2.0L 170hp diesel engine
Model tested: 72,300 euros
Available from 61,900 euros
Our contemporaries are lovers of freedom. And they are ready to do anything, or almost, to enjoy it without hindrance. According to a recent survey, 44% of them would be ready to become “vanlifeurs” and to consider spending their holidays in a converted van. A figure up 8 points since 2021. The reasons for their choice are obvious for some of them, and more obscure for others.
Thus, while it is conceivable that these transformed utilities have the advantages of a car, for their easy handling, their lower tolls than a motorhome, and easier parking, the lower cost argument, put forward by 31% of them, is staggering to say the least.
The fact remains that the enthusiasm for this type of machine is not belied (sales have increased each year by more than 20% for two years) manufacturers are tempted to seize a market which, until now, was at the hands of specialized companies (Pilote, Font Vendôme, Rapido, Hymer, etc.). Suddenly, Volkswagen with its T6 California, Mercedes and its Marco Polo, Ford and its Transit Custom Nugget, entered the dance while Renault played the indifference. It’s over. After a trial run in Switzerland and Belgium, the rhombus now offers a version of its Trafic fitted out and called SpaceNomad in France.
Video test – Renault Trafic SpaceNomad (2022): the comfortable vanlife comes at a high price
A converted van is both a car and a house? So try both by taking the road towards a welcoming corner of the countryside. In town, the 5.08 m machine is as easy to drive as a car. A very large car all the same, whose rear visibility is ultra-reduced, even if the manufacturer has taken care to let a ray of light filter through from the rear window.
Full equipment, but the air conditioning remains manual.
At the wheel, you think you’re a nice driver who dominates his world and the surrounding traffic by handling the machine at the steering wheel rather horizontal. The 6-speed, dual-clutch EDC automatic gearbox fitted to this model is at ease, especially since it is coupled to an engine well known to Renault: the 170 hp “blue” DCI 2-litre diesel. Its 380 Nm of torque go very well with the box in question, even if it is somewhat reluctant to exercise engine braking, which is not its forte.
driving traffic? Far from being a purge
Past the congested streets, and as soon as a highway and a country road are found, the Trafic is perfectly at ease. Despite its 2.4 t, it is not reluctant to hang 130 km / h and beyond. A good speed reached without breaking the astonishing silence that reigns on board, both at the level of the engine which plays it muted, and at the level of the noises of air that we imagined consequent, because of the enormous roof opening which acts as a mezzanine when it is unfolded. We are not on board a fun car, but driving this Trafic is far from being the purge we feared.
So we calm down and try to park. Here is a nice car park in a green area at the bottom of the Yvelines. Damn, an anti motorhome barrier is blocking our way. No problem. We repeat it; the SpaceNomad, like all vans, is under 2 m and can be parked everywhere. But not here. The bar is set at 1.90 m to scare away these new nomads and it will take all the benevolence of the agents of the town hall of Les Mesnuls (78) by swearing to them that we will not spend all our paid holidays on their area, so that they open the barrier for us. It’s that our Trafic is 1.99 m high, and passes just, but really just, under the toll gate for cars set at 2 m. Barriers that we therefore cross while holding our breath.
The machine is placed in its pretty frame at the edge of the wood? It’s time to discover its mysteries and the small dwelling it hides. Starting with the opening of the famous sunroof. Two hooks to unclip, a panel to push and you’re done. This mezzanine hides a rather comfortable mattress, three mini bay windows and, icing on a geek cake: two small pockets to store your smartphone, each equipped with a USB socket to recharge it. Two LED bulbs even allow you to read in bed.
A comfortable upstairs bedroom, provided you can access it. Because nothing is planned for this and the climb is done with both feet firmly planted on the backs of the front seats. Once this operation has been carried out, it is still necessary to lean on the sides of this mezzanine by performing a pretty pirouette which should make the tenants of the lower bed laugh. Because the folding three-seater bench on the ground floor also turns into a bed for two. But unlike the first mattress, the lower one is hard as reinforced concrete. We will therefore prefer contortion and climbing to rest.
We are nevertheless reassured: we will not sleep under the stars. But you also have to think about dinner. To do this, nothing simpler. Just open the huge tailgate and extract, fixed under the trunk, a table that unfolds and lands in front of the seat in a seated position. To transform this cabin into a real dining room, just flip the front seats and again, it’s child’s play.
A not obvious awning
On the other hand, the installation of the awning, standard from the entry level, is reserved for older, rather skilful children, and if there are two of them, the matter is a little easier. Provided we follow, as we did, a Youtube tutorial from the Thulé brand, which manufactures the object in question, and without which, we would always be in full contortion with the canvas in one hand and the stakes in the other.
But whether we dine inside the machine, or, once the roof has been raised, we can perfectly stand up, or under the awning once it is painfully put in place, we can taste the small dishes simmered on the good quality two-burner stove which is next to a small stainless steel sink. Itself overlooks a quite respectable 42 l fridge. The crockery, but also the various belongings of vanlife campers will find their place in numerous storage spaces which total 225 l, not to mention the enormous trunk of nearly 600 l.
A small sink and a very practical two-burner stove.
It will be understood, the lodging as the cover are rather well treated on board this SpaceNomad, as for the autonomy in terms of electricity, it is 48 hours with the basic van and reaches 72 hours thanks to a trick only available on the top-of-the-range finish: a solar panel fixed to the pop-up roof. Beyond that, you will have to plug into an electrical outlet at a campsite. A place where you will also have the opportunity to take a proper shower, because the outdoor shower, available from the tailgate of the machine, is just good for cooling off in the event of a heat wave.
Planned without a real shower or toilet, this van is nevertheless perfectly equipped for getaways for two or even four people. Its equipment is made of sturdy materials and is perfectly assembled, even if the design of this homemade cabin does not seem to have been Renault’s main concern. But by the way, would the diamond have become a motorhome fitter?
It is not so. The Trafics in the 2 l DCI 150 or 170 version in the short or long version (the four versions are available) are manufactured at Renault in Sandouville, before heading to Pilote near Angers where they are transformed into a house on wheels. The Angevin house is a specialist in the genre but it nevertheless needs 9 days to set up a basic traffic. A straw compared to current delivery times since Sandouville still suffers from a major shortage of various parts and especially semiconductors.
Despite this delay, which can 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, since weekends and holidays take place in complete freedom (or almost) and allow vanlifers to be autonomous for their accommodation and food, there are none left. less than the substantial price of such a machine, at 70,000 euros on average, allows you to afford 7,000 nights in a hotel of average quality. Something to think about before investing.