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?

go! - - Reader Offer - BY PIERRE STEYN

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.

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