Words by Gugu Masuku

Let's be honest, the Renault Duster isn’t the prettiest looking car on the road; there are many other vehicles better deserving of that description. But what the Duster lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in other things.

The first generation Renault Duster, which we’re all familiar with, launched in South Africa  5 years ago and 1 500 units found homes locally. Fresh from the drawing board with a new and refined designed, Renault plans to up those figures with the new Duster.

Renault invested a significant amount of time in carving out the new Duster, and they managed to retain its robust box shape in the process. What we’re now looking at is a car that's smoother around the edges and has muscular design rather than the plain old square shape it used to be. It really is a whole new car all around; it now makes use of Renault's signature C-shaped daytime running lights in those headlight clusters, and a new grille surrounding the diamond logo – the new Duster is handsome and has a dose of personality!

 

The Duster's rear end has also been reworked to carry a more refined look, in line with its face. New taillights will be the first thing you notice; they now have a modern look and are built into the boot lid, unlike the ones worn by the previous shape, which looked like one taillight was cut in half and used on both sides of the vehicle. The new Duster stands taller too, with an increase in ground clearance, now at 210mm and with an approach and departure angle of 30 and 34 degrees – the latter, according to Renault, is the best in its class.

 

The new Duster is handsome and has a dose of personality!

 

With all this information, one is tempted to consider off-roading as a hobby; well, I’m happy to tell you that this is a very feasible desire because a 4×4 variant of the Duster is now available, and it is equipped with features such as hill descent control and a 4×4 monitor on the infotainment screen – this displays your pitch and roll angles when taking on steep sections off-road.

Many changes have been made to the interior as well. The Duster now carries the Media Nav Evolution 7”  infotainment screen found in its newer siblings from the mid-range Dynamic, putting it in line with the rest of the pack. Nav, audio streaming and USB connectivity are all standard here. The high spec Prestige now benefits from a multi-view camera, which gives you external visuals of every side of the vehicle.

 

A nice touch to the new interior is the new air conditioner dials – they now offer a digital display of your temperature settings. Cruise control and a speed limiter are standard across the range, but features such as keyless entry and keyless go are only available in the Prestige. The new interior offers drivers an armrest to rest that left arm but none available on the passenger side – I’m pretty sure front seat occupants would have appreciated one of these.

You have a choice of two petrol derivatives, both 1.6 but with different power outputs, and two 1.5dCi oil burners that are also tuned for different outputs. Having previous experience with this diesel motor, I can attest to its mind-boggling fuel economy, and the story remains unchanged in this latest shell, with a claimed combined cycle of 4.8l/100km on the EDC gearbox. I still managed to bring it down to 4.4l/100km on my best driving behaviour. The EDC box feels worlds apart from the one carried by the previous shape, it now makes up its mind on time when driving at high speeds, but in traffic it becomes very indecisive, robbing you of the peace you look forward to when driving an auto in traffic. On the road, the Duster feels light in the steering wheel and offers very noticeable comfort in the way it moves along, making it an ideal daily runabout in the city.

The new Renault Duster makes a strong case for a vehicle that’s good value for money in my opinion, with four derivatives to choose from, starting at R255 900 for the 1.6 Expression and peaking at R340 900 for the 1.5dCI 4×2 Prestige with EDC.

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