Video test – Renault Trafic SpaceNomad (2022): comfortable vanlife comes at a high price

In short

Converted van

2.0L 170hp diesel engine

Tested model: 72,300 euros

Available from 61,900 euros

Our contemporaries are freedom lovers. And they are ready to do anything, or almost, to enjoy it without hindrance. According to a recent survey, 44% of them are ready to become “vanlifeur” and consider spending their holidays in a converted van. A number of 8 points since 2021. The reasons for their choice are clear for some of them, and more unclear for others.

Thus, although it can be considered that these modified utilities have the advantages of a car, for their easy handling, their lower costs than a motorhome, and it is easier to parking, the lower cost argument, placed at 31% of it, is surprising to say the least. least.

The fact remains that the enthusiasm for this type of machine is not denied (sales increased annually by more than 20% for two years) the manufacturers are tempted to seize a market that, until now, is in the hands of specialized companies (Pilote). , Font Vendôme, Rapido, Hymer, etc.). Suddenly, Volkswagen with the T6 California, Mercedes and the Marco Polo, Ford and its Transit Custom Nugget, entered the dance while Renault played with indifference. It’s over. After a trial in Switzerland and Belgium, rhombus now offers a version of Trafic adapted and called SpaceNomad in France.

Video test – Renault Trafic SpaceNomad (2022): comfortable vanlife comes at a high price

A converted van is both a car and a house? So try both by taking the road to a welcoming corner of the countryside. In the city, the 5.08 m engine is as easy to drive as a car. A very large car is the same, whose rear vision is greatly reduced, even if the manufacturer is careful to allow a ray of light from the rear window.

Fully equipped, but the air conditioning remains manual.
Fully equipped, but the air conditioning remains manual.

At the wheel, you think you are a good driver who dominates his world and the surrounding traffic by managing the machine’s steering wheel is horizontal. The 6-speed, dual-clutch EDC automatic gearbox fitted to this model is easy, especially as it is coupled to an engine well known to Renault: the 170 hp “blue” DCI 2-litre diesel. Its 380 Nm of torque is very good in the box in question, although it is reluctant to exercise engine braking, which it is not capable of.

driving in traffic? Far from purging

Passing the congested roads, and when a highway and a country road are found, Traffic is completely easy. Despite its 2.4 t, it does not stop hitting 130 km / h and more. A good speed is achieved without breaking the amazing silence that reigns on board, both at the level of the engine that plays it muted, and at the level of the wind noises that we imagine as a result, due to large opening in the roof that serves as a mezzanine when it is unfolded. We weren’t in a fun car, but driving this Traffic was far from the clean we feared.

So we calm down and try to park. Here is a nice car park in a corner of the green below Yvelines. Damn, an anti motorhome barrier is blocking our way. No problem. Let’s repeat it; the SpaceNomad, like all vans, is less than 2 m and can be parked anywhere. But not here. The bar is set at 1.90 m to scare these new nomads and take all the kindness of the agents of the town hall of Les Mesnuls (78) by making them swear that we will not spend all our paid holidays in their place, for them to open the barrier for us. It is that our Traffic is 1.99 m high, and almost does not pass, but actually under the toll barrier for vehicles set at 2 m. Obstacles that we cross while holding our breath.

Awning deployment requires skill...
Awning deployment requires skill…
...and a little time.
…and a little time.

The machine is placed in its beautiful frame on the edge of the tree? It’s time to discover its mysteries and the tiny abode it hides. Starting with opening the famous sunroof. Two hooks to unclip, one panel to push and you’re done. This mezzanine hides a comfortable mattress, three mini bay windows and, icing on a cake of geek : two small pockets to store your smartphone, each with a USB socket to recharge it. Two LED bulbs let you read the bed.

A comfortable room upstairs, if you can access it. Because nothing was planned for this and the climb was done with both feet firmly planted on the back of the front seats. Once this operation is done, it is necessary to lean on the sides of this mezzanine by making a beautiful pirouette that will make the tenants of the lower bed laugh. Because the folding three-seater bench on the ground floor has become a bed for two. But unlike the first mattress, the bottom is hard like reinforced concrete. So we prefer contortion and climbing to rest.

A practical and good quality interior.
A practical and good quality interior.
A mezzanine bed with a comfortable mattress and adequate ventilation.
A mezzanine bed with a comfortable mattress and adequate ventilation.

Yet we are assured: we will not sleep under the stars. But you also have to think about dinner. To do this, there is nothing simpler. Just open the large tailgate and extract, placed under the trunk, a table that unfolds and lands in front of the seat in a sitting position. To transform this cabin into a true dining room, simply flip the front seats and again, it’s child’s play.

An obscure awning

On the other hand, the installation of the awning, standard from the entry level, is reserved for older, relatively skilled children, and if there are two of them, the matter is easier. If we follow, as we do, a tutorial on Youtube from the brand Thulé, which manufactures the item in question, and without it, we always completely twist the canvas with one hand and the stakes on the other.

But whether we eat inside the machine, or, when the roof is in place, we can stand completely, or under the awning once it hurts to put it, we can taste the small dishes that are served in good quality two-burner stove next to a small stainless steel sink. It looks like a respectable 42 l refrigerator. Crockery, but also various vanlife campers items will find their place in the many storage spaces with a total of 225 l, not to mention the large trunk of almost 600 l.

A small sink and a practical two-burner stove.
A small sink and a practical two-burner stove.

It is understandable, the lodging as the cover is well treated on board this SpaceNomad, as for the autonomy in terms of electricity, it is 48 hours with the main vans and reaches 72 hours thanks in a trick that is only available in the top-of-the-range finish: a solar panel installed in the pop-up roof. On top of that, you have to plug into an electrical outlet at a campsite. A place where you can also take a shower, because the outdoor shower, accessible from the tailgate of the engine, is great for cooling off when it’s hot.

Designed without a real shower or toilet, this van is nevertheless fully equipped for vacations for two or even four people. Its equipment is made of durable materials and perfectly assembled, although the design of this homemade cabin does not seem to be the main concern of Renault. But by the way, did the diamond become a motorhome fitter?

The SpaceNomads left Sandouville to reform near Angers
The SpaceNomads left Sandouville to reform near Angers

It is not so. The Trafics in the 2 l DCI 150 or 170 version in the short or long version (four versions are available) are manufactured by Renault in Sandouville, before going to Pilote near Angers where they are transformed into a house of wheels . The Angevin house is a genre specialist but still needs 9 days to set up a basic traffic. A straw compared to the current delivery times because Sandouville still suffers from a huge shortage of various parts and especially semiconductors.

Despite this delay, which could take up to a year, the Pilote workshops are running at full speed and the order book is full. If the reasons for this craze have a part of objectivity, because weekends and holidays take place in complete freedom (or almost) and allow vanlifers to be autonomous for their accommodation and food, nothing is left. machine, at 70,000 euros on average, allows you to afford 700 nights in a hotel of average quality. Something to think about before investing.

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