Renault Duster 1.5 Dci
The Swiss Army knife is all that anyone could ask of a pocket sized utility tool. It traditionally has, scissors, two knife blades, a file, cork screw, tweezers, a tooth pick and a strange hooked thing used for removing stones from a horses hoof. Could you ever really ask more of a pocket knife? Also, what does this have to do with the Renault Duster?
Well before you can understand why they are kindred spirits, I first need to tell you a bit about the Renault Duster, and lets start with the boring stuff. The Duster in its top spec costs R304 900 and comes equipped with a 1.5 Liter turbo diesel engine that develops 80kw and 240nm of torque. The power is fed to all four wheels via a six-speed manual, all wheel drive, transmission. For a full specification list click here.
The important bit about all that, is that the Duster has all wheel drive, meaning that it has the potential to actually go off-road. So that’s precisely where I took it, following dirt tracks near Rosendal, in the Free State. Unsurprisingly, the Duster excelled at all the hardships thrown its way whilst barely breaking a sweat. The feel of the car, on and off-road, is one of solidity, and this gives you the confidence to take it off the beaten path without fear of denting or breaking it. It really is a tough little cookie.
However, how it handled dirt roads isn’t the actual point of the car. The point of the Duster is to be a car for any situation. That means that Duster must be capable at being a good road car as well. And it is. Driving on-road, the Duster barely feels any different from your normal mid-sized family hatchback, handling with only slightly more roll, thanks to its off-roader ride height. The performance is much the same, having enough power for pretty much any circumstance, with the diesel powerplant feeling stronger than the figures would suggest.
It’s also a nice place to sit, with the top of the range Dyanmique model even getting its seats upholstered in leather. The infotainment system is, as with most Renaults, a little finicky. The central touch screen media center is easy enough to use and comes with Bluetooth and navigation and a CD player and Aux input. Oh yes, and also a radio. The only strange part is that the steering wheel mounted controls seem to have no connection to the media center. Rather the volume and such are controlled via a stalk mounted on the steering column. Regardless, it is spacious cabin with a decent sized boot and enough room for five adults. I must concede that the quality of interior finishes felt cheap, with the liberal use of hard plastics, but at the same time I feel that it added to the rugged character of the car.
In terms of looks, you can decide for yourself, but I feel that the blunt, boxy look really stands out in a world obsessed with beauty. Because it isn’t pretty, and it wasn’t designed to be. Also, knowing that it actually can perform on dirt justifies the rugged look of the Duster, showing that it isn’t just wearing the fake tinsel of off-roaderry, but can back up its looks with actual ability.
So how is the Duster similar to the Swiss Army knife? That’s simple, because the Renault Duster is all you could ever need a car to be, in the same way that the Swiss Army knife is all one could expect from a pocket knife. Yes, you can get a better knife or corkscrew than is found on the Swiss Army knife, but the Swiss Army knife works as a package. The duster is much the same, because you get better off-road vehicles, and faster vehicles, and more economical vehicles, but you don’t really get any others that can do this many things. Not at this price anyway. To me, the package that is the Renault Duster 1.5 Dci AWD is everything that anyone could ever ask of a car.