Renault’s Duster gets attractive Techroad spec while the 4x4 model shows its off-road worth. Picture: SUPPLIED
Renault’s Duster gets attractive Techroad spec while the 4x4 model shows its off-road worth.   Picture: SUPPLIED

Many of the choices in the popular small SUV/crossover population are designed to fit into urban life instead of survival in wild terrain.

The Renault Duster range is now available in five models, including two new front-wheel-drive Techroad derivatives that can be had in five-speed manual or six-speed EDC automatic guises.

The Techroad is a cosmetics-led specification that introduces coloured sections on the seats in all new Techroad models. You can match the blue interior tinges with a new striking blue exterior paint that's added to the existing palette. They also get a contrast grey front skid-plate and unique alloy wheels in 16 or 17-inch sizes.

Features are identical and both cars get daytime driving running LED lights, a starter button, USB port, air conditioning and climate control, keyless access and rear park distance control with camera, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay inside a cabin with 478l of cargo space. Safety is looked after by electronic stability control, ABS brakes, a blind-spot monitor and up to six airbags.

The model with a self-shifting dual-clutch transmission is more expensive and features a more powerful iteration of the four-cylinder diesel motor that churns out 80kW and 250Nm as opposed to 66kW and 210Nm in the manual Techroad.

Life is faster and less laborious in the EDC, with a 0-100km/h and top speed of 11.9 sec and 169km/h, respectively, vs 14.8 sec and 155km/h in the lesser power unit. Average fuel consumption is rated at 5.1l/100km for the manual and 4.8l/100km for the automatic.   

Ground clearance is paramount in the SUV segment and the Duster, which generally doesn’t shout with action-man looks, stands a respectable 210mm off the soil.

Striking blue interior accents in the Techroad model. Picture: SUPPLIED
Striking blue interior accents in the Techroad model. Picture: SUPPLIED

When bought as a front-wheel drive, it’ll suffice as practical wheels a family can take on long journeys. It’s also suitable for trundling on rural farm roads without compromising passenger comfort or its underbelly.

But if your family are adventurous explorers, then you want the solitary 4x4 model in the range with 250Nm on tap. Quite modest in appearance, it costs the same as the two-wheel-drive Techroad model.

The Duster 4x4 bumpers are designed for approach angles of 30º and departure angles of 34º, which we put to the test at an off-road course just outside Hartbeespoort Dam where it crawled over some fairly severe obstacles.

Descending is not a problem as it has hill descent control that inches it down but only at speeds 10km/h and above. It didn’t work on most of the steep hills and required moderation by brake. However, the wheel articulation was extensively verified, with many points on the route where the Duster lifted and dangled rear wheels in air.

Its small-capacity engine is robust enough and doesn’t need to be revved hard to scale some difficult inclines. The capability of the 4x4 model proved that it should be on your shopping list if you want a soft-roader that can ditch its softness when required and head out into rough terrain.  

Duster models come standard with a three-year/45,000km service plan and a five-year/150,000km warranty.

Pricing

Duster 1.6 Expression 4x2 — R289,900

Duster 1.5 dCi Techroad 4x2 — R327,900

Duster 1.5 dCi Techroad EDC 4x2 — R361,900

Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 — R361,900

Duster 1.5 dCi Prestige EDC 4x2 — R374,900

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