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Renault Master holds its own in a crowded market
As a large panel van, the Renault Master is up against plenty of competition, but its cargo space, fuel efficiency and pleasant drive mean it is more than able to hold its own.
The Master is aimed at van leasing customers looking for a vehicle to transport large loads over long distances and it fulfils this role with aplomb thanks to its generous cargo area, which measures 3,733 mm in length and is 1,765 mm wide, narrowing to 1,380 mm between the wheel arches.
It can carry a payload of up to 1,530 kg and offers plenty of ways to load the cargo, with conventional rear doors and a sliding side door making the process that little bit easier when parked up in towns and cities.
The long wheelbase version of the Master delivers a pretty reasonable 35.3 mpg and 125 bhp from its 2.3 litre engine, translating to a torque of 310 Nm at low revs, up by 10 Nm on its predecessors. This makes it easier for drivers to transport heavy payloads in adverse weather conditions and on tricky road surfaces.
Renault has kitted its Master range out with plenty of features in a bid to help it stand out from the crowd.
The entry-level Master Debut panel van has a six-speed gearbox, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a full-steel bulkhead.
An electronic immobiliser, Renault Anti-Intruder Device, electronic windows and deadlocking are among the additions to the specced-up Debut Special Edition, while the Master Van Sport also comes with cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, and front fog lights.
All of these factors persuaded What Car? magazine to name the Renault Master as its van of the year and large panel van of the year for 2011.
But What Car? isn't the only publication to be impressed with the latest generation of the Master.
Handing the van a score of four stars out of five, Parkers said the Master represents an excellent compromise between affordability and performance.
The buyers' guide was particularly satisfied with the Master's strong range of diesel engines, the large amount of cabin storage, the wide variety of body styles and its excellent practicality.
Although it said the van's interior does not look as stylish as some of its rivals, Parkers insisted that this lack of aesthetic quality is offset by its durability, meaning the Master should be more than capable of standing up to the toil of being a commercial vehicle.
Its versatility is underlined by the selection of 40 body options, four vehicle lengths and the choice between front and rear-wheel drive.
Summing up the Master, Parkers commented: "It feels solid and durable enough to take on the tough daily wear and tear that occurs in vans as well as providing the huge amount of stowage space needed both in the cabin and load area."
Honest John, which is more used to reviewing cars, was impressed by the Master's on-road ability, declaring the handling of the 3.5 tonne rear-wheel drive version to be "surprisingly light and easy".
"Part of the route was up an unmade road over a hill, which the twin rear wheels took in their stride," the website stated.
The reviewer reported few differences when driving the front-wheel drive 125 PS model, except that it had a little more bite at the front.
Equally impressed was ecoVansA2Z, which said the French automotive giant has "hit the spot" with its latest version of the Master.
The reviews site explained that it had no problem with recommending the panel van, but would have preferred electronic stability control to be available as standard across the range.
Renault Master Van Review is brought to you by our motoring professionals at Vanarama.