Honest value: Renault Duster 4x4
WHAT IS IT?
The Renault Duster is arguably the best value for money to be found on the new car market, and it is a car that has been embraced by adventurous souls across South Africa. It is an unfussy but not basic SUV big enough to excel as a family vehicle without being too big to drive every day.
I love a humble car that does exactly what is asked of it and more without resorting to flashy extras or status to make sales. The Duster offers SUV space and practicality at a bargain price, while the 4x4 version has real off-road capabilities. There is very little that it does wrong and a whole lot that it does right. The diesel engine is also a real selling point, with great drivability and even better fuel economy.
Look, I don’t think the Renault Duster is the best-looking SUV around, but it is also far from the worst. As fitting for its price and intentions, the exterior is rugged and utilitarian; a basic box shape with the angles massaged off to make it attractive. The latest iteration has definitely been made more appealing to the eye thanks to LED running lights, a more modern chrome grille, satin-silver skid-plates front and rear and appealing 16-inch alloy rims. I recently saw a Duster 4x4 that had been tricked out with an expedition-style roof rack, all-terrain tyres and a few other odds and sods, and it looked very much the part.
This particular model – the 1.5dCi 4x4 manual – is actually full of equipment that you wouldn’t expect in a price-targeted vehicle. Yes, there is a 7-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system, and it comes with Bluetooth and navigation. And yes, there is automatic climate control, and yes, there is cruise control, all of which you expect, but there are also a few things you wouldn’t. There is a set of cameras that can be profoundly useful when negotiating tight spaces. With the press of a touchscreen button, you can view either to the left, the right, front or rear, to see exactly where the extremities of your vehicle are in relation to rocks or other obstacles. Love it. There is Lane Departure Warning too, which ups the safety levels.
The ground beneath its tyres matters little to the Duster: highway, city streets, gravel road or off-road terrain; they are all disposed of with the same comfortable competence. The 4x4 Duster has a fairly advanced 4x4 system with which you can switch from front-wheel-drive only (4x2) to an Auto mode that sends power to the rear axle when wheel-slippage is detected. That’s perfect for gravel roads. Then there’s the Lock mode, where the engine’s torque is distributed equally between the front and rear axles. When coupled with the 230mm of ground clearance and the very short first gear, this 4x4 system makes the Duster extremely competent off-road. Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist also help in this area, as do those four camera angles.
There are no options when it comes to the mechanics of the Duster 4x4: it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and a 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesel engine that produces power of 80kW and torque of 260Nm. The power, in particular, doesn’t sound a lot, but the Duster is a fairly light car, and performance is actually good, thanks mainly to that torque. Fuel consumption is extraordinarily good: a claimed average of 5.2L/100km. In our month with the car, we used an average of 5.8L/100km, and that was usually with a loaded vehicle and four occupants.
While it is hard to fault the road manners of the Duster, some might wish that an automatic gearbox was an option – that short first gear, while useful when you want to go slowly, can be irritating around town.
The Duster is so much more than a value-for-money car. It is a good car, a sensible buy and a consummate all-rounder.
GO GET IT
The Renault Duster should be the go-to SUV for people who aren’t offended by a good price. R361,900 is the sticker price for the Duster 1.5 Dynamique 4x4 manual, and it is a bargain. The price includes a 3-year/45,000km service plan and an impressive 5-year/150,000km warranty.
Visit www.renault.co.za for more information.