Road Test: The new Renault Duster oozes economical street appeal

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Since it landed in South Africa back in 2013, the Renault Duster has had lordship as a capable and adventurous compact SUV at a much cheaper price point. Over the years they have improved on different aspects of the SUV while still managing to keep it relatively affordable for those wanting to enjoy its practicality.

The thing is, it’s not the most stimulating car to drive. The interior is lacking in quality feel and user experience – but in just about every other aspect, the Renault Duster is able to hold its own in an increasingly competitive market.

Improved styling

For this second-generation model, the styling has been improved and the 1.5 dCi 4×2 EDC is the most economical car I have driven in a while. In fact, it is the winner of the 2019 Fuel Economy Tour and CAR Magazine’s Small SUV of the Year for 2019. 

As the Renault Duster is built by a subsidiary Romanian company, Dacia, the access to a garage load of old components used to manufacture previous-generation models has helped to keep the cost down due to the efficiency of recycling parts.

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The Duster can be equipped with three engine variants, the 84kW 1.6 petrol five-speed manual, the 66kW 1.5 dCi five-speed manual and the 80kW 1.5 dCi six-speed manual or auto.

I had the liveliest of them all — the 1.5 dCi (diesel) 4×2 EDC 80kW TechRoad. The longer I spent driving the Duster, the more it revealed its minor shortcomings in the form of turbo lag. However, it is all but reduced if engine revs are kept above 2 000rpm.

Exceptional fuel economy

Things stay moderately calm and comfortable in the cabin when at speed, but for a noisy engine particularly at pull-off or at higher speeds. That can be overlooked with the surprisingly economical fuel consumption.

I managed to achieve 5.0 L/100km during a mixed 100km driving route. Daily driving consisting of the kids run and a healthy dose of dawdling in a few Johannesburg stop-go traffic jams was equally impressive pushing the economy up to a 5.6 to 5.8 L/100km.

The Duster doesn’t have a penchant for blistering acceleration, but the power is adequate for a small SUV that delivers such exceptional fuel economy. 

Modern overhaul

The New Duster looks far more modern than its predecessor. It’s a complete change from the old car as not a single body panel has been carried over. It stands out more confidently, courtesy of neat three-section LED daytime running lights, four-section rear lights which are strangely reminiscent of a Jeep product, a sculpted bonnet and a more muscular look. 

In TechRoad specification, the Renault Duster has been given more street appeal with its contrasting front and rear skid plates with satin chrome finish and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Considering the price point of this particular Duster at R332 900, the interior has improved with more comfy seats and a versatile mix of materials and hard-wearing plastics.

It’s not what you’d call luxurious, but apart from its hollow-sounding plastic adornments, it is hard to find fault with the build quality when considering where this car fits into the market and segment and what it may be used for.

Functional cabin design

Overall, the cabin design is more functional than it is inspiring and you won’t feel too precious about the kids jumping in with melting ice creams or muddy shoes. The piano-style controls below the air vents are a nice touch as is a fully loaded infotainment system featuring all manner of connectivity, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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The 7-inch infotainment screen is responsive and a good size when using the reverse camera. The multi-function steering has all the expected functions except for turning the cruise control function on and off. This is still done at the touch of a button just behind the gear lever – an oddly French thing that I still don’t entirely understand or agree with. It does work – but it’s somewhat counter-intuitive. 


So the question remains: Does the new Duster still retain the dominion it originally had in this segment?

Since 2013, a raft of new and improved competitors have come along and while Renault has improved the overall design and comfort of the Duster, there are now a few more considerations that could also make your list.

Haval’s recently facelifted H2, for example? Mahindra XUV300 or maybe even a Ford EcoSport? Duster still remains a competent and well-priced product backed by a winning Renault SA brand. 

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