Renault has made an interesting move into the SUV and 4x4 segments with the Duster, a car born of the Nissan alliance and currently selling incredibly well in important emerging markets such as India and Brazil. Built to compete principally on price, the Duster offers surprising levels of refinement, comfort and on road ability.
There are two trim levels, Expression starting at R194Â 900 going up to the Dynamique 4x4 at R239Â 900. The only engine available in the Expression spec is the petrol, while the lowest price diesel comes in at R219 900. The Dynamique comes well specced with a touch screen media and satnav system borrowed from the new Clio.
I was driving the Range Rover Evoque at the same time as the Duster, and I couldnâ€™t believe the Rangie was nearly three times the price as the base Duster. It seems a bit absurd really. Of course the Range Rover is lovely. But I would never have the heart to take it offroad, whereas the Duster feels like itâ€™s rough and ready.
Iâ€™ve been driving the diesel. Around town, the diesel takes some getting used to. Itâ€™s like taking an overweight dog for a walk â€“ itâ€™s not very enthusiastic. You have to adapt your driving style completely. Itâ€™s not that there is a shortage of power, with 80kW and 240Nm, it certainly feels like thereâ€™s enough oomph, but itâ€™s available for such a short time in the rev range, that you really have to work the gearbox to make the best of the engine.
I would imagine that the alternative petrol version is better if you drive mostly urban routes, with lots of stop-starting. For longer trips, the diesel actually has a chance of paying itself off, with very decent consumption indeed.
It is very light on fuel. Renault claim 5.5 litres/100km, which you should get quite close to, especially if you take longer trips.
This Dynamique spec gets more kit with a standard touch screen media and satnav unit; itâ€™s very decent kit indeed at this price point. The fascia could have been better designed ergonomically, the screen almost faces downward, but other than that, it is simple and easy to use. I doubt youâ€™ll need your kids to show you how it all works.
Bear in mind though that metallic paint is an extra at R2500, but options like park distance control are standard.
Interestingly no automatic â€˜box is available.
In the absence of a low range transfer case, the 4x4 is features a shorter first gear that allows it to crawl at under 6km/h at 1000rpm. There is a downside to this on the road though, as you quickly have to catch 2nd gear when in traffic.
Ground clearance is very decent at 205mm in the 4x2 and 210mm in the 4x4, with healthy approach and departure angles. Again, it just feels like the kind of car you can get very dirty indeed.
But, if you need a 4x4 with space for 5, you could save nearly R400Â 000 and buy this. And then go on holiday. Or buy a holiday house. Or buy two of these and still have R100Â 000 in change.
The Duster is very, very good value for money, and with a facelift already available in Europe, this could be a second hand bargain in a year or twoâ€™s time. Although, at under R200Â 000, itâ€™s already well worth it.
- 1.6 Expression 4x2 R194 900 - 1.6 Dynamique 4x2 R204 900 - 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x2 R219 900 - 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 R239 900