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Eat its dust: Ghosn's next 4x4 in SA

2013-09-11 11:38

IT’S TIME GET TOUGH: Spacious and capable off-road… Renault’s new Duster SUV makes for a great family ride. Even if you’re going to venture off the beaten path, at least the Duster in 4x4 guise gives you the option to tap into your wild side.


Renault takes on the local off-road market as its Duster SUV arrives in South Africa. Can its latest 4x4 leave its competitors in the dust? Wheels24’s SERGIO DAVIDS finds out.

A few years ago Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn tasked his companies with creating “its first global family car”. The brief received by Renault managers was to create a spacious, go-anywhere vehicle that was budget-friendly but sexier than a B-segment sedan.

The result – the no-frills, spacious Duster SUV/4x4.

Gallery: 2013 Renault Duster in SA

The Duster, built in Chennai, India, is launched in 4x2 and 4x4 guise, two specification levels (Expression and Dynamique) and two engine options – 1.6 petrol and 1.5 turbo diesel. Its keen pricing will certainly raise more than a few eyebrows as it retails from R194 900 – R239 900.


The Duster measures 4.32m long, 1.82m wide, has a wheelbase of 2.67m and generous ground clearance (205 mm in 4x2, 210 mm in 4x4). Its rugged design gives it its own personality enabling it to shrug off any “baby Koleos” references. I must admit I didn’t like the design at first but seeing it in the metal, the rugged Duster has grown on me.

Renault South Africa vice-president of marketing and communication Fabien Payzan said:  “The Duster is the perfect fit for South African roads as it is equally at home on highways and suburbs as it's off the beaten track. It's the perfect companion for active families who need their car to adapt to their outdoor activities.”


The 1.6 petrol, used in the Renault Megane and Scenic, produces 75kW/145 Nm. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.5 litres/100km.

The 1.5 dCi turbo-diesel, despite being used in Nissan’s Qashqai and Mercedes-Benz A180, is a  newcomer in Renault’s local line-up. The 80kW diesel's torque peak is 240 Nm from 1750 rpm in 4x4 guise and 2250rpm in the 4x2.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. No auto option is currently in the pipeline for SA.

The diesel has a claimed fuel consumption of 5.5 litres/100km in the 4x2 and 5.3 in the 4x4. Emissions are 143g/km (4x2) and 137g/km in the 4x4.


If you do decide to venture off-road, the Duster has ground clearance and 4x4 suspension. It proved itself to be very capable off-road despite lacking low-range. To tackle inclines/descents the Duster is equipped with a short first-gear ratio (5.79km/h at 1000 rpm).

While it may lack four-wheel-drive hardware normally associated with pure 4x4s, the front-wheel-drive Duster is quite adept in the bundu as long as you're realistic about its abilities. The short gearing, 30-degree approach and 35-degree departure angles allow the SUV to take on moderately steep hills/declines.

Overall the Duster proved itself to be a spacious, practical and adventurous SUV. It rides well, handles confidently both on and off-road and its generous space makes it ideal for families. Even if you’re not a  4x4 enthusiast, the off-road tuned Duster gives you the option of tapping into your adventurous side whereas conventional sedans/hatches will have you confined to tar.


The Duster casually dismisses the worst patches of road and its suspension goes about the business of absorbing bumps and undulations with aplomb. It's a shame that the diesel is intrusively noisy from idle to redline.

What’s really impressive is its handling. Push it through corners you’ll find surprising road-hugging ability with negligible body roll.

Truth be told, I wasn’t prepared to like the Duster, but I do.


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a vehicle as practical as the Duster considering its price. Its voluminous boot has a capacity of  475 litres, which expands to an impressive 1636 when you fold the 60:40 split-folding rear seats. For comparison, Nissan's Qashqai has 410 litres.

Standard kit includes aircon, power windows and side mirrors, remote central locking, height-adjustable steering wheel and driver seat, CD/MP3 with aux, Bluetooth and satellite controls, and rear parking sensors.

The Dynamique derivatives are equipped with 16” alloys, chromed door handles, roof bars, side sills, mirrors and skid plates. Inside, drivers will be treated to a leather steering wheel and gear knob, black inserts in the dashboard and an 18cm touchscreen navigation system.

The Duster can be customised with Styling, Touring, Adventure and Protection packs.


As to be expected, a Renault isn't complete without a dash of "quirky" and on the Duster this manifests in the bizarre placing of the side-mirror controls - in a recess below the handbrake. Other niggles include the utilitarian-grey, hard plastics used throughout.


Earlier in 2013, Wheels24 reported on the launch of the automaker’s next-generation Clio. The Clio 4 has been a local success for Renault, with the automaker reporting 1777 sold by the end of August 2013. Globally, the Duster has overtaken the Clio with automaker claiming to be on its way to 400 000 units by the end of 2013. In fact the Duster is the most sold Renault in 2013 to date. Renault believes it diesel models (30%) will make up most of its sales.


One of its biggest rivals in SA is the new similarly Indian-built Ford EcoSport. Ford’s compact SUV offers ground clearance, hill assist and the automaker’s fantastic SYNC system. The EcoSport however is not offered in 4x4 guise, has significantly less boot capacity and doesn’t boast a touch screen with satnav (not even as an extra).

Another rival to consider is Nissan’s Qashqai and Daihatsu’s Terios.


So why the Duster moniker? Payzan commented: “We wanted to express its 4x4 nature and ‘dust’ give you the impression of off-roading and adventure. It’s as simple as that.”

What are some of the challenges for the Duster?

Payzan said: “One is awareness. The man-in-the street doesn’t know the Duster. It’s crucial that we tackle awareness. As such we’re launching a great ad campaign for our new model. We want the Duster to achieve the same sales figures as the Clio.”


The next Duster has just been launched at the the Frankfurt motor show. Renault SA told us that the “new” version would arrive on our shores at the end of 2014. This means that South Africans get the short end of the stick as model launched in September is the current one from Europe.

Curiously Payzan said: “We have our plan for the current Duster and there’s no short-term plans to change the range in SA.” He added that more information would be released following the Dacia Duster (Dacia is a Renault sister company) launch in Frankfurt.


Having a good product is only half the battle won, as you’ll still have to deliver on service and reliability. Renault has the unfortunate task of rebuilding an image marred by reliability issues. To give SA customers peace-of-mind, the Duster is sold with a three-year or 45 000km service plan (which can be extended) and a five-year or 100 000km warranty.

What about spare parts? According to Renault, spare parts are not a point of concern as it "retains over 17 000 parts in its warehouse in Pretoria".

“We make sure that more than 95% of these parts are delivered in less than 24 hours to any Renault dealer nationwide”.


Renault will launch its facelifted Koleos and Clio Sport 1.6 turbo later in 2013, though expect to see both models at the 2013 Johannesburg auto show in October 2013. Later in September 2013, the automaker will launch its special-edition Megane RS RB8. This model, produced in partnership with Red Bull, sports several style enhancements in celebration of Red Bull’s victory in both the 2012 Constructors’ and Drivers’ Formula 1 championships.

Renault Duster 1.6 Expression 4x2 - R194 900
Renault Duster 1.6 Dynamique 4x2 - R204 900
Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x2  - R219 900
Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4  -  R239 900

Read more on:    renault  |  cape town  |  suv  |  new models  |  4x4  |  off-road

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