Few large vans are as well known as the Renault Master. Hugely successful in its native France, the van has also gained a loyal following over here by tradespeople who not only recognise just how capable it is at carrying loads, but love its roomy and comfortable cabin. Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts checks out today’s version of Renault’s largest van.
What were you doing in 1980? Quite possibly you weren’t even born, but that was the year that Renault first introduced the Master large panel van. Even by the dubious standards present over 40 years ago, it wasn’t a pretty thing - distinctive, perhaps, but not in a good way with its externally-mounted side loading doors with bulky rollers and weird round door handles. It served its purpose, however, and sales took off quickly.
In this form, the Master stayed in production for an impressive 18 years before the more conventional looking replacement was launched in 1998. This generation of Master marked the start of a platform-sharing arrangement with Opel (Vauxhall) and Nissan - the van then being rebadged as the Vauxhall Movano and Nissan Interstar. 2003, 2010 and 2019 saw further updates and facelifts, leading us to the present-day Renault Master you can lease today.
What Body Styles & Sizes Is The Renault Master Available In?
We’re going to concentrate on panel vans here, but don't forget that the Renault Master is available in almost every shape and form as a manufacturer-supplied product. Chassis and platform cabs, tippers, dropsides, Luton and box vans - you name it, the Master is available in it. Renault specialises in passenger carrying vans, and the Master minibus is hugely popular. The van is also a favourite in the minibus conversion industry, where specialists transform the Master into mini coaches and patient transfer vehicles with disabled access. It’s not just bus conversions either, the Renault is also a popular base for making into a small horsebox.
4 body lengths, 3 roof heights, and 3 GVMs (Gross Vehicle Mass) and a choice of front or rear wheel drive form the base of the Master range - although the theoretical 72 permutations isn’t quite possible due to various restrictions. For example, RWD can only be specified on the 2 longest body variants. Despite this, you’ll be hard pushed not to find a Master that isn’t the right size and weight for your own needs. There are also crew van models for those who need additional passenger capacity - for example, moving teams between sites.
There are just the 2 trim levels to choose from, and the van is powered by a range of powerful diesel engines, or you can choose a fully-electric Master - I’ll cover these in more detail further on.
What Load Dimensions & Payloads Can The Renault Master Carry?
The smallest Master, the L1H1, has a load length of 2583mm and a height of 1700mm, giving it a volume of 8 cubic metres. This van is only available at the lowest 2.8t GVM weight, but still offers a great payload of up to 873kgs.
For something more mid-range with a nice balance of volume and payload, take the front wheel drive L3H2. It has a load length of 3733mm and height of 1894mm, which combine to provide a usable volume of 13 cubic metres, while maintaining a payload of 1384kg.
For those needing volume over everything else, take a look at the L3H3 ‘Long Overhang’ model, which (with an internal length of 4383mm) has a cavernous 17 cubic metres for you to stack your load in. If maximum payload is vital, the ultimate Master is the L1H2 at 3.5t GVM giving 1551kgs, but if you’re prepared to operate your van at a GVM of 4.5t (with all the licensing and other implications this would have) the L3H2 Long Overhang cracks the 2-tonne barrier at 2061kgs.
For access you have the typical twin rear/single side loading door arrangement, and there are plenty of lashing eyes to secure your load. As you’d expect, a full-height bulkhead protects the driver and passengers from unrestrained items entering the cab.
What Engines Does The Renault Master Use?
All the engines available for the Master are 2.3-litre twin turbo diesel units, which conform to either Euro 6D or Euro VI emission regulations. If you decide a front wheel drive Master fits the bill, you can opt for either a 110HP, 135HP 150HP or 180HP version. If rear wheel drive is your bag, slightly more restrictive options of 130HP or 145HP are available. And, if you need automatic transmission, the 6-speed unit is only available with the 150HP and 180HP engines.
Official fuel consumption figures vary depending on the model of van, but typically you're looking at 29-33mpg for the majority of the range - this drops to around 21mpg for the long overhang derivatives.
