A week spent racking up some kilometres in the latest iteration of the Renault Duster re-affirmed my test conclusion of the first generation Duster to launch locally; that being, it was a practical package with lots of good things going for it.
Nothing has changed, and the 1.5 dCi Intens, albeit the top end of the range, remains a practical and cost-effective package.
The road test
I drove the previous generation in the WesBank Economy Run – more than 1 000 kilometres – and managed to finish second in class, running the aged 1,6-litre engine against a much more fuel-efficient power plant from a rival manufacturer. The diesel version claimed first place in the class.
Renault, wisely, has made all the Duster models locally available diesel-powered.
The Duster itself has a bit of history – it stems from a Renault-owned company in Romania called Dacia that once built the most dreadful cars I have driven, running Renault 5 engines under licence. Prompted by the global criticism of the product, Renault bought the company and re-invented it – out of which came the Dacia Duster, badged Renault in several markets.
The Duster was first introduced locally in 2013 and has sold more than 23 000 units. The new Duster builds on those strengths by being a capable SUV defined by toughness, simplicity and reliability.
Styling tweaks on the latest version give it more aggressive lines, an expressive front, and wider rear underline by the prominent rear spoiler. Further external embellishments include the 17-inch Diamond Cut, silver roof rails, and front and rear skid plates.
Impressive off-road capabilities
Even in 4x2 trim, it has impressive off-road capabilities with a ground clearance of 210 mm and approach and departure angles of 30 degrees and 34 degrees, respectively.
The quality of the fabric seat covers has improved (leather is an option), and the dashboard is modified to look more modern and ergonomically comfortable. The rear bench seat has a 60:40 split and a total luggage capacity, in litres, of 478.
The 4x2 EDC outputs 80 kW at 4 000 r/min and 250 Nm of torque at 1 750 r/min, with consumption on the test circuit averaging at 5,1 l/100 km.
The six-speed Dual-Clutch EDC automatic gearbox efficiently and seamlessly shifts between gears. The low-down torque is a boon when tackling undulating ground and when it comes to maintaining momentum uphill.
Light and accurate steering
The steering wheel has a positive feel and accurately positions the front wheels to make low-speed, tight space manoeuvring a breeze and allows for correct positioning when moving more swiftly along winding roads.
Improved Cabin comfort comes with new seats and less intrusive headrests.
Equally, Renault did not neglect tech spec. The Duster offers onboard GPS navigation, wireless smartphone replication mirror compatibility, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic climate control, Speed Limiter and Cruise Control functions and the semi-flush 8-inch multimedia touch screen.
Access to tech and comfort features
Active and passive safety technology as standard includes anti-lock braking with EBD in conjunction with EBA, Rear Park Distance Control and Hill Start Assist.
It comes standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. Services take place at 15 000 km intervals with a standard 3-year/45000km service plan.
In terms of price competition, this Duster comes up against the Mitsubishi ASX 2.0 ES auto, Ford EcoSport 1.0T Active and Hyundai Creta 1.5 Premium and gives nothing away in terms of the comparative specification where it counts.