The Duster gets some spit and polish
The Renault Duster is a no-nonsense workhorse – a robust family car with good ride height, which is quite capable of tackling dirt roads. Will the new one also sell by the thousand?
If you had to choose an actor to play a Renault Duster, it wouldn’t be George Clooney. The Duster isn’t the guy with a Rolex on his wrist, in a shiny suit and pointy shoes who makes the heroine go weak at the knees. No, the Duster is a car for Joe Soap, for the Everyman. It would have to be played by Tom Hanks. Tom doesn’t know karate. He doesn’t leap from helicopters. He doesn’t seduce damsels. But boy does he persevere. And he’s trustworthy. You want him as your husband, your dad or your best pal because he’ll never drop you. You can’t help but like him. It’s the same with the Duster. It’s one of those uncomplicated cars that’s perfect for our African roads. You don’t need 20 guys in white lab coats with laptops and an algorithm to help you when something breaks between Garies and Bitterfontein. Yet it’s still comfortable and modern enough to drive long distances, or to commute between home, school and work. It’s hard to believe that the Duster was only launched in South Africa in 2013. There seem to be so many of them on the roads! ( The fact that our journalists have been driving Dusters for the past four years might have something to do with it…) Indeed, more than 15 000 Dusters have been sold since then – it’s one of the most popular SUVs in South Africa. I recently drove the updated flagship model – the 1,5-litre dCi Prestige 4x2 – on gravel and tar roads around Sabie and it’s safe to say that once again, Renault has given us plenty of car for our money. The range starts with a 1,6-litre petrol model at R249 900; the more expensive models have diesel engines. There’s a 4x4 due to be launched in January, but the Prestige with its new dual-clutch automatic transmission will still be the most expensive model in the line-up, at R334 900. The main change to the Duster’s chunky appearance is the addition of LED lighting front and rear, plus new 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the cabin has been updated extensively: The quality of the materials has improved, the seats are more comfortable and the touch-screen entertainment system is easy to use. But the biggest improvement lies in the quality of the ride. In the old Duster, at 120 km/h, you had to turn up the volume of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” to drown out road noise. Now you can hum along to Sade’s “Smooth Operator” at highway speeds. There’s still some body roll through the sweeps, but the flip side of the relaxed suspension is an extra cushy ride. You won’t win drag races with the 1,5-litre diesel engine, but it’s got enough torque low down if you want to pass trucks on the open road. And it’s light on fuel. There’s no doubt the new Duster will crawl into the hearts (and garages) of South Africans, as sure as Tom Hanks will keep on winning Oscars.