2.0 liter diesel engine with 170 hp
Tested model: 72,300 euros
Available from 61,900 euros
Our contemporaries love freedom. And they are willing to do anything, or almost anything, to enjoy it unhindered. According to a recent survey, 44% of them would be willing to become “vanlifeurs” and consider spending their vacation in a converted van. A number that has increased by 8 points since 2021. The reasons for their choice are obvious to some of them and rather unclear to others.
While it is conceivable that these transformed utilities have the advantages of a car, the lower cost argument put forward by 31% of them is overwhelming at the very least due to their ease of use, lower tolls than an RV and easier parking .
The fact remains that the enthusiasm for this type of machine is not deceived (sales have increased by more than 20% every year for the past two years), manufacturers are tempted to conquer a market that until now has been in the hands of specialized companies ( Pilote, Font Vendôme, Rapido, Hymer, etc.). Suddenly, Volkswagen entered the dance with its T6 California, Mercedes and its Marco Polo, Ford and its Transit Custom Nugget, while Renault played the indifference. It’s over. After a test run in Switzerland and Belgium, the Rhombus is now offering a version of its Trafic with equipment and the name SpaceNomad in France.
A converted van is both a car and a house? So try both by taking the road towards a welcoming corner in the countryside. In the city, the 5.08 m long machine is as easy to drive as a car. A very large car, after all, with extremely limited rear visibility, even if the manufacturer has taken care to let a ray of light through the rear window.
At the wheel, you think you’re a nice driver who dominates his world and the surrounding traffic by operating the machine at the wheel more horizontally. The 6-speed dual-clutch EDC automatic transmission installed in this model feels comfortable, especially since it is coupled to a Renault well-known engine: the 170 hp “blue” DCI 2-liter diesel. Its 380 Newton meters of torque suits each box very well, although it is a bit reluctant when it comes to engine braking, which is not its forte.
driving traffic? Far from being a purge
Past the congested roads, and once a highway and a country road are found, traffic is completely relaxed. Despite its 2.4 t, it doesn’t shy away from 130 km/h and more. A good speed has been achieved without breaking the amazing silence that reigns on board, both at the level of the engine that plays it mute and at the level of air noise that we imagined as a result, given the enormous roof opening that acts as mezzanine when unfolded. We’re not aboard a fun car, but driving this Trafic is far from the purge we feared.
So we calm down and try to park. Here is a nice parking lot in a green corner at the foot of the Yvelines. Damn it, a motorhome lock is blocking our way. No problem. We repeat; Like all vans, the SpaceNomad is under 2 m and can be parked anywhere. But not here. The bar is set at 1.90m to deter these new nomads and it will require all the goodwill of the officials of the town hall of Les Mesnuls (78) by swearing to them that we will not spend all our paid holidays on their territory to open the barrier for us. Our traffic is 1.99 m high and drives straight, but really just under the toll booth for cars with a height of 2 m. Barriers that we therefore cross with bated breath.
The machine stands in its pretty frame at the edge of the forest? It’s time to discover his secrets and the small dwelling he hides. Starting with opening the famous sunroof. Two hooks to unclip, a panel to slide and that’s it. This mezzanine hides a pretty comfy mattress, three mini bay windows, and icing on the cake Outsider : two small pockets to store your smartphone, each equipped with a USB socket for charging. Two LED bulbs even allow you to read in bed.
A comfortable upstairs bedroom if you can access it. Because nothing is planned for this and the ascent takes place with both feet firmly on the backrests of the front seats. After this operation has been performed, it remains to lean against the sides of this mezzanine, doing a pretty pirouette that should make the occupants of the lower bed laugh. Because the foldable three-seater bench on the ground floor also converts into a bed for two. But unlike the first mattress, the bottom one is as hard as reinforced concrete. We will therefore prefer contortion and climbing to rest.
Nevertheless, we are reassured: we will not sleep under the stars. But you also have to think about dinner. To do this, nothing easier. Simply open the huge tailgate and, attached under the trunk, extract a table that unfolds and lands in a sitting position in front of the seat. To turn this cabin into a real dining room, just flip the front seats and again it’s a breeze.
A non-obvious awning
On the other hand, the assembly of the awning, standard from the entry level, is reserved for older, more experienced children, and when there are two of them things are a little easier. Provided we follow, as we did, a YouTube tutorial by the Thulé brand, which makes the object in question, and without which we would always be in full contortion with the canvas in one hand and the pegs in the other.
But whether we’re dining in the machine or, when the roof is up, we can stand perfectly, or under the awning when it’s laboriously attached, we can taste the small dishes being cooked on the quality two-burner stove that’s standing next to a small stainless steel sink. Towering over itself is a fairly respectable 42L fridge. The crockery, but also the various belongings of the vanlife campers find their place in numerous storage compartments that hold a total of 225 l, not to mention the huge trunk of almost 600 l.
It is understood that the accommodation as a cover is treated fairly well on board this SpaceNomad since the autonomy in terms of electricity is 48 hours with the basic van and reaches 72 hours thanks to a trick only available above. Top finish: a solar panel attached to the pop-up roof. In addition, you must be plugged into a socket at a campsite. A place where you can take a proper shower, because the outdoor shower, accessible on the tailgate of the machine, is just the thing to cool off in a heat wave.
Planned without a proper shower or toilet, this van is still perfectly equipped for short breaks for two or even four people. Its equipment is made of robust materials and is perfectly put together, even if the design of this homebuilt cabin does not seem to have been Renault’s main concern. But would the diamond have become a mobile home mechanic by the way?
It is not so. The Trafic in the 2L DCI 150 or 170 version in short or long version (the four versions are available) are manufactured at Renault in Sandouville before going to Pilote near Angers, where they are transformed into a house on wheels. House Angevin is a specialist in this genre, but it still takes 9 days to build basic traffic. A straw compared to the current delivery times, as Sandouville still suffers from a major shortage of various parts and semiconductors in particular.
Despite this delay, which can last up to a year, Pilote’s workshops are running at full speed and the order books are full. If the reasons for this madness have some objectivity, since weekends and holidays take place in total freedom (or almost), allowing vanlifers autonomous accommodation and catering, nothing remains but the considerable price of such a machine, with an average of 70,000 euros, allows you to afford 700 nights in a medium quality hotel. Something to think about before investing.