Despite the utilitarian exterior design, the Renault Duster has managed to warm the hearts of many a cyclist, surfer and those of course with a family, since its launch a few years ago. It has been updated with fresher looks but still maintains those boxy styling cues. A solid no-frills build quality has been one of the major things to appeal to a potential Duster buyer. As a car positioned for those who regularly scour the web for new weekend activities or are desirous of an earnest SUV, the lack of an automatic seemed conflicting to the demographic. That has now been remedied since the Duster is now available with the EDC gearbox. An acronym for “Efficient Dual Clutch”, the EDC transmission’s mapping trades performance for economy.
Renault Duster EDC claims a combined cycle of 4.8 litres of diesel per 100km, which ticks those running cost considerations aptly. A 1.6 petrol derivative is also on offer, but our Duster launch featured models married to the stout 1.5 dCi engine heaving out250Nm -enough to bring a full load up to speed and merge cogs well below redline. A small gravel section was included on our route and the vehicle felt at ease, skimming the surface with linie complaint. A stilted ground clearance of 210mm would’ve allowed us to handle more challenging terrain – the Duster has the tyre profile for it – but the Sandton gravel was enough to get the car dirty. Little wonder why this car is passionately loved by those who own them; it drips with character but keeps it simple. Sitting inside you’re presented by a solemn mix of hard plastics but in an affable functional kind of way. The seats accommodate tall passengers comfortably, the boot space of 475 is helped by large tailgate with a roofline that is confused with a coupe’s.
Of course safety is a priority for this target market so driver, passenger as well as side airbags are standard. ESP will keep all the diesel torque at bay from spinning the front wheels should you opt for the 4×2. The 4×4 features a Lock Mode which will distribute torque via the four wheels, and fares quite brilliantly as Renault’s version of a Suzuki Jimny. As per usual, a base Expression model starts you off and the Dynamique gives you a slightly better tech experience via an infotainment system fitted with Navigation. Besides that, both models feature electric windows, rear park distance sensors as -well as cruise control.
At R299 900 for the 4×2 EDC, the Duster is priced competitively. It punches above its weight with Renault focussing on -what’s absolutely necessary, then in a bizarre way rubs in an endearing charm, resulting in an SUV that won’t break the bank. The styling may not be to everyone’s sense of high fashion but then this is a segment where creativity is in full bloom.