Road Review – Renault Duster 1.5 dCi 4×4

Appearances, they say, are deceiving. They (whoever they are) also say dynamite comes in small packages. Assuming the truth of both statements, it then follows you would be unlikely to recognise a package of dynamite.

I can verify this is actually the case – just take a look at the Renault Duster 4×4. Go on, take a closer look; even closer.

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Yup. There is nothing visual that makes the 4×4 dramatically different to its 4×2 siblings. In fact, there will be owners who drive their 4×4 version for its entire life without actually realising it is a 4×4 and, unless they manually twist the rotary dial between the seats, that it automatically assesses road conditions and switches between 4×2 and 4×4 mode automatically.

Those people are missing out.

While this is definitely a “Do Not Try This At Home” warning, the tests I put the Duster through – mud sand and rocks – would have impressed many a ‘true’ 4×4 bakkie, it was in a controlled environment and quite a long way out of the range of conditions the average Duster owner will encounter.

Perhaps not entirely necessary in terms of this Road Review. . . but soooo much fun.

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With more than 2-million cars sold globally, the Renault Duster was completely revamped six years after its original release – the 4×2 versions launched locally late last year.

The revamped Renault Duster gained all-new exterior styling not radically different to the outgoing version but which presented a more assertive and robust look and that came with a totally redesigned interior

The Renault Duster 4×4 – on closer examination – is visually more muscular and the design tone is set by the more aggressive lines and a more expressive front and wider rear heightening the impression of stability.

The Duster’s stance is emphasised by 16-inch wheels, more prominent aluminium roof bars, and front and rear skid plates. The chrome trim of the grille, alongside a raised waistline and the C-shaped light signature complete the look.

Off-road capabilities are helped by the ground clearance of 210 mm, with noteworthy approach and departure angles of 30° high approach and 34° departure angles respectively.

The interior of the Renault Duster was re-designed and the upholstery features a high-quality finish, as does the dashboard, where particular emphasis has been placed on ergonomic design.

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Optimised travelling comfort is further ensured by the newly designed and more enveloping seats, with careful attention to the materials, fit and finish. Certainly, in the time I spent in the test unit, there was no hint of discomfort or backache associated with long hours ‘in the saddle’.

Numerous clever stowage spaces are easily accessible with improved accessibility of controls, and amongst others, an enhanced Multimedia experience.

The modular interior layout adapts to user needs, with the rear bench seat featuring a 1/3 – 2/3 split-fold function, while the boot boasts loading capacity of up to 478 litres.

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The Renault Duster 4×4 offers on-board GPS Navigation and Smartphone mirror compatibility for both Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto.

Blind Spot warning detects any obscured vehicles and convenient automatic headlights activate automatically without the driver needing to press a manual switch. Comfort functions include automatic climate control, speed limiter and cruise control.

Off-road aids include Hill Descent Control, enabling smooth descent of hills without use of the brake. A MultiView Camera allows for easy visibility of the front, rear or side terrain, triggered by the reverse gear or by a simple touch of the dedicated button, while the innovative 4×4 monitor allows one to even check the pitch and roll angles of the Duster at any given time.

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With the Transmission Mode Selector available on the 4×4 Model, the driver is able to switch between 3 driving modes: 2WD Mode where the engine torque is distributed to the front wheels, Automatic Mode allowing distribution of engine torque over the four wheels or Lock Mode for engine torque distribution to all four wheels.

Safety equipment includes and anti-lock braking system with EBD [Electronic Brake Force Distribution] in conjunction with EBA [Emergency Brake Assist] and rear park distance control.

The Renault Duster 4×4 is powered by a 1,5-litre dCi engine mated with a 6-speed manual gearbox, for greater driving comfort and pleasure. The Duster 4×4 Model boasts fuel consumption from only 5,2 l/100km and yields outputs of 80 kW with 260 Nm of torque and contained CO2 emissions of 138 g/km.

Taken across the full spectrum of activities during my test – including the 4×4 sections – the overall average fuel consumption ran in at 6,4 l/100 km.

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The fact it switches automatically between drive modes means the on-road performance is not compromised by having power to all four wheels, so the car remains light and nimble, easy to steer and whisk in and around the traffic.

Good all round visibility (plus the techno aids) mean it is easy to manoeuvre and park in those dwarf spaces at shopping centres, while access to the load are is at a reasonable and comfortable height.

The choice of diesel power off-road is ideal since the low rev torque means the system can switch and get the power to where it is needed without being rushed or revved to wheelspin levels before the lock can be established.

At its price point (R327 900) the Duster offers excellent value for money.

As is standard across Renault’s entire product range, the Renault Duster Model range 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, and a standard 3-year/45 000 km service plan applies.

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