ability to spec wireless charging is a particularly welcome factor. The most recent update has brought a welcome addition in the form of the new, smart, infotainment system. It is a simple-to-use affair that integrates well with smartphones through the Android Auto and Apple Carplay systems. It also plays host to the reversing camera, which is another recent and useful addition. One Master oddity remains though. A second screen sits where the rear-view mirror would otherwise go. This plays host to the new rear-view assist system, which is essentially a camera pointing out back to act as a rear-view mirror. Handy, even if it is odd that the reversing camera image appears on the lower screen rather than on the top one.
Expert rating: 2/5

Running costs

The Master is also one of the few large vans to be offered with an electric version. While buying a Master Z.E. is not cheap, with prices starting in excess of £57,000, running one should be. Services will crop up every two years or 25,000 miles, so won’t sting you for costs all that often. MPG figures are yet to be confirmed for the UK, but the Master has always traditionally sat about centre in its class for economy. The lack of drastic changes to the engines mean that this position is unlikely to change – expect a best of about 40mpg.
Expert rating: 4/5

Reliability

With almost a decade of experience of making the current generation of Master, Renault should have the process well practiced by now. There have been comparatively few recalls for the third generation of Master – just the one – and the shared parts and development with the likes of the Vauxhall Movano and the Nissan NV400 mean that repairs should be easy to come by. The warranty is the standard Renault offering, with cover for three years and 100,000 miles. Renault is also confident enough to add three years of roadside assistance to run alongside the standard warranty.
Expert rating: 4/5

Performance

The added bonus of Renault working to meet the latest Euro6d-TEMP emissions regulations is that the Master’s engine range gets a working over. The result of that is a boost in power for several models. However, none of them get more than a 10-horsepower increase, and they remain the same 2.3-litre engines as before in almost every way. This extends to the way they drive. That said, the amount of performance on offer is impressive, and the big engines haul the large Master around with aplomb. They pull particularly well from low revs and the range topping 180 horsepower model offers an excellent amount of power on the move, and is particularly adept with a large load in the back. Some models are not keen on low-speed manoeuvres in anything other than first gear, meaning that you’ll spend more time changing gear than you might like in order to avoid stalling.
Expert rating: 3/5

Ride and handling

Moving the Master around is relatively easy, thanks in part to the relatively light steering. The most recent update brings some welcome tech that helps with the on-move experience, too – side-wind assist is now included across the range, bringing the Master up to the class standard. One big downside on the move is the noise – the driving experience is loud in the Master, partly because of the engines and partly because of the sound deadening, or lack of that lets in a fair amount of road noise. This is particularly true with the rear-wheel drive models, which suffer for having more moving parts underneath the cabin. However, this is an accusation that can be levelled at several of the Master’s otherwise more refined rivals, too, so it isn’t alone in this regard. The Master’s ride isn’t as smooth as, say, the VW Crafter and Mercedes Sprinter. It is a bit bouncy at lower speeds, particularly with only a light load in the back. This does improve as you load up the rear, which means this won’t be a concern for many users.
Expert rating: 3/5

Safety

The Master was lagging behind the rivals in the class before the 2019 updates, which brought several key additions to the safety kit list. The rear-view assist is a handy and notable one as the camera display on the top part of the windscreen acts as a rear-view mirror for panel vans with solid rear doors. It’s a first for the segment, but expect to see it in other models soon, especially given it has already appeared on smaller models like the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo. Side wind assist is the big arrival, though, as it was poor that it wasn’t offered previously given pretty much all the major rivals had it. Thankfully it is standard across the range. It’s a shame that the advanced emergency braking is only an optional extra, though. Front park assist and blind spot warning are the other two new additions.
Expert rating: 4/5

Equipment

Picking a Master trim is relatively simple as there are only the two main models on offer – Business and Business+. The basic kit on the entry level model is pretty good, with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and a USB connection all included. More old-school music devotees will be pleased to see you still get a CD player, too. A full-steel bulkhead, an alarm, immobiliser and at least eight rear anchoring points (you get 10 in the longer models) are all included. Adjustment for the seat is decent, as it goes up and down and comes with lumbar support. The wheel only goes up and down, though. The Business+ adds rear parking sensors, a wide-view mirror in the passenger sun visor for looking down the blind spot, more lidded storage and a 12V socket in the load area. It is a shame you have to step up to this trim to get air conditioning, though. Renault regularly runs special editions, too, which tend to come with a similar level of kit to the Business+ model but with more visual upgrades such as stickers and interior embellishments.
Expert rating: 4/5

Why buy?

The Master falls some way short of the class best in some areas, with the cabin and the ride the most notable. More recent rivals have moved the game on in those areas, making the Renault feel outdated on both fronts. It is still an adept performer when it comes to hauling loads, though, and the newly added safety kit and technology means that it won’t feel like a total old timer compared to the competition.
Expert rating: 3/5

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