Mom’s taxi also does dust

BRIAN BAS­SETT drives the Re­nault Duster1.5 dCi Dy­namique Man­ual.

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

I HAVE wanted to drive the Re­nault Duster for some while now but ev­ery time Re­nault Pi­eter­mar­itzburg put one into demo, it is sold be­fore I could get to the deal­er­ship. On one oc­ca­sion the deal­er­ship phoned and sug­gested I come across im­me­di­ately, as their latest demo had just ar­rived.

By the time I reached them it had been sold. Such is the mar­ket­ing power of rel­e­vance and good value. These days ever more com­pact ur­ban SUVs can be seen run­ning around SAs in­creas­ingly crowded cities tak­ing on the school run and high-sided pave­ments. The Duster is very much a cut above these with its ca­pac­ity to go off-road with ease, as well as be­ing a very use­ful city car.

Re­cently I beat the cus­tomers to the latest demo Duster and am grate­ful to Ya­gan Pa­day­achee, new car sales man­ager at McCarthy Re­nault Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, for al­low­ing me to spend a few days with the car.

Styling The Duster looks like no other Re­nault and has its roots in Re­nault’s Ro­ma­nian sub­sidiary, Da­cia. How­ever, the right-hand drive ver­sion sold into the SA mar­ket is a world car for Re­nault and bolted to­gether in In­dia.

The Duster has a macho pro­file bol­stered with over­sized head­lamps, square lines and a high ride height with clear­ance of 210 mm. The pro­ject­ing wheel arches and over­size head­lamps un­der­line its chunky mas­culin­ity.

De­spite the some­what squat na­ture of the de­sign the Duster has a sleek, mus­cu­lar qual­ity, which makes it stand out in any park­ing area, as­sisted by its im­pos­ing front grill, skid plates and satin chrome roof rails.

At the rear the large rear light pods dom­i­nate the de­sign and the square, gen­er­ously-pro­por­tioned rear door opens up­ward and al­lows for easy load­ing.

The over­all im­pres­sion is re­in­forced by the five-spoke 16-inch al­loys which com­pli­ment the de­sign ethic of the ve­hi­cle.

In­te­rior As one of the low­est-priced SUVs in the mar­ket you can’t ex­pect the in­te­rior to be all soft leather and sub­dued light­ing. What you get, how­ever, is a spa­cious, com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal in­te­rior, which is well de­signed and well specced.

Re­nault use hard grades of plas­tic on the in­te­rior, but this is well fit­ted and is likely to be around in untarnished form in 10 years or more, even af­ter your chil­dren have kicked and pum­melled the car’s in­te­rior dur­ing nu­mer­ous hol­i­days and af­ter dozens of school rugby matches.

The dash­board is also prac­ti­cal with clear large gauges in front of the driver and easy-to-use, stick-mounted con­trols for lights and wipers. Just be­hind the typ­i­cal, Re­nault ad­justable steer­ing wheel is a con­trol for the media and ra­dio, while the air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem is con­trolled from the cen­tral stack and reaches both front and rear pas­sen­gers.

The ma­jor dash­board fea­ture is the touch screen, which con­trols the sat­nav sys­tem, Blue­tooth, USB ports and satel­lite con­trols. There are also plugs for all your fam­ily’s elec­tronic toys.

The Duster re­ally scores when it comes to in­te­rior space. There is am­ple room for five adults, although those in front may have to ad­just their seats some­what to en­hance rear com­fort. Ac­cess and egress is easy for old peo­ple like me — so if grandpa goes along on hol­i­days he will be able to man­age easily. Win­dows are all elec­tric; although I found it strange the con­trol for op­er­at­ing the side mir­rors was be­low the gear lever. The boot is another pleas­ant sur­prise, of­fer­ing 475 litres of stor­age space with the seats up and a huge 1 570 litres of space with the rear seats folded down in 60/40 fash­ion.

Safety and se­cu­rity The Duster has ev­ery­thing you need in the safety area. ABS with EBD, seat­belts for all, four airbags with a de­ac­ti­va­tion for the pas­sen­ger airbag. There is also an Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Pro­gram and an Elec­tronic Brake ef­fort Pro­por­tion­ing Pro­gram linked to the ABS. The usual child-proof locks and at­tach­ments for child seats to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards are avail­able and the car has cen­tral lock­ing and an on-board alarm sys­tem.

Per­for­mance and han­dling The Duster is a plea­sure to drive in town. It is an ideal mom’s taxi and com­muter. The steer­ing is di­rect and sen­si­tive, while the high ride and good all-round vis­i­bil­ity, as well as the rear park as­sist makes for easy park­ing and ma­neu­ver­ing in traf­fic. The turbo-charged 1,5 l, 80 kW/240 Nm diesel en­gine pro­vides enough power to get you out of trou­ble if needed and if driven sen­si­bly will give you around 9 l/100 km.

The Duster is not a fast car, if you want one of those buy the 162 kW Me­gane GT Turbo. It is how­ever a safe fam­ily car, which will take you to 100 km/h in 12 sec­onds and has a max­i­mum speed of about 170 km/h.

I took the car onto the un­for­giv­ing Kark­loof for­est tracks on Sun­day morn­ing. For a 2x4 ve­hi­cle it showed a re­mark­able of­froad agility and an ap­petite for rut­ted roads which would be the envy of many of its com­peti­tors.

On Satur­day night, I drove to the home of friends in Bal­go­wan and came back at about 10 pm. The com­bined per­for­mance of the Duster’s dou­ble-bar­rel head­lamps and fog lamps made night driv­ing on bad roads easy. Costs, guar­an­tees and the op­po­si­tion The Duster comes in four mod­els. The en­try level i.6 Ex­pres­sion sells at around R210 000. The model I drove will cost you about R250 000, while the top of the range four-wheel drive re­tails at about R268 000.There is also a five-year/150 000 km me­chan­i­cal war­ranty, a three-year/45 000km ser­vice plan and a six-year anti-cor­ro­sion war­ranty. Also have a look at Ford Ecos­port, Dai­hatsu Te­rios and Kia Soul.

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