Renault Duster Review – 1.5DCI 4×4.
Let’s be honest, in general, cars are very expensive appliances. After a house, they are, to most of us, the second most expensive product we will buy, and finance. And if, you’re fortunate enough to be able to buy both cash…wait if you can do that and you’re reading this, thank you!
Anyway, entering the new car market is as tough as entering the property market. The cheapest car right now is the Chery QQ3 which retails for R79 900. Granted it has five doors, a boot and an engine – which is all of 800cc in capacity and produces 38kW and 70Nm – however there are more justifiable reasons to rather buy a scooter. And if I can compare the QQ3 to some sort of accommodation, it would be the cheapest of cheap student/flat share type places. Dodgy.
Fast forward a few years (quite a few) and you’re passed the scooter/digs part of your life, you’re (probably) married, there’s an offspring (maybe more than one) and you need some sort of four-wheeled vehicular transport to safely carry you and the new family. You’re scaling up.
Okay, are we talking about cars or family planning?
You have about R260 000 of the banks hard earned money. Safe money could (for God’s sake no!) push you towards a Toyota Corolla. A Nissan Juke might suffice or perhaps the very new, and unknown Fiat 500L. Perhaps a second hand Qashqai. The Nissan NV200 might suit, if you can stomach the looks. So too the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Crew Bus if you live with the delivery van vibes.
You can however see that I’m leaning towards compact SUVs and crossovers, and for good reason, because most of the country is leaning the same way.
If you want a compact SUV with enough space for the family, a reasonably large boot to swallow all the related paraphernalia accompanied by parenthood the options are few. Throw in the need/want for four-wheel drive and the options drop dramatically to almost none. Off the top of my head, there is the Daihatsu Terios, or what you see here, the Renault Duster.
Ford EcoSport you say? Yes, it is a worthy look-in but there is no four-wheel drive option. The Daihatsu? Well, that’s terrible.
So the Renault Duster 1.5DCI 4×4 is the only option for my fledgling family?
Yes, and no. Of course there are many other options to look at but by the criteria: compact SUV, four-wheel drive and costing R260 000 there aren’t any others (that I know of). So yes.
Which is a good thing because the Renault Duster happens to be a very good family car. Starting with the looks. It has that rugged Nissan-Pathfinder-box-on-wheels-but-in-a-good way thing happening about it, which will appeal to the boys (Dad included) in the family. From the front or rear angles you’ll note an usually wide track, relative to the body which gives you the feeling that it won’t topple over very easily, kind of like a triangular-ish box shape if I can be forgiven for such an awful description.
That is a terrible description! What is like to drive?
Quite good actually. Renault Sport this is not but if you were expecting cheap previous generation Sandero road manners then you will be pleasantly surprised. I was, even having recently sampled the Sandero range and come away very impresses, the Duster manages to build on that and impress further.
For quite a tall vehicle there is minimal body roll through the corners and it even accepts being hustled a little. The range topper I was lucky to drive has the engine you’ll want for everyday living, the 1.5DCI turbodiesel which has 240Nm of torque compared to lesser petrol models in the range which have to make do with only 145Nm. It also gains an extra forward cog over the five-speed manual petrol models, allowing to sip diesel at just under seven litres per 100km.
The little diesel mill is willing performer and has decent low-rev tractability, however pack in a few extra humans and you’ll have to stir that six-speed gearbox regularly. Still, it manages extremely well for its size and output and is hardly ever found wanting.
So, it goes well, and looks the part. Anything else?
Outside the flagship Duster gets satin treatment for the roof rails, mirrors and front and rear skid plates, and 16 inch alloys instead of the plastic covers of lesser models, which sets it apart from entry level models.
Standard kit is high and includes the mandatory electric windows and mirrors. Touch screen navigation, Bluetooth, USB and AUX-in connectivity with satellite steer wheel controls are also free to own.
On the inside you do get a pretty spartan interior. However, it just passes the tap tap, push, sniff dashboard and door card test (an industry plastic quality test) . Yes, fairly hard plastics are bountiful but by virtue of the Dusters price and the other standard spec, it is easily forgiven.
The Duster really is the perfect entry level compact SUV for the small family, and in terms of size, spec, drivetrain with selectable four-wheel drive, and price (R259 900) it can’t be matched.
Kind of like that ridiculously cheap, three bedroom house you’ve been looking for which also happens to be in the perfect suburb…no wait that never happens.