Although the Renault Duster has been on the market for several years and continues to sell well, I am regularly asked by readers “How capable is the Duster?” The simple response is “Very” and the latest updates to the range simply emphasises the point.
A couple of years ago I got to drive the 1,6-litre petrol 4×2 on the WesBank Fuel Economy Tour and was severely impressed by the consumption being achieved by my team mates who had the diesel derivative – so it was with some anticipation I took the keys of the 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×4 diesel.
I was not disappointed and, even with the heavier drivetrain, could comfortably keep the average consumption down to a shade over the 5,0 l/100 km mark without compromising on the driving comfort and making full use of the low rev torque of the engine.
With more than two million cars sold globally, the Renault Duster has evolved from the original that was designed and engineered to adeptly master tough road conditions, but in a more modest form.
The Duster 4×4’s is visually more muscular, the design tone set by the more aggressive lines and a more expressive front and wider rear. The stance is emphasised by more horizontal lines, new 16-inch wheels, more prominent aluminium roof bars and front and rear skid plates.
The greater off-road capabilities are helped by a ground clearance of 210 mm, with approach and departure angles of 30 degrees and 34 degress respectively
The interior was re-designed and the upholstery features a high-quality finish, as does the dashboard, where particular emphasis has been placed on ergonomic design. Optimised travelling comfort is ensured by the newly designed and more enveloping seats, with careful attention to the materials, fit and finish.
The modular interior layout adapts easily 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.
Duster always offered better than average luxury and comfort specification and the 4×4 has on-board GPS Navigation with Smartphone mirror compatibility for 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, while the automatic climate control, Speed Limiter and Cruise Control functions ease the stress on the open road.
The Renault Duster 4×4 also has Hill Descent Control, enabling smooth descent of hills without use of the brake, MultiView Camera 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 i4x4 monitor allows the driver to check the pitch and roll angles of the vehicle at any given time.
With the Transmission Mode Selector available on the 4×4 Model, the driver is able to switch between three 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.
In the test cycle, the switch from two to four-wheel drive in Auto mode was appreciably quick and totally seamless meaning there is a good chance you will not get caught out when the apparently solid dirt road suddenly turns to talcum powder or mud.
The Lock setting obviously keeps in in 4×4 and, while it does not have low range, the combination of the low rev torque and all-wheel drive mean this vehicle will go pretty much anywhere there is an actual road and could even embarrass some ‘genuine’ 4×4 vehicles if donga-diving became a necessity.
Active and passive safety technology standard across the Duster range includes Anti-Lock Braking with EBD in conjunction with EBA.
Rear Park Distance Control enables easier parking manoeuvres by warning the driver of obstacles situated behind the vehicle by a sequence of beeps which speed up the closer you are to them. In the 4×4 model, Hill Descent Control facilitates a controlled hill descent in rough terrain, without brake input from the driver.
The 4×4 is powered by a 1.5 dCi engine mated with a 6-speed manual gearbox and offers 80 kW with 260 Nm of torque.
It is obviously that torque that makes this such an appealing vehicle and helps keep the fuel consumption down even when set on cruise, since it needs only a very slight adjustment to the throttle to maintain the set speed up hill and down dale.
The high seating and improved forward visibility are natural USP’s of SUV style vehicles and the Duster provides that range of vision, the squarish shape also making it easy to judge the corners of the vehicle easily.
On the road it is mild-mannered and, quite frankly, was never intended to be pushed too hard. However, it does respond with generally neutral handling and less body roll than its shape may suggest.
If you plan on going somewhere out there slowly and loving every minute of the journey, the Duster will satisfy that roadlust.
As is standard across Renault’s entire product range, the 4×4 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.