NO BULL DUSTER – WE TEST RENAULT’S AFFORDABLE SUV

Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique 4WD

Renault’s all-wheel drive baby actually is an SUV and runs on the sniff of a rag

Look at it and the latest Renault Duster doesn’t quite jump out and scream, hey, I’m the new one. But park it next to the previous version and the differences are clear.

SHARPER, BOLDER, MORE ASSERTIVE

Sharper and far more modern in a bolder, more assertive new design than the original, its advances are highlighted by that shiny new grille trim, roof bars, front and rear skid plates and cool 17” alloys. Add squared-off modern taillights too — even if they appear lifted from a Jeep parts bin.

Renault calls the new look robust. It is. We reckon it’s softer than the old car, better too. Step inside and Duster’s revised cabin design sorts out those ergonomic foibles that bothered us so in the far more agricultural older car.

Being a Renault, it’s also well-equipped and build quality is good enough too, courtesy of enveloping seats, easy stowage, improved controls and decent multimedia. Add keyless entry with stop start, blind spot warning, rear park distance control, automatic climate and speed limiter cruise control and a record 478 litre boot — most of what you’d expect from an SUV significantly higher up the pecking order. It’s all reasonably well cobbled together too — impressive at the price.

THIS ONE’S ACTUALLY A SUV

Unlike its FWD siblings, our 66kW 210Nm 5.1l/100km 1.5dCi Dynamique 4WD test unit actually is an SUV as it drives both axles through a pretty decent six-speed manual ‘box. On the road, Duster is by no means the quickest ute on the block, but it gets on well enough.

In fact a better than expected 9.4 seconds to 100 is not at all bad for a little one-point-five turbodiesel pulling a more than spacious family SUV. Ride is good, it handles and holds the road well and we found Duster capable on the soft dirt we took it to, so it should take you to some very interesting places, were you so inclined.

But the real clincher here is how economical this Duster 1.5 dCi proved to be — frugal enough to give credence to that old cliche ‘runs on the sniff of an oily rag’. We enjoyed a busy week with Duster — it was busy enough to snuff out a full tank of fuel, were we driving any other SUV. But our Duster hardly sipped a quarter tank over a wide variety of driving. Its 5.2-litre per hundred claim is pretty on point, I’d say.

TIMES ARE TOUGH

In summary, times are tough. You introduce me to someone who is not scratching right now? So at a more than reasonable entry point, offering a good warranty and adequate service plan and returning amazing fuel economy for a real AWD SUV, downsizing to Duster may not be such a big deal after all.

Still very much a Duster, it’s a step forward in quality and user-friendliness inside and out — all to improve on the original car’s core strengths of a versatile and comfortable everyday entry SUV. It does the job just as well as anything else with all those bells and whistles and at a fraction of the price too. — Michele Lupini

Images – Dylan McKay

ROAD TESTED: Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique 4WD
Engine: 80kW 26Nm 1.5-litre turbodiesel I4

Drive: 6-speed manual AWD
TESTED:
0-60 km/h:        3.92 sec
0-100 km/h:       9.44 sec
0-160 km/h:       30.26 sec
400m:             17.1 sec @ 131 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.53 sec
120-160 km/h:     17.12 sec
CLAIMED:
VMax:             168 km/h
Fuel:             5.2 l/100km
Range:            950 km
CO2               138 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 150K/3y 45Kkm
LIST PRICE:       R361K
RATED:            7
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