2.0L 170hp diesel engine
Tested model: 72,300 euros
Available from 61,900 euros
Our contemporaries are lovers of freedom. And they are willing 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 consider spending their vacations in a converted van. A figure that rises 8 points from 2021. The reasons for his choice are obvious for some and more obscure for others.
So while it is conceivable that these converted utilities have the advantages of a car, such as easier driving, lower tolls than an RV, and simpler parking, the lower cost argument, made by 31% of them, it is amazing to say The least.
The truth is that the enthusiasm for this type of machine is not denied (sales have increased by more than 20% each year for two years) manufacturers are tempted to seize a market that, until now, was in 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 indifference. It’s over. After a trial in Switzerland and Belgium, Rhombus now offers a version of its Trafic equipped and called SpaceNomad in France.
Is a converted van both a car and a house? So try both by taking the path to a cozy corner of the countryside. Around town, the 5.08m machine is as easy to drive as a car. A very large car despite everything, whose rear visibility is ultra-reduced, even if the manufacturer has been careful to let a ray of light pass through the rear window.
At the wheel, you think you’re a good driver mastering your world and the traffic around you by steering the machine on the wheel fairly horizontally. The 6-speed dual-clutch EDC automatic gearbox that equips this model is comfortable, especially since it is coupled to a motorization well known by Renault: the 2-liter DCI “blue” diesel with 170 hp. Its 380 Nm of torque go very well with the box in question, although it is a bit resistant to exerting the engine brake, which is not its strong point.
drive traffic? Far from being a purge
Beyond the congested streets, and as soon as you hit a motorway and country road, the Trafic is perfectly calm. Despite its 2.4 t, it does not hesitate to reach 130 km/h and more. A good speed achieved without breaking the astonishing silence that reigns on board, both at the level of the engine that turns it off, and at the level of air noises that we imagined to be consequent, due to the enormous opening in the ceiling that acts as a mezzanine when is unfolded. We’re not in a fun car, but driving this Trafic is far from the purge we feared.
So we calmed down and tried to park. Here there is a nice car park in a corner of greenery at the foot of the Yvelines. Damn, a RV barrier is blocking our way. No problem. We repeat it; The SpaceNomad, like all vans, is less than 2m tall and can be parked anywhere. But not here. The bar is set at 1.90 m to scare away these new nomads and will count on all the benevolence of the agents of the Les Mesnuls town hall (78) to swear that we will not spend all our paid vacations in their area, so that they open the barrier. It is that our Traffic is 1.99 m high, and it passes just, but just below the toll barrier for cars set at 2 m. Barriers that, therefore, we cross holding our breath.
Is the machine sitting in its nice frame at the edge of the wood? It’s time to discover its mysteries and the little abode it hides. Starting with the opening of the famous sliding roof. Two hooks to release, a panel to push, and you’re good to go. This mezzanine hides a quite comfortable mattress, three mini windows and, as icing on a cake of addicted – Two small pockets to store your smartphone, each equipped with a USB socket to recharge it. Two LED bulbs allow you to even read in bed.
A comfortable upstairs bedroom, as long as you can get to it. Because nothing is planned for this and the ascent is done with both feet planted firmly on the backs of the front seats. Once this operation is done, it is still necessary to lean on the sides of this mezzanine performing a nice pirouette that should make the occupants of the lower bed laugh. Because the three-seater folding 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.
However, we are calm: we will not sleep under the stars. But you also have to think about dinner. For this, nothing simpler. Simply open the huge tailgate and pull out, fixed under the boot, a table that folds out and lands in front of the seat in a sitting position. To transform this cabin into a true dinette, simply flip the front seats over and again, it’s a doddle.
A non-obvious awning
On the other hand, the installation of the awning, standard from the entry level, is reserved for older and quite skilled children, and if there are two of them, the matter is a little easier. As long as 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 is raised, we can stand perfectly, or under the awning, once placed with difficulty, we can taste the small dishes cooked over low heat on the two-burner stove of good quality that is next to a small stainless steel sink. In itself it gives a quite respectable 42 l fridge. The crockery, but also the various belongings of the vanlife campers will find their place in numerous storage spaces totaling 225 l, not to mention the huge trunk of almost 600 l.
It will be understood, both the accommodation and the coverage are quite well treated aboard this SpaceNomad, in terms of autonomy in terms of electricity, it is 48 hours with the basic van and reaches 72 hours thanks to a trick only available in the top. Range finish: a solar panel fixed to the pop-up roof. Beyond that, you’ll need to plug into an outlet at a campground. A place where you will also have the opportunity to take a good shower, as the outdoor shower, available at the rear hatch of the machine, is perfect for cooling off in the event of a heat wave.
Planned without a shower or toilet, this van is perfectly equipped for getaways for two or even four people. Its equipment is made of resistant materials and is perfectly assembled, although the design of this homemade cabin does not seem to have been the main concern of Renault. But by the way, would the rhombus have become a motorhome fitter?
They’re not here. The Trafics in version 2 l DCI 150 or 170 in short or long version (all four versions are available) are built 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, however, it takes 9 days to establish basic traffic. A drop compared to current delivery times, as Sandouville still suffers from severe shortages of various parts and especially semiconductors.
Despite this delay, which can last up to a year, the Pilote workshops are running at full speed and the order book is full. If the reasons for this madness have a part of objectivity, since weekends and holidays are spent with total freedom (or almost) and allow vanlifers to be autonomous for their accommodation and food, there is nothing less than the substantial price of such a 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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