Driving the Renault Duster 4WD, and what comes next

I’ve recently spent a full week at the helm of the 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4WD Renault Duster, then found myself just a few days later at a catchup session with the product team from Renault South Africa. As a result, I find it hard to talk about one without the other so get ready to digest a fair amount of information. But first…

I am a fan of the Renault brand, and loved their Dacia-based products such as the Sandero and Duster enough to buy the former and recommend the latter to family. I’m not a proponent of their entry level products from India such as the Kwid and Triber, but I appreciate they’re filling a niche and fulfilling a demand. Just, not for me thanks. Which brings me neatly to the 4×4 I’m currently piloting. To quote my wife, “boring” – but then she is spoiled by a fleet of test cars on our driveway. To quote her mom, “that’s my next car!”. They currently drive a 17 year old Toyota Corolla, this Duster may as well have a BMW badge on its nose. But I’ve just had to advise her to wait a few months because this just in, the Duster gets a big refresh in September. This entails new lights and bigger 16-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch infotainment screen and a 4×4 monitor. Ok, new metal, and GO.

The French car maker have dubbed the next stage in their existence as a ‘Renaulution’. “We want to go from a car maker that integrates tech, into a tech maker that integrates cars”, so says group CEO, Luca De Meo. Indeed, the plan is to go from a volume model to value representing fairly profound transformation from their existing business model. They’ll do this with extensive reform, streamlining their offerings and not introducing any new cars till 2025. But fret not, there’s something new already set to roll in Mzansi just in case you thought there’d be a four year drought – more on that in a moment. Renault are cutting their redesign periods from four years to three, sacrificing redundant platforms and streamlining powertrain offerings in the process. Essentially, the marque will produce 80% of their current lineup from just three platforms, with power mills halved from eight groups of engines to just four. They do this with full support from the Nissan CEO and Mitsubishi CEO, the group is all in.

Also new, a new logo, a stylised monochromatic iconograph in the shape of the familiar rhombus. Hopefully we will see it on something exciting this year, namely the new Renault Kiger. It features tack sharp styling on a compact platform and despite looking like a rival to the likes of the Hyundai venue, it will in fact replaces the Sandero in Renaults model range. Not only does it rhyme with tiger but in Indian Sanskrit means precisely that. Also, that’s the country in which it is built ala Triber and Kwid.

As you can see it enjoys modern styling, two-tone paint schemes denoting a turbo engine (mono paint is reserved for the naturally aspirated models) functional roof rails and rear spoiler, and a 305mm ground clearance. The interior is a Smart Cabin with 8 inch screen and wireless connectivity for Android Auto and Apple Carplay. Renault have deployed their stalwart keycard system and the steering controls are backlit now. Also present, a rotary dial for driving modes and a 7-inch instruments cluster with widgets. The Kiger is built on the lightweight CMFA platform which should make for theoretical better dynamics and fuel efficiency. It promises to be roomy (with an extra 113l of luggage space over the Sandero) and feature-laden, and then there’s the fact that it enjoys a 3-star global NCAP safety rating.

Renault Kiger Quick Spec
Naturally aspirated 52kW/96Nm, AMT, manual
Turbo-charged 74kW/160Nm, manual, CVT

This brings me back to the Duster 4×4, a car that can do it all, cheaply and reliably. Manufacturers hate it when we use the word ‘cheap’, instead of affordable. They feel that it implies a lack of quality, low-classness – so, sorry. But I’ve lived ‘on the cheap’ for a large part of my life and the Duster is commendably affordable. And if boring means a cabin and drive that is less than memorable, then that implies nothing untoward has ever happened during our many drives in these cars over the last couple of years. And that’s just another way of saying reliable. The Duster is a known factor now, with great capability when the road fades from asphalt to gravel. That it gets an update later this year means the manufacturer sees value in investing in it, as do I. And I can wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4WD Manual
Price: R361 900
Engine: 1.5-litre, turbodiesel, 4WD, 80kW/260Nm, Six-speed manual

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