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First Drive: Renault Duster 2019

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VIEWS

After spending a great deal of time negotiating many thousands of kilometers in a previous version of the Renault Duster, it was with great anticipation that I accepted the invitation to the Nelspruit launch of the all-new Renault Duster.

My co-driver felt the driver’s space was a little tight, but I did not share his sentiments.  I found the seats well bolstered, very comfortable and torso-hugging − which might have contributed to his feeling of less driver’s space.

We had the opportunity to test the Duster in various conditions during the two-day launch; and, as I wrote in my review of the previous version, Renault has built an incredibly versatile vehicle that handles on-road and easy off-road conditions admirably. To top it off, it sells at a highly competitive price.

So, what’s new with the all-new Duster, deemed ‘the unstoppable SUV’?

Well, the exterior styling has changed considerably, enhancing the Duster’s rugged look. Body lines are more aggressive, and the newly shaped front and rear ends give the feeling of improved stability, with a twinge of assertiveness thrown in for good measure. The clear horizontal lines, offset against 16-inch or 17-inch wheels, ensure that the Duster looks a tad sharper − but as distinctive. The front and rear skid plates help prevent damage in off-road conditions, assisted by a pretty respectable ground-clearance of 210mm; and the approach and departure angles (30/33 degrees respectively) welcome a variety of tough terrains.

The Duster is available here in both front-drive and on-demand 4WD. Engine options on the 4×2 models include a 1.6-litre petrol (84kW/156Nm) and 1.5-litre turbodiesel with 66kW/210Nm, while the six-speed auto model and the lone 4WD in the line-up both use a rather peppier higher-output version of the 1.5 dCi, with outputs of 80kW/250Nm. The diesel is remarkably frugal, with a suggested combined consumption index of 5.2l/100km for the 4WD.

Three trim styles are on offer, from base Expression to the top-line Prestige − which adds multi-view cameras for the sides and rear, plus a blind spot monitor and fancier seats. The 4WD comes in Dynamique trim only, and without those niceties, but adds hill descent control. All models have cruise control, ABS, hill start control, electronic stability control and two front airbags.

The infotainment ante has been upped with a 7-inch touchscreen (and steering controls) on the Dynamique and Prestige models, offering navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, and with 4×4 information such as yaw and tilt on the 4WD model.

The Transmission Mode Selector on the 4×4 model allows the driver to switch between 2WD (sending drive exclusively to the fronts), Auto, which apportions torque to the rears on demand, and Lock mode which divides drive equally between the four wheels.

Interior packing and storage space is good, with up to 478 litres of boot space. The rear split seat folds to increase interior volumes. Legroom at the rear is decent, even for those with longer legs, making long-distance travel in the rear that much more feasible.

The finishes in the Duster have been improved and are better integrated compared to previous models, and further confidence is inspired by the 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, 6-year anti-corrosion warranty and standard 3year/45000km service plan. Seems the new Duster is an even more capable little SUV that is a good fit for South Africa’s outdoor-oriented lifestyles.

PRICING

1.6 Expression 4×2: R249 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×2: R282 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique  EDC 4×2: R316 900
1.5 dCi Dynamique  4×4: R321 900
1.5 dCi Prestige EDC 4×2: R334 900

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