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 brand new. But park it nest to an old one, and the differences are clear.
A significant makeover, it’s sharpened up and far more modern in a bolder, more assertive new design than the original 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've been lifted from a Jeep parts bin.
Renault calls the new look robust. It is, but 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. Its all reasonably well cobbled together too — impressive at the price.
Our 66kW 210Nm 5.1l/100km 1.5 dCi Techroad test unit drove its front axle through a much improved 6-speed Dual-Clutch EDC Automatic. Among new Duster’s highlights is how much this gearbox has improved. That jerky, jumpy, temperamental old dog belongs in the bin.
On the road, Duster is by no means the quickest ute on the block, but it gets on well enough — in fact 10.4 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 — busy enough to snuff out a full tank were we driving any other SUV, but our Duster hardly sipped a quarter tank over a wide variety of driving. Its 4.8-litre per hundred claim is pretty good, I’d say.
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 an 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 Techroad auto
Engine: 80kW 26Nm 1.5-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 6-speed automated manual FWD
0-60km/h: 4.50 sec
0-100km/h: 10.44 sec
0-160km/h: 31.56 sec
400m: 17.3 sec @ 128km/h
80-120km/h: 7.86 sec
120-160km/h: 16.70 sec
Fuel: 4.8 l/100km
CO2 126 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 150K/3y 45Kkm
LIST PRICE: R332K