By Gordon Hall
Vehicle: 2021 Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Techroad 4×2
“Zit, Dollink. I zee zat physically you are healthy but zere is an amptiness in your life …
“Chack or zavings? Tap card on zapper, please, Dollink. Zank you.
“I see a dashing new Duster in your life; rugged but not classically handsome. He is from my old country, Romania. He is smart and strong and knows how to please a woman. But he is good friend for men too.”
Moving on from the Gypsy fortune teller: The Duster 1.5 range consists of a 1600cc petrol version in basic Expression trim with five-speed manual gearbox; a 1500cc, 66-kW/210-Nm diesel Techroad with the same ‘box; an Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic Techroad with the diesel uprated to 80 kilowatts and 250 Newton-metres; a 4×4 Dynamique version with an additional 10 Nm and six-speed manual, and finally a Prestige model with more kit, EDC and the 80-kW/ 250 Nm engine. Both Techroad models are 4×2 and sport 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/60 rubber. The others run on 215/65R16 tyres.
Expression offers steel wheels; manual air conditioning; two airbags; ABS brakes with EBA, EBD, ESC and traction control; cruise control with speed limiter; electric windows in front; a one-piece rear seatback; height and reach adjustments for the steering wheel and a fairly plain radio/CD player with USB and jack ports, Bluetooth phone connection and remote buttons.
Our test car, a Techroad 4×2 with EDC, added the bigger wheels mentioned above; two more airbags; rear parking sensors and camera; split and folding rear seatback; electric wing mirrors in glossy black; electric rear window controls; fog lamps at both ends; automatic air conditioner; height adjustment for the driver’s chair; a seven-inch multimedia centre with phone mirroring, and satnav. Its signature identifiers are blue detailing (red on earlier models) on seats, mat- and door pad stitching, wheel cap markers and “B” pillar decals.
Dynamique 4×4 and Prestige add a MultiView camera and blind spot warning, while the Prestige gets its final shots in with hands-free key card, a drawer under the passenger seat and lumbar support with armrest for the driving seat.
The EcoSport Ambiente: A Dragon with Little Puff
Although zero to 10 km/h in 11.9 seconds is considered mild by today’s jaded standards, it’s enough to keep this diesel city SUV up with most challenges of modern traffic. More to the point, that 250Nm, kicking in at only 1750 rpm, ensures that the car sails up most hills as if they weren’t even there.
Most of our test was conducted with the car three-quarters loaded, hence the slightly poorer fuel consumption recorded this time – 5.4 l/100 km vs 5.3 when we drove an almost identical model in November 2019 – still not shabby and surely enough to please most buyers.
Bearing in mind that this is not a full-on off-road vehicle, despite its high ground clearance and tough looking exterior, it has the stuff to deal with most road hazards. Out on the moderately rough dirt road past the veggie farms it dealt with corrugations, small potholes and embedded stones disdainfully. They have nasty roads in Romania too.
But can my family all fit in, you ask? There’s plenty of space for five, including a trio of leggy teenagers in the back, although whoever sits behind a tall driver might find kneeroom only just sufficient. Compensating somewhat, six-footers enjoy a full fist-width of headroom. That’s unusual.
Other comfort items include plenty of incidental storage space and cup holders, speed defrosters front and rear, front and central courtesy lights and a recharging point in front. A small negative is that the glove box is tiny and mostly filled by the car’s “books”.
Join Ignition TV presenter Ernest Page as he gives you five reasons why the stylish and capable Renault Duster makes sound purchasing sense https://t.co/ansCrTdELk
— Times LIVE (@TimesLIVE) January 23, 2021
The cargo hold is of a decent size; about 95cm long, 98cm wide between wheel arches and 53cm deep. It’s equipped with a light and four tie-down rings while a removable luggage cover keeps valuables hidden. The rear seatback splits 40:60 to extend volume from 445 litres (VDA) to 1478. Another slight negative is that the 215/65R16 spare tyre on steel rim is slung, pickup style, beneath the vehicle.
The Renault Duster is ready to tackle all kinds of different terrain, allowing you to focus on all the important details like which colour your car should be kitted out in. pic.twitter.com/mmBMDGnHnS
— Renault South Africa (@Renault_SA) February 17, 2021
One way to overcome this inconvenience might be to buy the 4×4 version instead. To protect it from incidental damage, its spare wheel is moved inboard to the luggage compartment where it expropriates 64 litres. The 4×4 is priced the same as our test car but its transmission is manual.
Finally, about “Romany Dasher” in the subtitle: These cars are branded as Dacia, pronounced Dah-sha, in Romania, the UK and various other markets. Simple, really.
Test unit from Renault SA press fleet.
Price: R361 900
Engine: 1461cc, four-cylinder, SOHC 8-valve, commonrail diesel with multi-injection and turbocharger
Power: 80kW at 4000 rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1750 rpm
Zero to 100km/h: 11.9 seconds
Top speed: 169km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 5.4 l/100 km
Tank: 50 litres
Luggage: 445 – 1478 litres (VDA)
Ground clearance: 210mm
Turning circle: 10.14metres
Maximum towing mass, braked: 1500kg
Standard tyre: 215/60R17 Bridgestone Dueller
Spare: 215/65R16 on steel rim
Warranty: 5 years / 100 000km
Service plan: 3 years / 45 000km, at 15 000km intervals
Now read: Fancy a ride in a Mustang, Sally?