There are precious few vehicles with 4×4 ability for under R400 000. Suzuki offers two; the R305 900 Jimny 1.5 GLX AllGrip and the R379 900 Vitara 1.6 GLX AllGrip, while Mahindra offers the old-school Scorpio 2.2 CRDe 4×4 S11 for R329 999. At R5 000 over our threshold you could also consider the permanent-all-wheel-drive Subaru XV 2.0i-S crossover.
Then you get this, the Renault Duster 1.5 dCi 4×4 Dynamique offered at a mere R327 900. It’s the latest model to be added to the new Duster range and the only one with selectable four-wheel drive. And, for those looking for a vehicle with 4×4 ability at under R400 000, it appears to be a very appealing proposition…
What can I expect from the Duster 4×4?
Fans of the old Duster will immediately recognise the evolution in design with this new model. The basic Duster charm has been bolstered with more generous dimensions and some added chunkiness – though, overall, Duster 2.0 has a more mature presence. Based as it is on the mid-range Dynamique model, the 4×4 features black bumper and side sill treatment – suitable for warding off rough-road bumps and scrapes should the 210-mm ground clearance and claimed best-in-class approach (30°) and departure (34°) angles be put to the test.
One point of contention, though, was that those side-sills are perhaps a little too wide, meaning that you will dirty the backs of your legs on them when exiting the vehicle.
Happily, the interior is a pleasant place to be – one that, thanks to the modern and driver-centric design, looks far more expensive than it is… Indeed, some switchgear feels less robust than it looks, while the expansive plastic surfaces are hard and scratchy but generally of good quality that shouldn’t mark easily. The optional fake-leather seat upholstery with contrasting stitching does, however, look and feel upmarket.
The seats themselves are large and, despite being well bolstered, wide which, combined with the flat cushioning, will leave skinnier occupants (such as yours truly) feeling a little “lost” in them… The split rear seat bench doesn’t slide or recline, bust space in the rear is as generous as it is up front. As is the deep 414-litre boot.
Is it loaded with lots of safety features and other nice toys?
Renault has fitted the Duster 4×4 with some bespoke goodies to make off-roading that little bit easier. You get, for example, a handy four-way MultiView camera system and a 4×4 information menu via the seven-inch Media Nav Evolution infotainment system. This system, by the way, also offers up navigation (as the name suggests…) and Apple and Android connectivity. There’s also a menu for eco driving information.
However, the Duster Dynamique’s gadget list goes on; with automatic climate control (with its classy-looking controls), front and rear electric windows, rear parking sensors, front fog lamps and cruise control with speed limiter.
Also available exclusively with the 4×4 model is the reversing camera, Hill-Decent Control and blind-spot monitoring. The Duster’s suite of safety features extends to further include anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, electronic stability control with hill-start assist, and four airbags.
What’s it like from behind the wheel?
Fitted with Renault’s familiar 1.5 dCi turbodiesel powerplant and six-speed manual gearbox, the Duster makes easy, if not particularly energetic, progress. With just 80 kW and 260 Nm, that’s to be expected. However, the powerplant impresses with its quietness and smoothness. Renault claims this unit will consume an average of 5,2 l/100 km on the combined cycle, I averaged a still impressive 6,7.
The Duster also showed itself to be a surprisingly capable highway cruiser – stable, just about as quiet as expected, and comfortable on its softish suspension. These are attributes that came to the fore, too, on a (albeit) mild off-road track – where the Duster 4×4 hinted at its ability to tackle some rough stuff.
Should I buy one, or look around?
The Duster 4×4 Dynamique can be summed up in a simple sentence: likeable and easy to live with, with all the mild off-road capability one will realistically need, at an attractive price. Getting this overall mix just right – at such an attractive price – is something none of its rivals can quite do, good as they may be in other areas.
That it’s backed up by an impressive five-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, six-year anti-corrosion warranty and three-year/45 000 km service plan further adds to the appeal.
CyberStoep rating: 7,5/10