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We begin a series on the finalists in Driven's annual Car Of The Year. Today: Tradies' Delight.
When it comes to selecting our finalists for 2017 Driven Car of the Year, the choices were vast, due to the high quality and range of new vehicles entering our market this year.
Not only were there new all-new vehicles but also marques entering the New Zealand market for the first time – including Tesla, SEAT and Haval.
Kiwis were also introduced to new electric vehicles, more SUVs than ever, plus some high performance standouts.
This year Driven decided to mix up our Car of the Year categories to reflect our readers' interests more.
For the first time we have:
- Little Beauties (covering light/compact cars, and small SUVS)
- Family Chariots (medium/large cars, medium/large SUVs), Only For the Rich (premium cars, luxury SUVs)
- Lotto Winner's Choice (performance vehicles);
- Tradies' Delight (utes/vans) and
- Green Power (hybrids and EVs).
We also picked our Driven Motorbike of the Year, judged by Mathieu Gillett-Day.
The choices for New Zealand buyers have never been greater and the market has never been so competitive – and you don't need a big budget any more to get a great, safe, brand new vehicle. This made it a tough choice to narrow down the finalists and caused hours of robust debate among the judges.
Throughout this week we will be revealing our finalists, starting today with our Tradies' Delight commercial vehicle category; we will build up with a finalist every day until, on Saturday, the overall winner for 2017 Driven Car of the Year will be announced.
Driven Tradies' Choice: Renault Master range
Combined, Renault's commercial arm this year delivered the kind of variety van assortment that had us reaching for the 'chocolate box' analogy.
The company has been pushing hard in the light commercial vehicle sector of late – a part of the market long dominated by Japanese manufacturers – with Kangoo and Trafic cargo-carriers. We've sung the Trafic's praises in particular in the past but now, with the massive Master added to the line-up, Renault really does boast a comprehensive fleet offering.
Not only is the French company's overall variety of van impressive, the degree to which the Master as a stand-alone model can be configured to suit is pretty admirable too.
We sampled the 'big daddy' first; the Renault Master L4H3, which features a colossal 17m³ of load space and a load weight of 4.5-ton. This particular iteration represents life at the top-end of things, but there are other Masters boasting different dimensions to choose from.
You can also order the Master with manual or automatic transmission and as a front- or rear-wheel drive model. Low-, mid- and high-roof iterations can be ordered too, as can all manner of door configurations to suit the size and shape of your bread-and-butter cargo combinations.
Crucially this year, Renault has moved the Master on from appealing to freight-forwarders to those on construction sites as well.
Now available as a cab-chassis vehicle, Renault has a medium-sized truck worth a second look. Because flexibility appears to be key, the Master Cab-Chassis can be had in either single- or double-cab format, with payloads registering in at 2272kg or 2490kg respectively.
And despite all the options list-ticking the Master range allows, a distinct through-line here remains the driveability and comfort of these vans. A good driving position, excellent outward visibility, responsive acceleration and steering and all the Bluetooth techno-trickery you'd expect are a given. Nice work, Renault. - Cameron Officer