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Review: Why the Renault Duster ticks all the boxes as a daily drive

2018-01-20 06:00

Janine Van der Post

Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post

Cape Town - When searching for a new family vehicle, a popular car in South Africa has been the Renault Duster for the past few years.

Despite being around since 2013, my first experience behind the wheel of the Duster occurred during the 2017 December holidays.

The Duster has had rave reviews from my peers in the industry, thought it's not without its faults. But if it's a decent, affordable family vehicle you're after, then this is a pretty good pick.

The Duster range starts at R244 900 while the 4WD diesel version on test is listed for R309 900.

After finally experiencing the Duster in everyday conditions, I can safely say my expectations were met.

Initially I probably had high expectations of the interior and its quality since the Duster has undergone a facelift since its launch here, but then I reminded myself it's a budget 4x4 vehicle. So it's not as luxurious as a Lexus ES or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but it doesn't matter because we know we can't compare apples with oranges here.

It is however comfortable, durable and exceptionally frugal. And with a toddler on board, it's imperative that the first two boxes are ticked.

 

With that said, I have a huge family who live all over the Western Cape. It means regular drives to Malmesbury, Hout Bay and the occasional trip up the West Coast. And with home being out in Somerset West, visiting anyone translates to a relatively long drive out. 

Even our daily commute to work is a about 120km, so fuel consumption is crucial.

I had the 1.5 dCI Dynamique 4WD version on test and Renault claims its combined fuel consumption is rated at 5.2-litres/100km. It's not an unreachable figure at all and can be accomplished when you're driving at a constant speed perhaps. I managed to keep my consumption at 5.5-litres/100km. When driving more erratically, or with a heavier foot, even then the readings were only at 6.2-litres/100km at the most. 

Renault reckons the Duster has a claimed top speed of 168km/h. I can't attest to this since this really is not the kind of car you'd want to do high speeds with. The 120km/h speed limit is more than suffice.

The drive is comfortable and I initally thought that driving a manual vehicle during the December holidays  - particular when living close to the beach - was going to be an annoyance. But the six-speed manual gearbox mated to the 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine is easy to get along with. And, with 80kW and 240Nm, overtaking on the road leaves you feeling a bit more confident than you would expect.

Honestly, it's not the fastest car on the block, especially when you're going uphill and need to gear down a notch or three. It's important to play to the Duster's strengths; it's the same as trying to make Caster Semenya run a 100m sprint instead of letting her do what she does best in the 800m event.  

Despite its 4WD capability, I didn't particularly go off-roading these holidays. I wanted to see if the Duster was good enough as a daily drive for the commute and the occasional roadtrip.

The Duster is as congenial on gravel and soft sand as it is on the asphalt. In fact, it feels at home when taking the beaten track. The Swartland district has loads of gravel roads, it's practically the norm and the Duster feels no different to when it's on tarred roads. Just like it's snug on some soft sand when taking the kids for a quick splash at the beach in Saldanha Bay.

It has a ground clearance of 210mm which is marvelous for a compact SUV like this. It helps when you need to climb a pavement or create a makeshift pavement amidst all the tourist visiting the Cape during the festive season. 

The Duster comes with a smart 4WD control system which has the capability for any kind of road or situation. In includes three dirivng modes: 2WD for normal driving, Auto for potential sippery surfaces and Lock for when you do decide to do some bundu-bashing and need torque delivered to all four wheels.

Standard and conventient features include ABS with EBD, power steering, reverse parking sensors with camera, touchscreen sat nav, cruise control and fingertrip audio controls behing the steering wheel. It also has four airbags.

Trips often included extra family members making for a full load of four adults and one child in a car seat on most days. Even then, space is adequate. The rear 60/40 split bench can fold down giving the already large boot even more room if you need the extra space.

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