Driven - - Launched - Re­port by BERNIE HELLBERG | Im­ages © RE­NAULT SOUTH AFRICA

It seems as if the mar­ket for af­ford­able com­pact crossovers / SUVs is al­most in­sa­tiable, as the in­cred­i­ble suc­cess of cars such as the Re­nault’s Duster has proven.

The need for prac­ti­cal wheels, am­ple space, tol­er­a­ble costs and ac­cept­able safety keeps driv­ing buy­ers to Re­nault show­rooms to test, and in 12,500 cases thus far, pur­chase them­selves a new Duster. Lit­tle won­der, then, that Re­nault has valiantly in­creased its mar­ket share from 4.7% in June 2016, to 5.5% in June 2017.

But the Duster range has lacked one thing since the first unit rolled off the sales floor four years ago, this month.

The pop­u­lar­ity of the au­to­matic gear­box has mir­rored cross­over pur­chases for some time, yet in this mar­ket, only the Hyundai Creta, launched ear­lier this year, has of­fered an auto ‘box. Un­til now.


Po­si­tioned as an ‘au­then­tic’ SUV, the Duster of­fers many ones and on­lies in the seg­ment. Class-lead­ing approach and de­par­ture an­gles and ground clear­ance, as well as a de­cent four-wheel-drive sys­tem (not au­to­matic model), un­der­scores the Duster’s off-road cre­den­tials.

This ver­sa­til­ity makes the Duster a favourite fam­ily ve­hi­cle, of­fer­ing an en­try point into the what Re­nault calls the “SUV life­style”.

With the ad­di­tion of an auto trans­mis­sion to the 1.5-litre tur­bod­iesel (80 kW and 250 Nm) Duster Dy­namique, Re­nault makes a bold state­ment that it can of­fer a highly specced fam­ily ve­hi­cle with an au­to­matic box and many crea­ture com­forts, at an af­ford­able price.


Based on the Dy­namique spec level, the auto Duster has Blue­tooth, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, a touch­screen in­ter­face, and rear view cam­era on­board, sim­i­lar to the Hyundai Creta. Fab­ric seats are stan­dard with leather avail­able as an op­tion, where leather is stan­dard on its R369,900 ri­val.

At a mere R299,000, the Duster’s class-lead­ing boot can swal­low 475 litres, and even the war­ranty and ser­vice plan is over­sized, com­ing in at 5-year/150,000 km and 3-year/45,000 km re­spec­tively.


The launch was spent driv­ing on some de­cent Gauteng back roads, the cars also do­ing some duty on gravel to prove that, even in 4x2 con­fig­u­ra­tion only, the auto Duster is a com­pe­tent off-roader. At least most of the time.

While it is true that gravel roads should al­ways be ap­proached with cau­tion, and ex­ces­sive speeds avoided, the Duster felt un­easy when pushed over 70 km/h on a looser sur­face. Trac­tion con­trol, while present, did not al­ways en­gage as quickly as I would have liked in this type of ap­pli­ca­tion.


I was sur­prised by the smooth­ness of the six-speed au­to­matic, which added to the over­all drive­abil­ity of the lit­tle SUV. Re­nault likely has another hit on its hands in the form of the au­to­matic Duster.

Re­nault’s steady rise to sig­nif­i­cant sales suc­cess was in no small part thanks to the achieve­ments of its af­ford­able Duster com­pact SUV. In keep­ing with the au­to­ma­tion trend, Re­nault re­cently added an au­to­matic model to the range, as BERNIE HELLBERG re­ports.

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