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Reader review: Renault Duster vs. Ford EcoSport

2014-05-15 09:41

EAT MY DUST(ER): Wheels24 reader ROBERT DANIELS says the Renault Duster trumps the Ford EcoSport in off-road conditions. Image: ROBERT DANIELS

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Wheels24 reader ROBERT DANIELS recently drove two similar specification compact SUVs. He compares the Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport:

The Duster and EcoSport both look like 4X4 off-road vehicles but this unlikely pair can tackle nothing more challenging than gravel roads and the occasional national park.

The Renault Duster 1.5 DCi 4X2 Dynamique is front-wheel drive, so too the Ford EcoSport 1.0T Titanium. Both vehicles on test have range-topper derivatives available in their respective model line-ups which means both come with all the bells and whistles.


Boxes to tick on both models include elevated ride height, alloys, roof racks, spot lights and all the comfort features such as aircon, power steering, central locking, USB and MP3 compatible sound systems, anti-lock braking system and a full complement of airbags.

The EcoSport boasts six airbags over the Duster’s four but the Renault hits back with dash mounted, full colour satnav as standard.

The Duster was developed and built in Romania as a world car aimed at developing countries like ours, so too the Ford EcoSport which is shipped from India.

Entry level buyers like the look and feel of an SUV-type vehicle and these two are the most affordable way into the segment since both models start at a wallet friendly R200 000.


Both vehicles are economical but I would have loved to compare the diesel EcoSport to the diesel Duster. Good news is that the 1.0 three cylinder petrol ecoboot suits the character of the Ford EcoSport much better.

The EcoSport is clearly aimed at the urbanite who wants a higher driving position and the ability to scrabble over kerbs and a result, the smooth, sprightlier turbocharged petrol-powered Ford is your best bet.

The ecoboost won the International Engine of the Year award twice and it uses 6.8-litres/100km. If you're in the market for an EcoSport, make sure its equipped with this engine. Power delivery is instant and its 92kW always feels readily available.

The 170Nm of torque pulls smoothly through the five-speed manual gearbox and this too is nice to use, if somewhat rubbery.


The Duster uses Renault's tried and trusted 1.5 DCi, four-cylinder turbodiesel mated to a six-speed manual. It used only six litres of 50ppm diesel per 100km. It might feel less refined than the Ford’s engine, but it’s a real little trooper, easily out-performing the EcoSport on the open road.

This engine pushes out 80kW but the 240Nm of torque makes the Duster more relaxed and comfortable for road tripping. It also handles loads and hills better than the Ford so feel free to fill up the Duster with family, friends and luggage as this won’t hamper your progress nearly as much as it will in the EcoSport.

Be warned though - these modern, small turbocharged engines really suffer once you load up your vehicle.

Dynamic handling is more the Ford’s forte and it takes top honours. Its sharper, nimbler and reacts quickly to driver input, very much like the Ford Figo it is based on and it was always going to out corner the Duster.


Judge the Duster and EcoSport on respective merits and the purpose they were built for and you too will love them both as much as I do.

Small families on a budget can now also go camping, fishing, driving through national parks and not worry about damage because both the Duster and EcoSport are tough.

With that said, the Duster feels a lot more like 'Chuck Norris' when you encounter bad road surfaces, bumps, potholes and the great outdoors in general.

It loves being chucked - excuse the pun - around on gravel and the little diesel engine pulls you up inclines with more conviction than the EcoSport. It likes the rough stuff where the EcoSport feels inconvenienced.

City slickers won’t like the Duster and the camping crowd will not appreciate the EcoSport.

The Ecosport is refined and its build quality trumps the Duster’s any day of the week. The Ford is very 'car-like' making you think you are in a high-positioned Figo or Fiesta - which is a great thing - but the Duster will make you feel unstoppable in mild off-road conditions.

The Renault feels much larger inside compared to the Ford and boasts the larger boot, but the EcoSport feels of better tactile quality when fit, finish, road noise and engine vibration is brought into consideration.

Remember that these vehicles are not aimed at the same buyer, but also remember that if you are going to spend the premium on a SUV, it needs to be able to do more than the equivalent B-segment road car it is based on.

The Duster can and the EcoSport can’t, so my mind is made up. Is yours?

Renault Duster or Ford EcoSport - which is your pick? Email us and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24.
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