Renault has bolstered its (already extensive) compact family car line-up with the introduction of a dual-clutch automatic derivative of the Duster. We attended the local launch in Johannesburg to drive the French marque's new addition and these are our conclusions:
The Duster came to market back in 2013 and since then more than 12 500 units of the Dacia-based compact SUV have been sold in South Africa. The model received a facelift in October 2016 which saw a number of visual and practical enhancements being implemented, further strengthening the model's value proposition.
With a 77 kW petrol and 80 kW turbodiesel engine on offer and all 4x2 and 4x4 derivatives mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, the versatile Duster range was sorely lacking the convenience and practicality of an automatic transmission.
That’s no longer the case because Renault has added a dual-clutch automatic Duster derivative to its local offering. The Duster EDC automatic is, however, not immediately available and Renault says that local showrooms will stock the new automatic derivative from mid-August 2017, so buyers will have to wait a few weeks to get their hands on one.
Nonetheless, we attended the launch in Johannesburg this week to drive the Duster EDC automatic. Let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer.
The Duster EDC offers good fuel economy and will broaden its appeal and strengthen Duster sales locally.
Using a 6-speed electronic dual-clutch (EDC) automatic transmission, the same used on the larger Kadjar, the Duster 's EDC is mated with Renault’s proven 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine that delivers peak outputs of 80 kW with torque boosted up to 250 Nm. Fuel consumption for this derivative is claimed at 4.8 L/100km.
The Duster EDC automatic is offered only as a 4x2 and is available in Dynamique trim, which means it gets the full bouquet of features. Key features include striking 16-inch alloy wheels, satin chrome roof rails and skid plates, a new leather steering wheel, leather gear lever with chrome inserts and the option of leather upholstery.
A 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation is standard and the driver will also appreciate the presence of rear parking sensors, a reverse-view camera and cruise control. A USB and auxiliary port is included for connecting or charging personal electronic devices.
The Duster's interior is well-equipped with features and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation is standard.
In terms of practicality, the Duster is quite spacious with the luggage compartment claimed to offer 475 litres of space. More so, the rear seats can be folded down in a 60:40 configuration to access the full 1 636 litres of utiltiy space. Rear passengers are afforded ample head-, leg- and knee room, but we were disappointed to find that there were no bottle holders in the rear door mouldings, with the front seat pockets being the only available storage for rear seat passengers.
In terms of safety, the Duster is equipped with 4 airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist and stability control with traction control.
The driving experience
The launch of the Duster EDC automatic took place in and around the Cradle of Humankind area on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where the newcomer could demonstrate its capabilities on tar and dirt roads. The EDC delivered relatively smooth transitions between gears under normal driving conditions. Getting up to highway speed was a breeze and the engine never felt strained or laboured during the evaluation drive. Under harder acceleration and in overtaking situations, however, the automatic transmission was a bit sluggish to respond with immediacy, but for the most part, it delivered a pleasant driving experience in most situations.
The Duster delivers good ride on tar and in the dirt, making a suitable vehicle for family weekend adventures.
The roads in this area are of poor quality, but the Duster’s forgiving suspension provided a comfortable, yet sure-footed, ride on the 150 km launch route. When traversing a tar route, bumps and imperfections were ironed out with little effort and on an uneven section of dirt road, the Duster performed exceptionally well. The Duster’s overall ride quality is evidently one of its key strengths, but bear in mind it’s not a 4x4, so its capability is somewhat limited in the rough stuff.
Another strength of this Duster EDC automatic is fuel efficiency. Many manufacturers claim lofty fuel consumption figures but whereas Renault claims 4.8 L/100 km for this derivative, we easily achieved 5.5 L/100 km on our short test drive, which is rather impressive and we wouldn’t be surprised if lower figures are achieved.
The Duster is not the newest nor most sophisticated offering in its class, but the convenience of an automatic derivative is likely to find favour with many potential buyers. Coupled with its practicality, good ride quality and low fuel consumption, the Duster EDC automatic is well worth considering if you are in the market for a well-specced and reasonably affordable compact SUV. In terms of value for money, the newcomer is attractively priced at R299 900.
We will have the Renault Duster EDC automatic on test soon, so look out for a thorough evaluation in the near future.
Renault Duster prices in South Africa
1.6 Expression 4x2 77 kW petrol R239 900
1.6 Dynamique 4x2 77 kW petrol R259 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x2 80 kW diesel R279 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique EDC 80 kW diesel R299 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 80 kW diesel R304 900
The Renault Duster is sold with a 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, a 3-year/45 000km service plan (with service intervals at 15 000km intervals) and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. The only two options available are metallic paint (R2 500) and leather seats (R10 000).