Go for FWD and you’ll benefit from a loading height 13mm lower than its RWD sibling and a greater choice of engines. Rear wheel drive tends to offer better traction, payload, and is preferable when towing (the Master also has an additional 500 kg of towing capacity when the rear wheels are driven).
The electric Master, formerly known as the ZE but now coming under Renault’s E-Tech branding, is a fully-electric van with a 57kW motor powering the front wheels. There’s just a single battery pack option with a capacity of 33kWh available, which gives the van a WLTP combined cycle range of 75 miles. This is far from class-leading and realistically restricts the E-Tech’s appeal to those operating close to base - perhaps small businesses carrying out local deliveries, or for tradespeople who tend to work close to home. Charging is pretty swift though, with the typical 7kW home or workplace wallbox getting the battery back up to 100% in around 6 hours.
Is The Renault Master Good Looking?
The Master isn’t the newest kid on the block and this is evident with the slightly-dated look. However, the 2019 update saw the arrival of the huge front grille with its integrated wrap-around bumper and high bonnet level. This is a look that most manufacturers are adopting and from this angle the Master looks up to date.
Otherwise, I suppose it’s difficult to make a large panel van look smart but the Renault is starting to show its age. Don’t forget though, most of us lease a large van to do a job, not to look pretty on the drive - the Master certainly passes that test.
What Is The Renault Master’s Cabin & Equipment Like?
The Master has always had a great cab environment, and the 2019 upgrade saw a raft of upgrades from its predecessor. If you drive a van daily you’ll know how important storage in the cab is, and Renault has excelled here. There are cup holders, trays, shelves and bins galore, together with a 7.6-litre glovebox. In addition, in the higher trim models the centre seat folds down to function as a desk, even including a swivelling laptop tray. The cab is roomy and spacious, and the dash has a car-like feel to it, with quality materials seemingly being used throughout.
The first of two trim levels is ‘Business’. As standard, you’ll find on the outside electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors and some nice C-shaped daytime running lights. In the cab, there’s a DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity and electric front windows. On the face of it, there’s little more to shout about, but where the Master scores highly is the number of driver and safety aids fitted. Every van has side wind assist, hill start assist, trailer swing assist, and the ESC system has a handy tool called Grip Xtend, which can help at times when traction is otherwise a bit ropey. For security, there’s a Thatcham category 1 alarm, but for reasons which I’m sure will be obvious to some (not me), this isn’t offered with the E-Tech.
Next up, ‘Business+’ can be identified from the outside by the presence of full-size wheel trims and some chrome trim on the front grille. In the cab, you get the centre seat back desk I mentioned earlier, and the driver’s seat includes an armrest. For comfort, there’s air conditioning and rear parking sensors to help to avoid those little knocks and scrapes.
If I’m honest, I reckon the equipment level fitted as standard lets the Master down a little. It’s one of the few (maybe one of the only) large vans that doesn’t have a touchscreen, most of which now include smartphone integration, and there’s no cruise control which is usually found on the competitor vehicles. To be absolutely fair though, the options list is long and it could be that the French manufacturer decided that customers might want to build a van to their own requirements, and not pay for items that they don’t want or need.
What Servicing & Warranty Plans Does The Renault Master Have?
All Master vans have a 3-year/100,000-mile warranty. Service intervals are every 2 years or 24,000 miles - but the E-Tech requires an initial service on its first birthday, or at 12,000 miles if sooner.
The Verdict: 4/5
What I like about the Renault Master is that it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It is a price-competitive workhorse that won't let you down, so put it on your list! There are few bells and whistles, and the Renault can hardly be described as being decorated like a Christmas tree - but a large van needs to earn its keep and the Master does what it says on the tin. Yes, maybe it is lacking a little in creature comforts compared to the competition, but don’t overlook that extensive options list.
There’s a great choice of engines and I know the range on the E-Tech isn’t fantastic, but with so many van operators working close to home, don’t be too quick to rule it out. I love the cabin, it’s one of my personal favourites – for the van driver who uses the van as his or her workplace for 8 hours a day, the room and storage on offer will be much appreciated.
If you enjoyed this article take a look at this one that puts the Renault Master and Vauxhall Movano large vans head-to-head. Or, head to our van lease offers.