“Towing a caravan with a Duster?”. This sceptical comment came from my dad who tows a fixed-high-roof Gypsey 4 caravan with his trusted 3,0-litre V6, Mitsubishi Colt, double cab bakkie. I was quite adamant that the Renault, with its 80 kW and 240 N.m 1,5-litre turbodiesel engine, would be up to the task. There was only one way to find out…
I booked a plot for five days at the picturesque campsite of Jongensfontein (close to Stilbaai on the South Coast) and picked up our holiday accommodation in the form of a Jurgens Expo caravan (courtesy of Jurgens Ci). The 350 km route from Cape Town to Jongensfontein included mountain passes, open road sections and a bit of town driving.
The towing experience
The Expo is the smallest of the Jurgens range but still weighs a hefty 1050 kg. The hitching process was straight-forward and the rear of the Duster did not sag significantly (which also points to good mass distribution of the caravan). As the Expo is quite a bit wider than the Duster, I had to fit extended mirrors to monitor the traffic behind while towing.
The extra-low first gear of the Duster came in very handy as it made pulling away a cinch. Getting up to speed is a fairly relaxed affair with only marginally higher engine speeds needed to build momentum. I kept the speedo needle between 100-110km/h on the national roads, mostly employing fifth gear (sixth gear was only used on downhill sections when the going was easy). A steep mountain pass, like Sir Lowry’s, required the use of fourth gear but the speed would rarely drop below the 80 km/h mark. The stability at speed was excellent and the suspension still comfortable.
The best part was the fuel consumption: The Renault Duster consumed on average around 11,0 litres/ 100 km for the entire round trip, which included a drive back into a strong headwind. The trip computer indicated an excellent 9,5-litre /100 km on the way there in perfect towing conditions. With current fuel prices, this is excellent news as it still makes caravanning an affordable way for a family to go on holiday (when considering the total cost of accommodation and fuel).
Caravans have come a long way since the Eighties, where a Sprite Sport provided accommodation during our family holidays when I was still at school. The Jurgens Expo (the entry-level caravan of the Jurgens range) looked modern inside and out. LEDs provide lighting, gas lifts are fitted to help provide easy access to under bed storage and a plethora of 220 V electrical sockets keep all modern appliances happy. A big plus is the large fridge/freezer that swallowed all the food needed for a five-day holiday. Although it is a “small” caravan, the clever use of space give the interior an airy feel once the roof is extended. As it is the entry-level caravan, it does not have a stove, microwave or wash basin and the full tent is optional.
My only real gripe was the tricky process of erecting the rally canopy in a strong breeze. Whereas the old-style poles clicked into place at the junctions, the new-style poles employ plastic, press-in junctions. This meant enlisting the help of a few fellow campers to hold the poles and junctions in place until the whole structure stood on its own.
During the rest of the holiday it provided perfect accommodation for my wife and I, three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. As the Expo is only a three-berth caravan, it will need upgrading when the children get older.
The recommended retail price of the Expo is R170 100.
The Renault Duster/ Jurgens Expo made a great combination and we enjoyed a lovely holiday. Many people wandered over to have a chat and were surprised at the capability of the Duster as a true family orientated SUV with towing capability. The biggest revelation however, was the fact that the Duster/Expo combination costs less than any one of the top-of-the-range, double-cab bakkies that most seasoned campers use as tow vehicles…
After 4 months
Mileage on arrival (km): 6 486 km
Mileage now (km): 14 201 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 7,84 litres/100 km
We like: Value for money, off-road and towing ability, frugal turbodiesel engine
We don’t like: Interior a bit rough in places and heavy steering
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