Renault SpaceNomad camper descends the Swiss Alps for a bite of VW pie
Renault is pushing its way into Volkswagen territory. After launching its Trafic SpaceNomad camper van exclusively in Switzerland in 2020, the French marque takes advantage of the popularity of RV life and expands outward, bringing the camper to additional European markets. The latest pop-top SpaceNomad offers an attractive alternative to the Volkswagen California, complete with standard solar power, four beds and a shower.
Volkswagen may absolutely dominate in nostalgia, but these days we prefer the look of Renault's Trafic. Its boxier, broad-shouldered cargo area looks like a natural for living in, and the newest version spreads that strong look throughout.
Renault debuted the original Swiss-market SpaceNomad on the older pre-facelift Trafic, but the newest SpaceNomad benefits from the updates the Trafic received in 2021. The newer Trafic wears a more cohesive facial signature spread across a strong, upright front-end, an improvement over both the weaker, flabbier face of the older Trafic and a VW T6.1 bogged down by way too much grille.
The SpaceNomad's interior layout is quite familiar from the California and other midsize van campers. It accommodates passengers on buyer's choice of two-seat or sliding three-seat rear bench. Either way, those seats fold down into a 49 x 74-in (124 x 188-cm) bed.
Next to the bed, the driver-side kitchen block houses the dual-burner stove, sink and 49-L fridge. A full-height multi-cabinet storage console sits behind the kitchen.
The SpaceNomad comes standard with a low-profile pop-up roof that ducks below 6.6 feet (2 m) when closed and is designed to have minimal effect on handling or fuel consumption. Once popped, the fabric sidewalls of the roof enclose a 47 x 79-in (120 x 200-cm) bed, completing the van's four-person sleeping arrangements. The bed lifts out of the way during the day to open headroom over top the downstairs living area.
A slim solar panel atop the roof helps keep the leisure battery charged enough to power the fridge, LED lights, USB ports and water pump. Renault estimates that with the solar panel comfortably bathed in sunlight, leisure battery life extends from 48 to 72 hours, turning a camping weekend into an extended three-day stay.
The SpaceNomad also includes a standalone indoor/outdoor table that stores in back. When used inside the van, the table works with the rear seats and the front swivel seats.
Out on the road, the new SpaceNomad benefits from Renault tech like the 8-in infotainment touchscreen with built-in navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging, and driver assistance like lane departure warning, emergency brake assist and driver alertness monitor.
Renault previewed the new Trafic SpaceNomad at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, where the production model joined the fanciful Hippie Caviar Hotel and a few other Renault-based campers. It launches the new camper van this month, adding France and Belgium to Switzerland as available markets. Plans announced at Düsseldorf laid out bringing the van to five new European markets in all, with Austria, Denmark and Germany joining the others.
The SpaceNomad starts at CHF59,990 (approx. US$61,950) in Switzerland. Renault will manufacture the Trafic vans at its Sandouville plant before sending them across France to Angers for conversion by RV manufacturer Groupe Pilote.