Motor Mouth in the Midlands
Motor Mouth Gordon Hall talks Christmas: What’s in the box: 2017 Renault Duster 1.5 dCi 4×2 EDC
Not much is new with Renault Duster lately since the range was facelifted and uplifted (made prettier and given new equipment) just over a year ago. What’s nice is that prices are still the same.
Expression (base) models have body coloured door handles and mirrors, steel wheels and most of the Dynamique versions’ safety kit. The infotainment setup is plainer, without a touchscreen, and there’s no reversing camera or satnav. Some options, such as leather upholstery, aren’t available either.
What is new to the range is an automatic transmission option for the 4×2 Dynamique diesel. It’s the same box as on Captur, Clio and Kadjar. Renault calls it EDC, or Efficient Dual Clutch. Put simply, it’s a six-speed gearbox that uses two automatic clutches, rather than a torque converter, to enable shifting. An electronic control unit (ECU) preselects the next gear in sequence, up or down, and engagement takes place automatically.
The clutches are referred to as “dry” because they are like those in regular manual transmissions rather than those in motorcycles, in which the clutch plates are “wet” – running in oil to keep them cool. Dual clutch transmissions (DCTs) used with engines having torque ratings greater than about 250 Nm are usually “wet” too, because more cooling is needed to handle the power.
Pedants point out that DCTs should actually be called automated manual transmissions because they use clutches rather than torque converters to do the shifting. The rest of us call them automatic because there’s no third pedal for declutching and we can’t be bothered, most of the time, to use the stick and shift manually.
We have a love-hate relationship with this particular gearbox, the Getrag 6DCT250, that is also used in small Fords. We like it in some Renault models, but scream in frustration at it in others. It seems to depend on how the “switches” are set in each model’s ECU. We rated the ‘box fitted to our test car at 95 percent – very good, although something was still not quite right. It could be our fault because we drive so many different cars and develop high expectations.
Let’s put it into perspective. The Renault Duster 1.5 dCi is a small-to-medium SUV for moving families around urban environments. It’s also high enough and sufficiently solid to tackle pretty awful South African, Russian and Indian roads. It is not a sports car. We should therefore not expect razor-sharp gear changes, as we might with expensive luxury vehicles.
It nevertheless shifts smoothly and quietly without flare or noise and, when pressed for a quick response, to overtake for instance, changes down as required. There’s the iffy feeling we mentioned earlier – it doesn’t kick down emphatically like an Audi or BMW. It segues softly, one notch at a time and gets the job done in a manner that suits the car’s user profile. It’s good at that.
The DCT version’s engine develops 250 Nm of torque rather than the 240 allotted to other Duster diesels. That gives it a touch more user friendliness and pays off with easy lugging power up long, steep hills.
Other practicalities include a big, rectangular boot with a light, a bag hook and four lashing rings. The front pair double as top tethers for baby chairs and there’s a 12-volt socket on a shelf just behind the left rear passenger’s left shoulder. The fully sized steel spare is slung beneath the floor like on a pickup. That makes it awkward to use but the flipside is more luggage volume. Tyres are 215/65R16 M+S Conti Cross Contacts – good for rural use when needed.
Rear seat passenger space is generally plentiful although knee room can be a bit tight. Storage spots are fairly generously spread throughout the cabin but there are no bins on the back doors. The view out, through big square windows, is good. Fit and finish of door- and dash panels is practical rather than luxurious, with hard materials and a mixture of surface patterns, but it should last well. Switchgear is typically French, with knobs and buttons in some odd places, but you get used to them.
Renault’s Duster auto is strong and practical rather than flashy and fast. That’s what makes it good value and worth a second look.
(Test unit from Renault SA press fleet)
Price: R299 900
Engine: 1461 cc, 8-valve four-cylinder, common rail, direct injection turbodiesel
Power: 80 kW at 4000 rpm
Torque: 250 Nm between 1750 and 2500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11.9 seconds
Top speed: 169 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 5.9 l/100 km
Tank: 50 litres
Luggage: 475 – 1636 litres
Warranty: 5 years / 150 000 km
Service: 3 years/ 45 000 km at 15 000 km intervals