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Is Renault Duster a reliable car?

Reader’s respond: Why the Renault Duster is such a favourite SUV with South Africans

Earlier in May, we reviewed the Renault Duster; it sparked so much engagement we just had to share some of our reader’s thoughts.

Wheels24’s Pritesh Ruthun wrote about the Duster and how he had called the fleet manager to ask if the fuel gauge was broken when he had it on test as it just wouldn’t move — only to discover that’s how frugal the car really is. One would think this is a bit far-fetched, but having driven previous-model Dusters, I knew its fuel consumption and its efficiency is no lie.

We recently had the new Duster on test down here in Cape Town as well, and after driving it on the fourth day, I also wondered when the needle would start moving on the fuel gauge. I’ve already gone almost 300km since it was refueled, and the needle still hasn’t moved either. The Duster is one of the best-selling vehicles for the French automaker here in South Africa, and it’s no surprise — even if this fact is just based on the car’s fuel consumption. Renault sold 137 units in April, and that’s still a pretty healthy number for any vehicle being sold locally.

Do you own a Renault Duster you’d like to tell us about? Or, do you drive a different fuel efficient vehicle you’d like to share your opinion of? Please use the comments section below, or email us here.

2022 Renault Duster

2022 Renault Duster
Supplied Quickpic

It’s a brilliant little package all around. It’s simple, and its design is easy on the eye too. It has a higher ground clearance than most vehicles as a compact crossover. As South Africans, we need this, whether climbing a hill on a rugby field on the weekend or heading on some gravel for a getaway with family and friends on the beaten track.

It has roof rails, a robust design to go with its rugged look, and pricing only starts from R342 900 for the base Zen 4×2 model. Upholstery seats are very comfy, there’s enough room in the rear and the front cabin, and it has quite a sizeable boot, much bigger than I had expected.

The model we had on test was the automatic Duster 1.5 DCI Intense EDC 4×2, good for 66kW and 210m. That might look incredibly unimpressive on paper, but this is a feisty little car, and it’s nimble too. Gear changes are smooth, and it’s just such an easy car to drive.

The speed warning might be annoying, but it certainly keeps you in check — and it becomes beneficial to avoid any unwanted speeding fines.

We’ve collated some feedback from Wheels24 readers, and this is what they have to say of the Duster:

Reader Corrie Van der Nest says: «In 2020, I was browsing for a new vehicle. After much test driving and searching, I finally ended up at a Renault dealership. The sales guy I dealt with was very helpful and took me for a drive in the Duster. I was impressed with the looks and the drive of the vehicle, as well as the price. He also told me that I would be impressed with the fuel consumption, but at the time, I didn’t really make anything of what he told me.

Renault Duster Techroad 4x2

Renault Duster Techroad 4×2

«I ended up buying a Duster Techroad 4×2 model. I was really excited as this was my first SUV. Impressed with the vehicle within the first couple of months, I only filled up the tank twice a month. Fuel consumption averages between 4.9 and 5.2 liters per 100km.

«After two years, my Duster was on 44 000km on the clock with so many road trips and incredible memories later.

Earlier in February this year, I took it in for a service and had a look at the new Duster Intense model on the showroom floor. I know there are not many changes or differences from the TechRoad to the 2022 Intense model, but I traded in the 2020 model for a new Intense one.

«I fell even more in love with the Duster. It’s great value for what you pay, especially all the extra savings on fuel. My consumption is currently sitting at 4.6-litres per 100km. These are the best two choices I have made in my life. I would recommend the Duster to anyone. And people think that I’m lying about the fuel consumption until I show them on the on the gauge.»

Renault Duster

2021 Renault Duster
Wheels24 Charlen Raymond

Another reader, Sipho Buthelezi says: «I bought my Renault Duster 1.5 diesel in June 2014 at Renault Pietermaritzburg. I was travelling a lot as a security manager and used to travel the entire KZN. I would drive from Pinetown with a full tank to Jozini, which is about 404kms away, and I would reach it with a full tank still left on the gauge.

«After traveling a further distance from there, the fuel gauge will then lazily move down slowly, and I could reach Durban with the same tank if I didn’t travel around Jozini but straight back.

«My testimony is that Renault Duster 1.5 diesel is the best fuel-saving car I have ever driven, and what Pritesh Ruthun says in his article confirms my knowledge and experience with this vehicle. It is quite powerful and has a great ride.»

