Renault Duster: The Super Fuel-Saver
The country’s most efficient and practical adventure wagon.
Renault South Africa sold 2 558 cars in December, cementing its position in the top six of the country’s most popular vehicle brands – above Mercedes-Benz in the month’s official table of best-sellers and hard in the wheel tracks of fifth-placed Nissan. Among the reasons for the marque’s popularity is the fact that it is deemed to be the country’s leader in the fuel economy stakes, its Captur, Duster and Kwid models having claimed the title in last November’s inaugural WesBank Fuel Economy Tour when the vehicles achieved a combined average consumption figure of 5,0695 litres/100km over a distance of about 2 500km – not bad for a trio of diesel- and petrol-fuelled derivatives.
With the results of the economy event – in which I took part – still fresh in my memory, I wondered what kind of consumption figure I would obtain from a diesel-driven Duster in a journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town and back, the route taking me through Bloemfontein rather than the coastal path via Durban and East London which the Economy Tour had followed, and incorporating plenty of town driving at either end and a fair amount of excursions to surrounding areas, too.
The test unit I was allocated for the journey turned out to be the top-of-the-range, Duster 1,5dCi Prestige EDC. It’s powered by a four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine that produces 80kW and 250Nm, transmission being through a six-speed automatic gearbox to the front wheels. For the high-mileage legs of the trip – Johannesburg to Cape Town, Cape Town to Johannesburg – the vehicle was loaded to capacity with luggage, the 60/40 split rear seat back folded down on the longer side to accommodate the cargo. Two adults occupied the front seats.
For excursions around Cape Town, two child seats where installed at the rear to accommodate a three- and a five-year-old, the passenger count rising to three adults as their mother joined us for journeys to Stellenbosch, Hermanus, Ceres, Worcester and Fish Hoek. In all, the vehicle covered nearly 4 000km during the round trip, its overall average velocity higher than that achieved by competitors during the Economy Tour, the reason being that I could maintain designated legal speed limits rather than travel at 10km/h under them as had been the case during the WesBank event. Also, air-conditioning was used almost continuously when the vehicle was on the road – another departure from fuel-saving techniques employed during the Tour.
In the end, the Duster averaged 5,26 litres/100km for the round trip – a little more than Renault’s claim of a combined cycle average of 4,80 litres/100km for the model, but still remarkable given the weight the vehicle carried for the majority of the journey. Incidentally, the Duster TechRoad which won its class in the Fuel Economy Tour – which was powered by a 66kW version of the brand’s diesel engine – achieved 5,06 litres/100km so, in my view, the heftier, more muscled Prestige’s performance remains commendable.
At a time when fluctuating fuel costs adversely affect motorists’ pockets in a tough economy, it’s gratifying to know that Renault is making inroads as far as energy consumption is concerned. So, how has the brand done it? First, for its diesel engines such as those used in Dusters, it has developed new pistons which are said to deliver fuel savings of about two percent thanks to a design that mimimises weight and which incorporates friction-reducing coatings similar to those applied to the units used in its Formula One race cars.
Second, it has introduced an eco-mode, activated at the push of a dashboard mounted button, which changes the characteristics of the engine’s management system in the interests of conserving fuel by facilitating less aggressive throttle responses and, to save additional energy, reducing output to the air-conditioning system. Certainly, engaging eco mode helps to promote smoother driving, one of the main motivators of fuel efficiency.
Cruise control is another helpful tool, not only for keeping the vehicle at a set speed, but for reducing throttle usage when covering long, flat distances. Together, the systems work well to keep fuel consumption in check without encroaching too much on driving enjoyment. And the vehicle is comfortable, too. Not once on any of the journeys undertaken did passengers – including the children – complain of lack of space or stuffiness in the cabin, the air-conditioning system, even with eco-mode engaged, keeping the interior cool and fresh.
On the subject of the interior, finishes are simple yet tasteful, the leather upholstery in the Prestige complimented by silver inlays in doors and on the dashboard; easy-to-read instrumentation; a height and reach adjustable steering wheel fitted with switchgear for the onboard computer and cruise control system; and numerous clever stowage spaces that are easily accessible.
With rear seat backs in place, the boot holds 478 litres of cargo – said to be class leading. On the connectivity front, Bluetooth and USB inputs are bolstered by a navigation system and smart phone mirroring capability. And, when it comes to driver aids, features include rear park distance control with a camera; hill start assist; lane change warning; and a handy, keyless function that automatically locks and unlocks doors whenever the person with the key card walks away from or approaches the vehicle.
Recently, the Duster range was complemented by the introduction of a new TechRoad derivative, the model pictured in this report. While it displays similar DNA to other variants in the line-up, features specific to the derivative include a robust off-road look; enhanced safety levels; smart technology upgrades and a unique, diamond-cut wheel style. Like the Prestige, it is billed as an extremely capable SUV – comfortable but engineered to master tough road conditions.
Overall, the Duster has proved to be extremely popular in South Africa, with sales totaling in excess of 17 000 units since its launch and, with Renault’s volumes rising, the trajectory looks to be heading upwards. If you’re in the market for a practical SUV that does it job smartly and efficiently, consider the derivatives in the Duster range – you might just find what you are looking for.
- Duster 1,6 Expression 4X2: R255 900
- Duster 1,5 dCi TechRoad 4x2: R293 900
- Duster 1,5 dCi TechRoad EDC 4x2: R327 900
- Duster 1,5 dCi Dynamique 4x4: R327 900
- Duster 1,5dCi Prestige EDC 4x2: R340 900