Video test – Renault Trafic SpaceNomad (2022): a comfortable van is expensive

Shortly speaking

Converted van

2.0 L diesel engine with 170 hp

Tested model: €72,300

Available from 61,900 euros

Our contemporaries are lovers of freedom. And they are willing to do anything or almost anything to enjoy it without interruption. According to a recent survey, 44% of them would be willing to become “wanlifers” and consider vacationing in a converted van. The figure is up 8 points since 2021. The reasons for their choice are obvious to some, more obscure to others.

So while it can be assumed that these converted utilities have the benefits of a car, such as ease of handling, lower fees than a motorhome, and easier parking, the lower cost argument put forward by 31% of them is overwhelming. in measure.

The fact remains that the enthusiasm for this type of machine is undeniable (sales have increased by more than 20% annually for two years), manufacturers are tempted to take over a market that has until now been in the hands of specialized companies (Pilote, Font Vendôme, Rapido, Hymer and others). Suddenly, Volkswagen with their T6 California, Mercedes and Marco Polo, Ford and Transit Custom Nugget entered the dance, while Renault played indifference. It’s over. After a trial run in Switzerland and Belgium, Rhombus now offers a version of its Trafic equipped and named SpaceNomad in France.

Video test – Renault Trafic SpaceNomad (2022): a comfortable van is expensive

Is a converted van both a car and a house? So try both as you venture into a welcoming corner of the countryside. In the city, the 5.08 m machine is as easy to drive as a car. It’s still a very large car with extremely limited rear visibility, even if the manufacturer made sure that a beam of light penetrates through the rear window.

Complete set, but the air conditioner remains manual.
Complete set, but the air conditioner remains manual.

Behind the wheel, you think that you are a good driver who dominates your world and the surrounding traffic, driving the car quite horizontally behind the wheel. The 6-speed dual-clutch EDC automatic transmission fitted to this model is handy, especially since it’s paired with a well-known Renault engine: the 170-horsepower “blue” 2-litre DCI diesel. Its 380Nm of torque pairs very well with the box in question, even if it’s somewhat reluctant to do engine braking, which isn’t its forte.

driving traffic? Far from cleaning

Past congested streets, and once the highway and country road are found, Trafic is completely at ease. Despite its 2.4 tons, it does not stop at speeds of 130 km/h or more. Achieved good speed without disturbing the amazing silence that prevails on board, both at the level of the motor, which muffles it, and at the level of air noises that we imagined as a result, due to the huge opening in the roof, which acts as a mezzanine when it deployed. We’re not on board a fun car, but driving this Trafic is nowhere near the purge we feared.

So we calm down and try to park. Here is a nice car park in a green corner at the foot of the Yvelines. Damn, the road is blocked by a barrier from motorhomes. No problem. We repeat it; The SpaceNomad, like all vans, is less than 2m high and can be parked anywhere. But not here. The bar is set at 1.90m to scare away these new nomads, and it will take all the goodwill of the Les Mesnuls (78) town hall agents to swear to them that we will not spend all our paid holidays on their territory for them to open a barrier for us. The fact is that our Traffic has a height of 1.99 m and passes with difficulty, but in fact it is just under the toll barrier for cars installed at a height of 2 m. Barriers that we cross while holding our breath.

It takes a lot of dexterity to deploy an awning...
It takes a lot of dexterity to deploy an awning…
...and some time.
…and some time.

Does the car fit into its beautiful frame at the edge of the forest? It’s time to discover his secrets and the little dwelling he hides. Starting with the opening of the famous manhole. Two hooks to unfasten, a panel to press and you’re done. This mezzanine hides a pretty comfortable mattress, three mini-bay windows, and the icing on the cake. geek : Two small pockets for storing your smartphone, each with a USB port for recharging it. Two LED bulbs allow you to even read in bed.

Comfortable upstairs bedroom if you have access to it. Because nothing is planned for this, and the climb is done with both feet firmly planted on the backs of the front seats. After this operation is completed, it is still necessary to lean on the sides of this mezzanine, making a beautiful pirouette that should make the inhabitants of the lower bed laugh. Because the fold-out triple bench on the ground floor also turns into a bed for two. But unlike the first mattress, the bottom one is as hard as reinforced concrete. Therefore, we prefer twisting and climbing to rest.

Practical and high quality interior.
Practical and high quality interior.
A bed on a mezzanine floor with a comfortable mattress and adequate ventilation.
A bed on a mezzanine floor with a comfortable mattress and adequate ventilation.

We are nevertheless reassured: we will not sleep under the stars. But you also have to think about dinner. There is nothing easier for this. Just open the huge tailgate and remove the table fixed under the trunk, which unfolds and lands in front of the seat in a sitting position. To turn this cabin into a real dining room, simply flip the front seats over and again, it’s child’s play.

Not obvious awning

On the other hand, the installation of the awning, which is standard from the initial level, is intended for older children who are quite skilled, and if there are two of them, then the situation is a little simpler. Provided that we follow, as we did, the tutorial on Youtube from the brand Thulé, which produces the object in question, and without which we would always be in complete disarray with a canvas in one hand and stakes in the other.

But whether we’re dining inside the car, or when the roof is up we can stand perfectly, or under the canopy when it’s painfully installed, we can sample small meals cooked on a quality two-burner stove that sits next to a small stainless steel sink. A quite decent refrigerator of 42 liters comes out on itself. Crockery, as well as various things of vanlife campers, will find their place in the numerous pantries, the total volume of which is 225 liters, not to mention the huge trunk with a volume of almost 600 liters.

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

It is clear that housing as a cover on board this SpaceNomad is quite well handled, as far as autonomy in terms of electricity is 48 hours with the base van and reaches 72 hours thanks to the top-only trick. first-class finishes: solar panel mounted on a lifting roof. In addition, you will need to connect to an electrical outlet at the campsite. A place where you will also have the opportunity to take a real shower, because the outdoor shower, accessible from the back door of the car, is just right for cooling down in case of heat.

Designed without a real shower or toilet, this van is nevertheless perfect for two or even four people. Its equipment is made of durable materials and well put together, even if the design of this makeshift cab does not seem to have been Renault’s main concern. But by the way, would a diamond be a motorhome mechanic?

The SpaceNomads leave Sandouville to transform near Angers.
The SpaceNomads leave Sandouville to transform near Angers.

This is not true. Trafic 2L DCI 150 or 170 cars in short or long version (four versions available) are built at Renault’s Sandouville plant and then sent to Pilot near Angers where they are converted into motorhomes. Angevin House is a specialist in its genre, but it still takes 9 days to set up basic traffic. A straw compared to current delivery times as Sandouville still suffers from severe shortages of various parts and especially semiconductors.

Despite this delay, which could take up to a year, the Pilot workshops are operating at full capacity and the order book is full. If there is an element of objectivity in the reasons for this insanity, since weekends and holidays pass in complete freedom (or almost) and allow vanlifers to be autonomous in relation to their accommodation and food, there is nothing less than the solid price of such a car, on average for 70,000 euro allows you to afford 700 nights in an average quality hotel. There is something to think about before investing.

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