The popular seller
The introduction of the Sandero and Logan changed all of this though, the former especially proving to be a massive hit with monthly sales easily exceeding 500 units and placing it within the top 20 best-selling passenger vehicle models on a regular basis.
Fast forward to 2013, the introduction of the Duster received a similar response with the bluff-nosed yet rugged looking SUV becoming an all-too familiar sight on our roads, and also selling in greater numbers than originally estimated.
With some 12 000 Dusters sold since that launch four years ago, Renault South Africa has now bolstered the range further following the unveiling of the so-called Phase II model last year, with the addition of a automatic gearbox on the top spec 1.5 dCi Dynamique.
AMT out, EDC in
Exclusively available in front-wheel drive, the Duster automatic offers no visual difference from its manual sibling on first glance, with the only indication of course being when you step inside.
Unlike the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) sold in other markets, South African models make a do with a revised version of Renault’s six-speed EDC dual-clutch gearbox, claimed to “combine the comfort of an automatic and the responsiveness of a manual”.
The addition of the EDC also means a bump in torque by 10 Nm to 250 Nm, while power remains unchanged at 80 kW. Fuel consumption is claimed at a rather optimistic 4.8-litres/100 km and emissions at 126 g/km.
Although previous encounters with the EDC have drawn mixed reactions, the unit in the Duster surprised during the launch route around the Muldersdrift and Magaliesburg region. In Drive, the ‘box goes about its business in a seamless fashion with smooth shifts and little lag, while clicking the gear lever into Sport mode turned up quicker shifts but without the hesitation that blighted the EDC’s of old.
Despite its power going to the front wheels only, the Duster still serves up 210-mm of ground clearance, which came in handy as part of our excursion included a gravel road with varying degrees of surface conditions. As it performed on the black stuff, the Duster took the road that inspired its name head-on and aside from being comfortable, exhibited no rattles or squeaks in addition to feeling planted.
As accomplished as Renault has been in revising the once jerky EDC though, the biggest black mark against the drivetrain is refinement with a noticeable diesel clatter on start up, and audible cabin intrusion at the national speed limit. Wind noise also proved to be a factor especially around the mirrors at highway speed.
In terms of standard equipment, the EDC takes after the manual in that its gets electric windows all around, cruise control, front foglights and the user friendly seven-inch MediaNav touchscreen infotainment system incorporating satellite navigation, Bluetooth, USB/AUX, a reverse camera, electric mirrors, auto lock/unlock doors, six airbags and ABS brakes with EBD as well as traction control in the form of ESP.
However, the actual cabin layout and ergonomics came in for scrutiny with the placing of the MediaNav system at the base of the hang-down section being the biggest annoyance, as well as the location of the electric mirror dial underneath the handbrake.
These quirks apart, the inclusion of the EDC is bound to give the Duster a more universal appeal as it links up with the torquey diesel engine perfectly. Its biggest trump card though is the price.
Factor in an extensive list of standard equipment and proven ability, the Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique EDC's asking price of R299 900 makes for exceptional value, in particular given its somewhat unique market standing. Add in a five year / 100 000 km warranty and a three year / 45 000 km service plan, it makes for a well-equipped package that will be hard to beat.