First Drive in the new Renault Duster
When the Renault Duster launched in South Africa back in 2013, I recommended it to anyone who would listen. A few did listen and two of my friends went out and bought themselves the 4X4 derivative. And they loved every second of it. I constantly got updates about the surf missions and wave hunting expeditions they went on and that their affordable little Duster had no problems getting them to wherever it was they wanted to go.
The new Duster has finally settled in South Africa and I headed up to Nelspruit to drive the little beast. But first, I must tell you that I also went tobogganing, yes tobogganing. It was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. It’s never been on my bucket list of things to do, but ag, I am glad I did it. And that I am alive to tell the tale. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, it wasn’t that scary, there were just a few moments when I thought that I would fly off the track with the toboggan attached to my butt and veer down the mountain side. Other than that, what a blast, you should do it.
Back to the hero of the moment, the Duster. As much as I recommended the previous model to my friends, I would not have bought one myself. I couldn’t handle the interior. It felt too plasticky and just far too unrefined for my, apparently, posh taste. Enter the new Duster. This new interior feels a lot more solid, the materials used are of a much higher quality and overall, it is just a pleasant place to be. The infotainment screen has been set higher on the dash so you’re no longer looking at the floor when changing the radio station. There are a few tiny bugbears, like the USB port being above the screen (not unique to the Duster, mind you.) and so your phone cord hangs down over the screen. It just looks messy. Connectivity isn’t at its best with the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto which I think a few younger peeps will have a problem with. And there is only one cup holder up front. Fine if you’re a bit of a selfish driver, but it’s not great for the passengers amongst us.
The boot is flippin spacious at 478-litres which means it can fit this much: (see pic below of a very outdoorsy owner).
The engine choices range from the 1.6-litre petrol engine to the two 1.5-litre turbodiesels which come in different guises. We got to drive the 1.5-litre dCi Prestige EDC 4X2 on the launch which is the top of the range model. It has 80 kW of power and 250 N.m of torque which sounds sufficient and is for the most part, but it does lack some oomph, especially when overtaking. You need to be very strategic about it. Once at cruising speeds it is fine. My only gripe is off the mark where there is a bit of a delay, but you could just opt for the manual ‘box.
The ride is superb! The soft, floaty suspension means that there is a bit of body roll, but because the ride is so smooth, you easily forgive this. The perfectly weighted steering makes the whole driving experience that much better. And let me not even mention the turning circle! U-turns are a doddle! As is squeezing in to tight parking spaces at the last minute. 😉
There are a host of new 4X4 features to take you places you’ve never been before (is that a song lyric?) such as Hill Descent Control, a 4X4 monitor that allows you to check the pitch and roll angles of the Duster at any given time and a Transmission Mode Selector which enables the driver to switch between three driving modes: 2WD Mode where the engine torque is distributed to the front wheels, Automatic Mode allowing distribution of engine torque over the 4 wheels or Lock Mode for engine torque distribution to all four wheels.
I think my favourite thing about the Duster, and always has been, is that it is so unpretentious. It is what it is. No frills, no fuss. It does what it says on the box (I could keep going with these clichés, but I think you get my point). The CEO ofRenault, Carlos Ghosn, had a vision which was to develop a car that complied with European quality and standards but must also be able to go on rough roads and be affordable. His vision certainly became a reality and the Duster became a segment breaker. I have no doubt it will continue it’s almost cult-like success story because the recipe just works: a compact SUV with real 4X4 abilities, strong, practical, reliable, and most importantly, affordable. I just love this car.
NEW RENAULT DUSTER PRICING
- Renault DUSTER 1.6 Expression 4X2 R249 900
- Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×2 R282 900
- Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique EDC 4×2 R316 900
- Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×4 R321 900
- Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Prestige EDC 4×2 R334 900