Duster 1.5dCi is a long-range road trip compact crossover

Duster likes to travel gravel image via: LD Branquinho

Renault’s Duster is one of the most appropriately named vehicles on sale in South Africa.

Since is introduction way back in 2013, it has revitalised the French brand’s image and in 2019, some improvements have been added.

The Duster is a curious Renault product in that it was designed and engineered mostly for markets outside of Europe.

Renault’s product planners wanted an affordable and rugged compact crossover/SUV that could conquer terrain (and customers) in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Duster is effectively a BRICS-specific Renault, although it is sold in many markets beyond this economic grouping.

The latest Duster product enhancement were applied to Renault’s local portfolio in early 2019 and it introduced some mild styling upgrades. But why does this Renault have such deep reach with South African buyers?

Duster is configured for utility, not fashion

Duster can convert to a great load carrier
With 478-litres of luggage capacity, you can bring all the gear image via: Renault

Renault does a tidy trade in Dusters. It is by far Renault’s most popular South African market SUV and has strong customer loyalty.

There is nothing extraordinary about the Duster’s features or engineering. It remains a relatively affordable gravel travel vehicle but what is endearing about the driving experience, is how excellently suited it is to South African gravel travel road trips.

Unlike Europe, South Africa has a vast gravel road network which can deliver one to extraordinary destinations. You don’t need a hardcore 4×4 wagon to journey on these roads, but they are not fun to explore in a conventional family hatchback.

The Duster mediates as an excellent solution, even in 4×2 configuration. It has 210mm of ground clearance, which is plenty. The suspension system has enough wheel travel to ensure that even the deepest Aardvark hole, rolled through at speed, does not disable you with a puncture or broken wheel.

Another aspect of the Duster’s ability which makes it an ideal local road trip vehicle, is fuel economy and range. Tank capacity might be average at 50-litres, but the 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine is capable of astounding economy due to its efficiency.

Duster isn’t afraid of really long missions to nowhere

Duster ranging along a remote coast
Duster is capable enough to go chasing those remote locations image via: LD Branquinho

You can expect real world consumption of 6l/100km, which should deliver close to 800km on a tankful of diesel. In real-world driving conditions the Duster is incredibly light on fuel, without sacrificing throttle response and performance when you require the necessary urge for overtaking slower trucking or minibus traffic.

The four-cylinder diesel boosts 80kW and 250Nm. With Duster’s comparatively light weight, those engine outputs make for entirely adequate performance.

An aspect of the Duster that adds to its agility, is the EDC dual-clutch transmission. With seven-gears and lightning quick automated shifts, you never stumble upon the incorrect gear for any given speed or gradient. This transmission makes the very best of Renault’s 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine.

With its latest round of infotainment upgrades, which now include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Duster has adequate digitisation to appropriately integrate with your Smartphone. All digital interfacing, which includes native SatNav, is usable via a 7-inch touchscreen.

The cabin architecture and ergonomics aren’t invasively digital, though. For those owners who wish to use their Dusters are true trans-Karoo gavel road exploration vehicles, the absence of overly complicated electronics will be a point of appeal.

An oft underappreciated feature of this compact Renault crossover is its gravel and rough road ability. Duster rolls sensibly sizes 215/60 tyres, on 17-inch wheels, which have a comparatively generous air volume and as such, gift it great ride quality on rough surfaces.

Positioned at R332 900, the Renault Duster 1.5 dCi TechRoad EDC 4×2 offers a compelling blend of value and capability. It is not a hardcore all-terrain exploration vehicle, but as a family car that can venture all across South Africa’s diverse gravel road network, the Duster is very convincing.

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