Mom’s taxi also does dust
BRIAN BASSETT drives the Renault Duster1.5 dCi Dynamique Manual.
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.