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RENAULT DUSTER AUTO

Renault’s steady rise to significant sales success was in no small part thanks to the achievements of its affordable Duster compact SUV.

It seems as if the market for affordable compact crossovers / SUVs is almost insatiable, as the incredible success of cars such as the Renault’s Duster has proven.

The need for practical wheels, ample space, tolerable costs and acceptable safety keeps driving buyers to Renault showrooms to test, and in 12,500 cases thus far, purchase themselves a new Duster. Little wonder, then, that Renault has valiantly increased its market share from 4.7% in June 2016, to 5.5% in June 2017.

But the Duster range has lacked one thing since the first unit rolled off the sales floor four years ago, this month.

The popularity of the automatic gearbox has mirrored crossover purchases for some time, yet in this market, only the Hyundai Creta, launched earlier this year, has offered an auto ‘box. Until now.

WHERE IT SITS

Positioned as an ‘authentic’ SUV, the Duster offers many ones and onlies in the segment. Class-leading approach and departure angles and ground clearance, as well as a decent four-wheel-drive system (not automatic model), underscores the Duster’s off-road credentials.

This versatility makes the Duster a favourite family vehicle, offering an entry point into the what Renault calls the “SUV lifestyle”.

With the addition of an auto transmission to the 1.5-litre turbodiesel (80 kW and 250 Nm) Duster Dynamique, Renault makes a bold statement that it can offer a highly specced family vehicle with an automatic box and many creature comforts, at an affordable price.

THE OFFERING

Based on the Dynamique spec level, the auto Duster has Bluetooth, satellite navigation, a touchscreen interface, and rear view camera onboard, similar to the Hyundai Creta. Fabric seats are standard with leather available as an option, where leather is standard on its R369,900 rival.

At a mere R299,000, the Duster’s class-leading boot can swallow 475 litres, and even the warranty and service plan is oversized, coming in at 5-year/150,000 km and 3-year/45,000 km respectively.

DUSTER DRIVE

The launch was spent driving on some decent Gauteng back roads, the cars also doing some duty on gravel to prove that, even in 4×2 configuration only, the auto Duster is a competent off-roader. At least most of the time.

While it is true that gravel roads should always be approached with caution, and excessive speeds avoided, the Duster felt uneasy when pushed over 70 km/h on a looser surface. Traction control, while present, did not always engage as quickly as I would have liked in this type of application.

LAST WORD

I was surprised by the smoothness of the six-speed automatic, which added to the overall driveability of the little SUV. Renault likely has another hit on its hands in the form of the automatic Duster.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © RENAULT SOUTH AFRICA

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