Cape Town - Since its initial local release just over two years ago in September 2013 the Duster, Renault’s imaginative and unconventional, yet unpretentious B-segment contender has chalked up impressive sales figures for the French brand.
In some months more than 400 of these crossover SUV’s were retailed, and this in helped the once struggling brand to regain some much-needed market share, recently moving up to seventh spot overall in the new car sales rankings.
The small SUV with its quite rugged off-road looks also gained a reputation for reliability and durability – two traits that were not normally associated locally with the diamond trademark.
SA Car of the Year finalist
During this time the Duster was also nominated as one of eleven finalists in the 2015 Car of the Year competition and recently, more than 8000 sales later, the small SUV was facelifted, or “revitalised” as Renault would like to call it.
• Two chromed horizontal grille strips (instead of three) and re-designed Renault logo
• Less chromed trim at the front
• New roof bars with Duster moniker etched into the aluminium insets.
• Body coloured side-mirrors
• New alloy rims.
• Parking distance control (standard)
• Patterned fabric replaces plain seat and door panel design.
• 7” touchscreen satnav (Dynamique variants only)
• Cruise control now standard
• Leather trim and seat optional on all three derivatives
Well, the most prominent change to the somewhat quirky styling of our (plain white) top of the line Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 test car was the redesigned radiator grille with Renault’s bold diamond now set into two strips instead of three.
Image gallery: 2015 Renault Duster
It also now carries less chrome, while the headlights have been simplified to give the cheeky SUV a sleeker, yet tougher look.
Chunky new roof bars with the Duster name etched into the aluminium insets have also been added, while the rear view side mirrors are now body-coloured, and it is all rounded off with trendy new alloy wheels.
Inside the plain fabric of the original models has been replaced by much more funky looking diamond-patterned fabric on the inner seat segments and door panels, while rear parking distance control sensors have been added (but no rear view camera).
The only concern really was the piano black trim on the middle console that not only looked a bit tacky, but also out of place.
Our Dynamique also sported an easy to use and less cheap looking 7" MediaNav touchscreen system, as well as cruise control and quite comfortable black-cladded leather seats.
While the punchy 1.5-litre Renault-designed dCi turbodiesel still churns out 80kW/240Nm, its efficiency has been improved and during our test we attained a consumption figure of 6.7 litres/100 km – good in anyone’s books, but quite remarkable in a capable 4x4 weighing 1 288kg.
The flagship Duster isn’t quick off the line (it reaches the ton in 12.5 seconds) but its good torque delivery ensures decent overtaking ability and at the legal speed limit it cruises up and down the hills serenely.
The dCi 4x4 has also proven itself as quite adept off-road, its 30-degree approach and 23-degree break-over angle combined with 210mm of ground clearance and well-spaced gear ratios enabling it to take on daunting obstacles.
And even while it has no low-range ’box the Duster’s bespoke four-wheel drive system with ABS modulated traction control gives it good performance in sandy and rocky terrain.
Besides all these characteristics perhaps the best attribute of the enhanced Duster is the tangible improvement in its build quality.
You first realise this when you close the doors and it shuts with a solid clunk, and appreciate the fit and finish of the new materials used in the interior. Best of all is that it is rattle-free on the road and also off-road.
This can be attributed to the fact that the latest Duster models are now imported from Romania, and not as previously from India.
Production of the Duster has this year been moved from Chennai, India, to Pitesti in Romania and it is now being manufactured in the same plant as its equally popular Sandero sibling.
The Pitesti plant has a reputation for solid build quality and efficiency, and what’s more, with a number of Duster parts already sourced from Romania, it reduces lead times for new vehicles and spare parts…
A bargain all round
As is the case across Renault’s entire product range, all the Duster variants come standard with a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, a three-year/45 000km service plan (with service intervals at 15 000km intervals) and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.
Add to this the latest improvements, not only in spec but also in terms of build quality, and the Duster becomes even more of a proposition.
At R269 900 the top of the line Dynamique 4x4 is also very competitively priced, making it the most affordable 4x4 SUV in the country bar the minute Suzuki Jimny (R229 900).
If a versatile family vehicle equally at home on highways, in cities and suburbs, as well as off the beaten track is what you are looking for, the tough, unpretentious Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 is a compelling proposition.
Specifications: Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4
Engine: 1461cc 4-cyl in-line, common-rail turbo diesel
Compression ratio: 15.7:1
Bore and stroke (mm) - 76x80.5
Power (kW): 80kW@4000rpm
Torque (Nm): 240Nm@1750rpm
Mass - 1875kg
Acceleration (0-100km/h) - 12.8 sec
Maximum speed - 168km/h
Fuel tank capacity - 50 litres
Fuel consumption - 5.7 litres/100km (claimed)
CO2 emissions -135g/km
Suspension front - MacPherson type
Suspension rear - Multilink MacPherson struts
Steering - Hydraulic power assisted
Transmission - six-speed manual AWD
Wheels - 6.5J 16
Tyres - 215/65R16
Warranty - 5 year/150 000km
Service plan - 3 year/45 000km
Price (as tested) - R269 900