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MASTER & COMMANDER? (some text hidden)
By Jonathan Crouch
Introductionword count: 92
The third generation of Renault's huge Master van, launched in 2010, was tasked with living up to its name by lording it over LCV rivals in the large van sector. From launch, the headlines looked as promising as this LCV's more assertive styling. Front wheel drive versions were more affordable to buy and run, while rear wheel drive models could handle much heavier loads. As a result, this Renault proved able to handle tough competition in the large van sector far more easily. But does it make sense as a used buy?
Modelsword count: 5
Large-sized van (2.3 CDTi diesel)
Historyword count: 145
The Master has been around in one guise or another since 1980, with that first generation model lasting for 17 years. Its 1997 replacement stuck around for a mere 13 years until the third generation Master appeared in 2010, continuing to share its design and all its engineering with two key segment competitors, Vauxhall's Movano and the Nissan NV400. All three of these LCVs were substantially upgraded in 2019, but it's the pre-facelift MK3 model we're going to look at here. Packing up a Master is no small task, given loading capacities of anywhere between 8 and 18m3 in standard van models. And the torquey 2.3-litre dCi engine can haul big weights too - up to 4.5-tonnes, if you're really piling on the pounds. This diesel unit was used throughout the 2010-2019 period, but in 2018 an all-electric Z.E. version was added to the range.
What You Getword count: 731
For most businesses, aesthetics will be of limited importance when it comes to their choice of van, but even so, this MK3 Master took care to smarten up its act in third generation guise. The tall, thin double-optic headlamps and the cheesegrater front grille are distinctive, while a thick bumper adds aggression to the front end, curling up at the edges to protect the corners from knocks. Renault was also kind enough to cut steps into the bumper so that owners could get a leg-up when cleaning the windscreen. Side rubbing strips are a boon along the flanks too. Inside the cab, an extra 5.7cm of vehicle length means that there's more comfortable room for three, though the centre seat passenger's space is still rather narrow with knee room slightly compromised by the cup holders and storage provided by two centre-mounted bins. There isn't quite the same kind of soft touch, granite build quality you'd find in more expensive Volkswagen or Mercedes rivals but fit and finish certainly improved over the previous model and what the Master lacks in tactile feel, it more than makes up for in practical touches. Both seat and wheel are height-adjustable and there's a minefield of storage options inside the Master's cab (150 litres in total), from the usual door bins, overhead shelf, cup holders, chilled glove boxes and cubby holes to compartments for laptops and sunglasses, plus original buyers could have an optional clipboard that folds out of the dash for holding invoices, maps or delivery notes. Not quite so neat is the positioning of the grab handle you grasp on entering the cab, stuck above the door pillar rather than being more naturally placed on the A-pillar. The overhead positioning of the digital tachograph slot (necessary for those venturing above 3.5 tonnes) isn't ideal either. Which shouldn't detract from the fact that overall, this is a beautifully thought out cabin. Highlights include optional touches like the huge, split storage area under the passenger seats, accessible simply by flipping up the cushions. Then there's the way the centre seat backrest folds down to create a table that uniquely swivels towards the driver. And the sat nav screen that folds out of the roof, incorporates real time traffic information to guide you round jams and includes MP3 and Bluetooth compatibility. Of the four vehicle lengths, L1 and L2 were produced for front wheel drive customers, whilst the huge L4 bodyshape (two metres longer than Renault's enormous Grand Espace people carrier) was solely for rear-driven variants. It's the mid-range L3 bodyshape that'll probably suit most customers though and this came in either layout. Depending on your choice between three body heights (H1, 2 and 3), that means cubic metre capacities that run from 8 to 14.8m3 for front wheel drive models and between 12.4 and 17.0m3 if you opt for rear wheel drive (though with a Luton conversion, you can push this up to as much as 22m3). That kind of carriage capacity can mean a lot of weight, so it's just as well that an extra 4.5 tonne gross vehicle weight option was added into the top of this Mk3 model range, sitting above more familiar 2.8, 3.3 and 3.5-tonne variants. As a result, payload capacities can run from 994kg to as much as 2254kg. At the business end, there are the usual twin side-hinged rear doors opening out to 180-degrees and which can optionally extend to 270-degrees. As for getting stuff in, well, the loading height is usefully low at 548mm (or 674mm with rear wheel-drive) and there's a wide aperture of 1724mm in height and 1580mm in width once you've lumped your cargo up to floor level. Once inside, there's 1765mm of width, narrowing to 1080mm between the wheelboxes. Alternatively, there's a sliding side door, which is 17cm wider than it was on the previous generation model, offering an opening 1684mm high and 1270mm wide: a sliding door on the opposite side was optional but included on all models is a full width bulkhead to stop stuff sliding forward into the cab with you. Which is a scenario the numerous tie-down points are in any case there to prevent. Many models will have as many as 14 to choose from. A useful shelf above the cab area, accessible only from the loadbay, is useful for tucking away lashing straps and other bits and pieces.
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