2019 Renault Duster long term review, first report

The AWD Duster shows us how adept it is at handling our less-than-perfect roads.

Published on Dec 27, 2019 08:00:00 AM

2019 Renault Duster long term review, first report

Make : Renault
Model : Duster facelift

It was our 2012 Car of the Year, and it’s immensely capable and still remains one of our all-time favourites. Duster customers too are by and large a happy lot. So then why aren’t there more of them? Why does the Creta sell as much as 10 times more, even though it’s more expensive? The answer to those vexing questions can be found in the Duster’s first touchpoint – the door handles.

Cheap, flap-type door handles, the kind you get on budget cars isn’t a great way to be introduced to a very capable vehicle, but it sets the tone for what is essentially, a solid, mechanically robust and practical car wrapped in a rudimentary set of clothes. Let’s not forget the Duster is fundamentally a Dacia – Renault’s no-frills Romanian brand aimed at serving working-class consumers in Eastern Europe – and wasn’t conceived to cater to the more aspirational and status-conscious Indian buyer.

SHORT AND SWEET: Duster responsive in stop-go traffic, thanks to short gearing.

It’s because of the Dacia DNA that the Duster lacks the sophistication and finesse of the Creta, and this recently facelifted model too (new to our long-term fleet) is a bit too ‘mechanical’ for today’s touchscreen generation. Speaking of touchscreens, the one in the Duster got an upgrade early this year. The infotainment system, however, is pretty ordinary compared to what the ‘connected’ cars like the Seltos, Hector and Venue have to offer.

The interior plastics and trim have been upgraded too, but again, the cabin doesn’t feel premium enough and it’s a shame that the top RxZ trim is now only available on the two-wheel-drive variants and has been dropped from the AWD version.

WILL TRAVEL: Long-travel rear suspension and high-profile tyres ideal for bad roads.

Our long-termer is specced in the RxS trim, the highest one for the AWD variant. The blank spaces on the steering wheel highlight the absence of steering-mounted controls and is a constant reminder that this is not the top-spec model. Audio controls are within finger reach, but they are at an odd position – mounted on the steering column, behind the wheel, one that I’m still not used to even after a month of living with the Duster. The October heat emphasised another ergonomic foible – the air-con controls. Not only are they situated low down on the centre console, they are also mechanically (and not electrically) controlled, feel low rent and are heavy to operate. Yes, the Duster didn’t really do well in terms of first impressions but all it took was the first round trip from home to have me completely sold.

You would think that the all-wheel-drive Duster offers no benefit in city use, but it’s in the scrum of Mumbai and not some off-road track that it drives distinctly better than the two-wheel-drive variant. There are two reasons for this.

IN A FLAP: Flap-type door handles feel flimsy and downmarket.

The first is the gearing: it is much shorter than in the two-wheel-drive and this makes the Duster so much more driveable at low speeds. The turbo lag the 1.5 K9K Renault diesel is known for is barely noticeable and a short first gear is great for pulling away from a standstill. A heavy clutch pedal was a big issue on the earlier Dusters but with successive facelifts (this is the second one since it was launched in 2012), Renault has worked hard at reducing pedal effort. The 6-speed gearbox still needs a good shove to slot through the gears and the hydraulic steering is a touch heavy too, especially at low speeds. Yes, the Duster isn’t a particularly light car to drive around town but the way it thumps through potholes is a huge part of its appeal.

And this leads me to the second big reason why the AWD Duster works better on bad roads – its fabulous independent rear suspension with extra travel and wheel articulation that’s genuinely handy on our bombed-out city roads. An extra layer of cushioning comes from the high-profile 215/65 R16 Apollo tyres, which smoothen out jagged edges, badly levelled manhole covers and broken bits of tarmac that are part of my daily 14km round trip.

COOL IS UNCOOL: Air-con controls badly based and are heavy to operate.

The high seating position and low window line, which afford excellent visibility, are a big help when you’re inches away from bicycles, handcarts, buses and delivery boys. In fact, the Duster gives you the confidence to go into battle, with everyone else also fighting for the same piece of tarmac. And that’s what I love about the Duster – it’s a car that you don’t need to drive gently. Yes, it’s not as premium as the competition but this is an honest, no-nonsense SUV that doesn’t expect to be treated with kid gloves. It’s this carefree character that takes a lot of the stress out of driving in Mumbai.

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