Five thousand kilometres – the distance from Cape Town to Tzaneen and back. Quite a distance to drive during the December holidays in any vehicle and I was a bit apprehensive of the Duster’s long distance capabilities. Good thing that it arrived at our offices with 6 000 km on the odo, which meant is was already properly run in…
I need not have worried, as this gutsy vehicle tackled the long road with aplomb. The suspension is soft and provided a very comfortable ride while the small capacity turbodiesel engine (80 kW and 240 N.m) easily kept the vehicle at the national speed limit in sixth gear. No CD player is fitted, so a USB memory stick with my favourite songs provided entertainment over the decent quality sound system. The easy-to-use, touchscreen interface includes a navigation system and Bluetooth pairing for your phone.
Visit to Kruger National Park
Meeting up with my family in Tzaneen (they flew up a week earlier), we decided to visit Kruger National Park (KNP). Fully loaded with wife, two children and their paraphernalia, we headed for Phalaborwa Gate. The cabin and boot have enough space to deal with most family needs. Lesser-travelled off-road trails through KNP rewarded us with elephant, zebra and several buck sightings, to great delight of my three-year-old daughter.
Initial off-road test
Back in Tzaneen, I decided to explore the area round the dam and test the off-road capability of the Duster. First gear is quite low and excellent for tight off-road situations in the absence of low range. With the drivetrain locked in the four-wheel-drive setting, I tackled steep slopes, mud and loose gravel. The “can do” attitude of the vehicle is remarkable and it would give some serious off-roaders a run for their money.
The only niggles experienced during this trip was a loose driver’s seat and, on two occasions, the engine cranked for a long time before starting. This will be reported to the service centre when it goes for its 15 000 km service. Another issue on a greater scale is the negative stigma still attached to the Renault brand by many people I met during the trip – even though they liked the product.
If my first long-distance experience of the Duster is anything to go by, this vehicle might just be able to change perceptions. If your criteria for a family SUV costing less than R250 000 is space, off-road ability and a frugal turbodiesel engine, nothing comes close to the value offered by the Duster.
After 2 months
Mileage on arrival (km): 6 486
Mileage now (km): 12 009 (5 523 km towards 20 000 km)
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 7,30