IS THERE a more ridiculous badge to give any van, especially a large, heavy van, than a Sport one? And yet these go-faster monikers are becoming popular with makers of light commercials, not least with Renault who provide sporty vans right across its ranges.
The reason for the popularity of the Sport is the rise in owner-drivers demanding a dual role vehicle with a bit more style for use outside work hours. Of course, the Sport name doesn’t mean GT motoring but instead cosmetic enhancements. The Master tested here is a case in point. With its shiny silver coat of paint (including so-easy-to-scuff bumpers!) and voluptuous if vulnerable alloy wheels, our example looked most impressive and, presumably due to the fact that the design is also marketed by Vauxhall and Nissan, fit and finish are Renault’s best efforts yet.
The Master has been around for more than 20 years, with the latest generation, an all-new design, surfacing three years ago. There’s a massive choice, said by Renault to amount to 350 versions and some 40 body choices, plus front or rear-wheel drive variants. The latter is for the heavier line-up of vans and chassis cabs which run up to 4.5 tonnes, although Sports are limited to just the standard length and height front-wheel-drive model, albeit with choice of 100bhp, 125bhp and 150bhp engine tunes from a 2.3-litre turbodiesel engine that’s now Euro 5 compliant.
The Sport pack adds standard air conditioning, cruise control and sat nav (its screen is cleverly located where the interior mirror would reside) and all told enhances an already excellent cab environment. There are lots of storage areas and the package can be further tailored with an optional clipboard and a working platform located on the back of the middle seat, which includes a dedicated spot for a laptop.
The Master is quite lovely to drive. Even in 125bhp tune (our pick) it provides ample power and the six-speed box ensures there’s a gear for all conditions plus allows legal long-legged and refined cruising, the likes of which a luxury car provided 20 yeas ago. Handling is similarly excellent and for its size the Master remains commendably manoeuvrable. Visibility, aided by some excellent mirrors, is also good but the optional parking sensors, even at £200, should be standard on this size of van.
Load luggers don’t come much better. Capacities start from 8m3, with the rear-wheel drive models more than doubling this, and the load bays are well planned with ample tie-down points. The optional second sliding side door is £300 well spent, as is the Master range in general. Our Sport costs just over £25,000 but the basic entry model costs a smidgen over £20,000 which is actually cheaper than the top model, albeit smaller, Trafic.
You can even buy a cheaper Master in the shape of the Nissan NV400, where prices start from £18,995 and the Vauxhall Movano (£19,850). Bear in mind that specs differ plus the Renault now comes with a four-year, 100,000- mile warranty. Does the Master Sport live up to its name? Yes and no is the true answer.
VAN Renault Master MM35 125bhp dCi Sport
WARRANTY 4 yrs/100,000 miles
SERVICE INTERVALS 25,000 miles/24 months
WARRANTY 4yrs/100,000 miles
LOAD SPACE (l, w, h) 3,083mm, 1,765mm, 1,820mm
TOWING LIMIT 2,500kg
MPG (combined) 37.7mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 221g/km