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Juliet McGuire

First drive in the new Renault Duster 4×4

NOTE: This was written by a colleague who would like to remain anonymous (hint: she is awesome!)

These days our Compact SUV and Crossover market is loaded with new models that are capable of handling the odd bit of rough terrain – perhaps the gravel parking lot outside your kids’ school is where your ‘off-the-beaten-track adventures’ end – but if you’re an avid, regular off-roader in need of a compact SUV that has 4x4ing at the centre of its existence, your options are somewhat limited.

Enter Renault’s new 4×4 Duster, which the automaker recently launched in Magaliesberg. The new Duster 4×4 maintains all of its pedigree updates, from sportier exterior styling to new and (much improved) interior features that enhance cabin comfort and connectivity. Renault adds impressive 4×4 capabilities by increasing the new Duster’s ground clearance to 210 mm, by enhancing approach and departure angles, and by offering off-road driver aids like Hill Descent Control and a transmission Mode Selector.

The Mode Selector on the new Duster 4×4 lets you change the vehicle’s driving capabilities on the fly (at speeds of up to 40km/hour) depending on the terrain you’re tackling. For regular driving conditions, 2WD sends power to the front wheels. Slippery road surfaces or gravel roads are best experienced in AUTO mode, while LOCK mode sends torque to all four wheels.

Duster

At the launch we got to put this new Duster 4×4 to the test over some fun and challenging obstacles that had (some of us) biting our nails at first glance of the ridiculously steep inclines and intimidatingly narrow passes and corners! Ah, but thankfully the Duster 4×4 stays true to Renault’s claim of it being ‘toughness redefined.’ Apart from making scary obstacles look easy to take on, what really stands out is that even in a jungle-like environment over rough and tough terrains, there is minimal compromise to comfort or the improved refinement in the new Duster’s cabin. Sure, you can still have a lot of fun and not be afraid to throw it around a bit, but you’re not going to step out of the car at the end of it feeling like you’ve been dragged through a bush backwards.

The new Duster 4×4 is powered by the familiar 1.5-litre dCi engine and is linked to a 6-speed (manual only for now) gearbox. Whether or not Renault plans to bring in an EDC 4×4 model in the future remains to be disclosed, but die-hard off-roaders might prefer the control of a manual gearbox anyway. Changing between gears is smooth and stress-free, and it really is a joy to drive once you’re up in higher gears on the highway. Some might find that its first gear is a tad too short in regular driving environments (we found it to be a lot more effective to take off in second gear and proceed from there) but on steep inclines and in tricky spaces it all makes sense.

Fuel consumption across the range is impressive and while Renault claims this at 5.2-litres/100km for its 4×4 model, we averaged around 5.8-litres during our on- and off-road test drive, which is not bad at all. Its engine offers power of 80 kW and a punchy 260 Nm of torque that really comes into play on those off road obstacles.

The new Renault Duster is priced at R327 900 and comes with Renault’s 3-year service plan (45 000km) and 5-year warranty (150 000km).

So now that Renault has completed its Duster range with the addition of its 4×4 model, customers have a good mix of options to choose from. It really takes experiencing the Duster 4×4 for yourself (off-road) to see just how much it is capable of – bearing in mind that you’re still getting all the new and exciting features that Renault has packed in across the range, at a competitive price.

PRICING OF THE NEW RENAULT DUSTER

–       NEW Renault DUSTER 1.6 Expression 4X2                 R255 900

–       NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×2            R288 900

–       NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique  EDC 4×2    R322 900

–       NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique  4×4          R327 900

–       NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5dCi Prestige EDC 4×2          R340 900

ALSO WATCH MY VIDEO ON THE SUZUKI JIMNY

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