Stephen Smith tries out the new Renault Duster, and explains why it is more than just a name and deserves its 4×4 badge
What do people want in a family car? Space … affordability … reliability and safety. Add a modicum of 4×4 ability to the equation, and you’ve basically described the Renault Duster 4×4. In my opinion, it also offers pretty good value for money, and I love the humble way it goes about its business – there’s nothing too flash about the Duster, except maybe the chrome grille, and yet it ticks so many boxes.
Compared to the previous model this newer version is replacing, there are no extravagant design changes, probably because the original design of the Duster was so popular, and because big changes would be more expensive. The grille and headlights have been made wider, with LED driving lights, and the taillights are now square. The wheels have been made bigger and the bonnet has been sculpted, while the roof rails have been made more prominent. There are a few more subtle changes, but the overall effect is a car that is instantly recognisable as a Duster, but also obviously as a new generation.
The interior has some very welcome changes – a 7-inch touchscreen is the interface for information and entertainment and includes Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, which has been moved to a more user-friendly position. Other than that, materials have been improved and the seats made more supportive and comfortable.
Some of you might question whether the Duster’s 4×4 badge is worth anything, but rest assured, the Duster 4×4 can actually traverse some pretty tricky stuff. The 4×4 model is only available in manual form, with a six-speed gearbox, but the first gear has a lower-than-usual ratio for good control at slow speeds. The 4×4 system itself features three selectable modes: 2WD (where power is sent to the front wheels), Automatic mode (where the car determines which of the four wheels to send torque to), and Lock mode, where torque is sent to all four wheels. I’ve tested this system a number of times, and it really does work well on everything from slippery slopes and mud, to those bumpy moments where only three wheels are touching the ground. The all-important ground clearance figure is 210mm, which is class leading.
Entirely new to the 2019 Duster 4×4 is a multiview camera, enabling drivers to see terrain in front of them, to the sides or the rear. Very useful in tight 4×4 situations.
In terms of safety, the Duster features two airbags in the front, as well as a relatively full complement of active safety features such as ABS braking with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist. Blind Spot Warning also helps to avoid accidents by warning the driver of vehicles they can’t see.
My conclusion? The Duster offers arguably the best value of any new car on the market, and in a segment where space is so desirable, that goes a long way to ensure success. That said, there’s a lot more going for the Duster than mere spaciousness, with a great engine and gearbox setup, a very competent 4×4 system, and good specification levels.
ENGINE: 1,461cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
POWER AND TORQUE: 800 kW @ 4,000 rpm 260 N.m. @ 1,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
MAXIMUM SPEED: 168km/h
ACCELERATION 0-100km/h: 12,5 seconds
FUEL CONSUMPTION (claimed): 5,2-litres/100km
DRIVER AIDS: ABS with EBD and emergency brake assist, ESC with hill start assist
PRICE: R327 900 with 5 year/150 000km warranty and 3 year/45 000km service plan