Motoring review – The 4X4 for you

2014-07-23 19:00

The new Renault Duster might be just the vehicle for you if you thought you couldn’t afford a 4x4.

It not only looks great and handles well, but packs a lot of punch for its price, writes Ané Theron

No doubt about it, the Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 (R255?900) is a looker.

Its ground clearance, wide wheel arches, chrome-plated grille and muscular lines make it look capable too. After hearing a few tales about its off-road prowess, I wanted to experience it first-hand.

So we loaded in the kids and followed a few family members (in a 1990 Jeep Cherokee) to Walker Bay Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Gansbaai in the Western Cape.

The first stretch of our journey took us from Hermanus towards Stanford on the R43, a road so battered and bone-jarring it can loosen the fillings in your teeth.

The Duster’s comfy suspension seemed to absorb all the bumps, and its responsive turbodiesel engine made overtaking slow vehicles a cinch, yet it’s frugal as Scrooge at about 7 litres per 100km.

After continuing past Stanford on to the Gansbaai road, I put the satellite navigation to the test via the Bluetooth-enabled MediaNav system’s 18cm touch screen. Perhaps not the user-friendliest of global positioning systems, but it got us where we needed to go.

Equipment like that doesn’t come cheap, so it’s a luxury to have it as a standard spec. It is also standard in the 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4x2 model (R235?900).

As we paid the park official at the De Kelders entrance and descended on the tricky terrain, I felt a little nervous. Is the Duster up to the task? Would Renault airlift me out of here if I got stuck?

I needn’t have worried.

The Duster’s 210mm road clearance and the fact that it has plenty of power in the lower gears made easy work of some steep inclines and rocky roads, as well as the soft sand dunes.

You get to choose if you want your Duster in four- or two-wheel drive mode via the selector knob below the touch screen. Leave the selector knob on “auto” and the Duster will do the thinking for you.

Soon afterwards, we found the perfect picnic spot overlooking a grotto and a little white beach.

We set up the gas braai and slapped a few boerie rolls together for lunch while we watched a lone whale frolic in the waves.

Later, as we gingerly made our way back to the gate, I took a good look around the cabin. It has everything one could possibly need and more.

I would have liked bigger bottle holders in the doors, though. But space for five passengers (and their luggage) is ample and the build quality is good.

The only thing I don’t fancy is the height adjustment mechanism for the driver’s seat – it feels a tad unrefined. Unfortunately, leather seats are not an option.

But in this price range you won’t find more bang for your buck. Stability and traction control? Standard.

So if you thought you couldn’t afford a 4x4, the Duster is guaranteed to surprise you.

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