Long-term test (Introduction): Renault Duster 1,5 dCi Techroad 4x2 EDC

Perhaps because of my endearing love of the first car I owned, a 1982 Mazda 323 hatch, or secretly pining for the mint-condition Citi Golf that I should never have sold, there remains something special about a back-to-basics, no-frills automotive package making up for minor flaws with sheer character. 

While some criticised the first-generation Renault Duster for its hard plastics, rudimentary switchgear and simplistic underpinnings, many more – myself included – applauded the vehicle’s unapologetic robustness and fancy-free outlook. In fact, more than 15 000 South Africans liked it so much that they put their hard-earned money down for this rebadged Dacia. 

With the dust having barely settled on the local launch of the second-generation Duster, Renault South Africa used the occasion of a slight range reconfiguration to send us a new 1,5 dCi TechRoad 4x2 EDC derivative. 

With the new Duster boasting updated head- and taillamp units, TechRoad spec gains the same sophisticated LED daytime-run- ning lights and 17-inch alloy wheel design as the top-of-the-range Prestige. Not to be confused with that most expensive Duster, the TechRoad features red accents throughout, most notably on the exterior via the side mirrors and wheel centre caps. 

Replacing the Dynamique, the TechRoad features impressively comfortable cloth seats with red accenting, while the leather-bound steering wheel, door handles, air vents and transmission lever housing boast a touch of rouge. 

The standard inclusion of a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, including navigation and a reverse camera, is a boon. 

One of my least favourite features of my previous long-term Kadjar 1,5 dCi was its EDC dual-clutch transmission; its slow and, at times, erratic workings too often overshadowed an otherwise-impressive drivetrain package. I’m pleased (and relieved) to report that Renault’s EDC transmission appears to have turned over a new leaf. 

Another pleasant surprise, especially having recently returned the keys of my relatively thirsty Haval H6 C (a final report on page 84), has been a tank-to-tank range of more than 1 000 km. While the 80 kW/250 N.m turbodiesel engine also offers an eco mode (dulling the response of both the throttle and climate control), even without using this setting, I’m averaging just 5,81 L/100 km. Admittedly, most of the car’s mileage to date has incorporated my 60 km slow- lane commute along the N2. 

One of the only challenges I’ve experienced has been finding space for my small children’s legs once they’re seated in Isofix-mounted child seats. I’m hoping an upgrade to the next stage of child seat (with a narrower backrest) will improve overall levels of comfort at the rear. 

After 1 month
Current Mileage: 
 830 km
Average fuel consumption:
 5,81 L/100 km
We like: 
plucky styling; fuel consumption
We don’t like: 
tight rear legroom
Long-term test (Update 1): Renault Duster 1,5 dCi Techroad 4x2 EDC

It’s a shrewd manufacturer which finds a way to include a leather-bound steering wheel within a budget-oriented package. It’s no real chore to manually operate central locking via an old-school key fob. However, that feeling of genuine leather in your hands instantly makes the vehicle feel so much more sophisticated and premium. The Duster has a great steering wheel.

As frugal as the diesel engine is, like with the family Boxer, my kids have learnt not to walk around the rear of the Duster first thing in the morning. The fumes from a cold start can be quite jarring.

After 2 months
Current Mileage:
1 720 km
Average fuel consumption:
 5,76 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 2): Renault Duster 1,5 dCi Techroad 4x2 EDC

Following the departure of my VW Arteon long-termer and the surprise arrival of a Ford Ranger double cab, it was an opportune time to reshuffle the fleet. The Duster’s previous caretaker, family man Ian McLaren, has adopted the bakkie and I’ve taken on the smaller Renault, which is perfectly sized for my city-bound commutes. 

I’ve been smitten with the Renault from the get-go: it’s easy to park thanks to compact dimensions (it’s 4,34 metres long) and a reverse camera, yet there’s sufficient space for a trio of friends to join me on road trips; the boot measures a practical 336 litres.

It’s also been impressively frugal which, thanks to a 50-litre fuel tank, means top-up stops are rare. I love the way it looks, too, but were I in the market for a Duster, I’d opt for the striking Atacama Orange paintwork to highlight the chunky design and flared arches. 

There have been some irritations, too, chiefly the dual-clutch transmission’s odd behaviour on a steep street leading to my house. On the return journey down, the ‘box hunts between first and second gears, leading to a runaway scenario in second, or lots of noise as the revs skyrocket when the ‘box selects first. I’ve been using the manual override on this section of my drive but it’s not a characteristic shared with any other dual-clutcher I’ve experienced. 

A quirk of some French and Japanese cars is the audio system reverting to its radio source instead of sticking to Bluetooth streaming when switching off the ignition and then on again. The Duster does the same but, thankfully, it connects quickly to my phone. The climate control system should be applauded, too, cooling the cabin in mere minutes in unseasonably warm weather. 

After 3 months
Current Mileage: 
 2 811 km
Average fuel consumption:
 5,89 L/100 km
We like: 
great diesel engine; looks
We don’t like: 
EDC's recalcitrance on incliness

 

Long-term test (Update 2): Renault Duster 1,5 dCi Techroad 4x2 EDC

I’m penning this update after having sampled the new Citroën C3 Aircross – look out for a full test next month – and it had me thinking about the state of the small crossover, and where Renault’s ruggedly styled Duster fits in. The Renault isn’t as refined as the C3, nor the new VW T-Cross, and its cabin quality is a step below their more polished fixtures and fittings. But does that matter? We all know cars are often bought because of the badge on their nose or their styling. And the Duster looks the business, all bulgey and bash-platey and proper SUV-aping. It’s unlike any other small crossover. 

After 4 months
Current Mileage: 
 4 001 km
Average fuel consumption:
 5,92 L/100 km