New Renault Duster - Tough is the Word!
There was much talk about the new Renault Duster being launched in South Africa and about what its influence would be.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found at the launch. Not only is this a gutsy SUV, but it is also very capable and most affordable. The Renault Duster is a good-looking SUV that is well built and has a remarkable amount of equipment that is usually found only in much pricier vehicles. The Duster has, to date, been a global success story for Renault, and, after my experience with the Duster, there is no reason why it should not be a similar success in South Africa. If Renault can capitalise on the ‘hype’ and success of the Renault Clio and deliver the service that is expected by the public, I foresee a rosy future for Renault SA. The Renault Duster is a rugged-looking vehicle that reminds me somewhat of the Mitsubishi Pajero from the front, and it does have real off-road capabilities – as I soon found out during
the launch. The Duster will be great for active families that need a vehicle that can do more than the average four-door, C-segment saloon.
It further boasts an impressive list of equipment that is simply not found as standard in this price range. It has more interior space than any other C-segment SUV, comfortably seats five adults, and still has lots of space available for luggage. As a genuine SUV, the new Renault Duster has been engineered to handle the most challenging road conditions in comfort and safety. Its high ground clearance (205mm in the 4x2, and 210mm in the 4x4), its high-profile tyres, and its reinforced suspension ensure high-level, loose-surface ability – something we discovered when we travelled over badly rutted roads with potholes. The Duster never lost its ‘footing’ or seemed ‘unsure’, even at speeds of 80kph on dirt roads. The Renault Duster comes with a choice of two engines: the 1.6-litre, 16-valve normally aspirated petrol engine and the gutsy 1.5-litre, dCi turbo-diesel. Both offer high performance, yet remain the perfect fit as regards cost, reliability and easy maintenance.
The 1.6-litre, 16-valve petrol engine, praised for its best-in-class reliability, is used in the Renault Mégane and Renault Scénic. This power plant produces a maximum 75kW at 5 850rpm and 145Nm of torque at 3 750rpm, while maintaining a still reasonable fuel consumption (7.5l/100km in the combined cycle). The 1.5-litre dCi turbo-diesel (code name K9K), a newcomer to Renault’s local line-up and fitted in Mégane, Scénic and Laguna models in Europe, makes its debut in Renault’s local line-up in the new Renault Duster. It is also used by Nissan, and by Mercedes-Benz in its new A180. Renault’s extensive experience of Formula 1 racing has enabled this new-generation power plant to combine capacity reduction (downsizing) with a very high level of performance. The new 1.5-litre dCi engine replaces the old 1.9 dCi engine and delivers excellent power output of 80kW, with a peak torque rating of 240Nm attained at 1 750rpm on the 4x4 and 2 250rpm on the 4x2.
As a result of its smooth, manual six-speed gearbox and its low-end torque, the 1.5 dCi affords extreme responsiveness in all conditions. The 1.5 dCi boasts very low fuel consumption (5.5l/100km in the 4x2, and 5.3l/100km in the 4x4), as well as reduced CO2 emissions (143g/km in the 4x2 configuration and 137g/km in the 4x4). We achieved an average of 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres in its auto setting while using four-wheel drive most of the time. What, therefore, can you expect when buying the Duster? The base version, the Expression, comes standard with front fog lights, roof bars, body-coloured side mirrors, and stylish 16-inch wheels. The interior is comfortable, with standard manual air conditioning, front and rear power windows, remote central locking, electrically adjustable side mirrors, a height-adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat, CD/MP 3/Radio 4x15W with satellite controls, jack and USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an onboard computer and rear parking sensors.
Being an SUV, it is further very practical with its 60/40 foldable rear bench and the numerous and large storage spaces at the front and at the back, complete with a generous boot (475l). My only gripe was that the front cup holders are small and obscure the control where the 4WD mode selector is situated, which is also not within easy reach. Safety and security are not neglected and the Duster comes standard with ABS, coupled with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), with front driver and passenger air bags. It also offers, as standard, driver and passenger head/thorax side air bags, as well as height-adjustable front safety belts. In the 4x2 configuration, the Expression is offered with the 1.6-litre, 16-valve petrol engine.
The Duster Dynamique is even richer in terms of design and smart technology, with 16-inch alloy wheels in tandem with a satin chrome finish on the outside door handles, roof bars, side sills, mirrors and skid plates on the outside, as well as a black leather steering wheel and gear knob plus black gloss inserts on the dashboard. It further boasts an integrated and intuitive touch-screen navigation system as standard on the Dynamique. An integrated and intuitive multimedia system with navigation, MEDIANAV®, is both smart and efficient, with a host of features, including radio, media (connections for portable music devices), hands-free telephony thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, and navigation with quick access to all the settings via the 18cm touch screen – super-smart technology at its best. MEDIANAV® is rated as the most attractive onboard, touch-screen navigation system on the market.
With just one touch, customise the 2D or 3D Birdview map display and activate voice guidance. Whether entering an address or updating maps, the system is simple and intuitive. Thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, enjoy music on the move by connecting to the dash-mounted USB or jack sockets, or make and receive calls hands-free, consult your phone book or look up your call history. A complete system combining simplicity with a host of value-add features, MEDIANAV® has proven itself to be comprehensive, smart, straightforward and reliable. The Dynamique is offered either with the 1.6-litre, 16-valve petrol engine or the gutsy1.5-litre dCi turbo-diesel engine, the latter giving one the choice of 4x2 or 4x4 transmission. We tested the 4x4 Dynamique version of the Duster with the 1.5-litre dCi engine and concluded that Renault can truly boast about its 4x4 off-road qualities, as it really is very good. The Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 is really at ease on the most demanding off-road track sand. Its high ground clearance (210mm) is adequate for most day-to-day off-road obstacles and its favourable approach, break-over and departure angles (30, 23 and 36 degrees respectively) just add to the agility of this gutsy little Duster.
1.6 Expression 4x2 R194 900
1.6 Dynamique 4x2 R204 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x2 R219 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 R239 900
The gear-ratio setting of the manual six-speed gearbox, specific to the 4x4 version, also plays a crucial part, with a short first gear (5.79km/h at 1 000rpm), which allowed me to negotiate even the most extreme off-road conditions – from 500mm wading in deep trenches to traversing steep inclines – without damaging or possibly burning the clutch. This setting is a perfect fit for the 1.5 dCi, whose low-end torque ensures a steady response in all situations, even with a full load or while towing.
The new Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 is equipped with ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and a high-performing 4WD control system, derived from Nissan. This intuitive 4WD control system adapts to all situations and enables the driver to choose one of three modes: 2WD for roads with good grip conditions for front wheels only, AUTO for potentially slippery road surfaces (detection of spinning wheels and automatic distribution of power and torque to preserve traction), and LOCK for challenging off-road tracks (permanent distribution of power and torque to the four wheels). I preferred the setting to remain in AUTO, as this made for really pleasurable driving during all weather conditions and on all surfaces. It also proved to be very effective while driving over some mountain passes and on slippery roads. As is the case across Renault’s entire product range, the Renault Duster comes standard with a 5-year/150 000km warranty. Also, all Renault Duster variants come standard with a 3-year/45 000km service plan. Services intervals are at 15 000km for both 1.6-litre, 16-valve petrol and 1.5 dCi engines.
Driving the Renault Duster powered by the 1.5 dCi turbo-diesel is an amazing experience on road or off road. It oozes charm and gives one absolute confidence in its capabilities while driving on our South African roads. It is a practical, cost-efficient and gutsy vehicle that will win many hearts during its lifespan.
OUT OF OFFICE | CAR REVIEW
by Carl Wepener
* Prices as at date of publishing