Before the Renault Duster was launched at the Geneva Motor how in 2010 – it debuted at the Andros Trophy ice-racing series in France under the Dacia Duster Ice Racer nomenclature driven by four-time Formula One world champion Alain Prost. The Andros Trophy served as a rather unusual introductory backdrop for what has become one of the best-selling compact-crossover family SUV’s in the world.  

Here Are Five Talking-points About The 2020 Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique 4×4 

Design: The Duster’s exterior design is an inspiration of biomimicry and quint-essential engineering. Tri-winged front-grille, Hawk-eye cluster headlamps C-shaped L.E.D daytime running lights, Fire-fly fog-lights, Forza Diamond-cut alloy rims and L.E.D cross-hair tail-lights. The Duster sheds some weight with a much lighter but stronger monocoque-body frame – a first for any vehicle in its class.  

Drivetrain: Featuring the world’s most fuel-efficient 1.5l turbodiesel engine, producing 80kw of power and 260nm of torque sent to the front-wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. In Eco-mode, I managed a respectable fuel-consumption of 6.7l/100km. There is also an entry-level Expression model that comes with a normally aspirated 1.6l, 4-cylinder petrol engine. 

Interior: The air-vent flaps are but the only items of a flimsy plastic, otherwise the cabin boasts a fine finish, intuitive functionality and comfort. Onboard technology includes a Media Nav Evolution infotainment system with Sat-navigation, USB/AUX audio streaming and mobile device Bluetooth connectivity. Accessible via either the steering-column mounted audio-controls or the 21cm touchscreen, which is now positioned slightly higher and tilted towards the driver for enhanced fall-to-hand ergonomics. Complemented by class-leading utility and practicality by virtue of a 1/3-2/3 split-folding rear-seat configuration. Dual-airbags and cruise-control are standard across the Duster range. However, during one of my long-distant journeys, the one item I felt was sorely missing from the Duster’s cabin – is a driver/passenger centre-mounted armrest.  

Safety: Kitted with Intelligent safety driver-aids like ESP with traction-control, blind-spot indicator, hill-hold assist and down-hill descent control. Renault never compromise on safety, all Duster derivatives come standard with ABS/EBD, emergency brake-assist, ESP, T/c and reverse-parking sensors. 

What is it like to drive? Specific to the Renault Duster is its adept nature for tackling dirt-roads. However, the independent multilink-arm suspension is not as pliant as one would expect, yet provides sufficient road-holding even at high-speeds across corrugated surfaces – along with brisk steering response for positive car-control and ease of maneuverability even in the most precarious of driving scenarios. Short gearing ratios offer decent performance for daily commutes and country-road driving but the Duster is no street-racer. Off-road the Duster reveals its prowess, a 4L four-wheel-drive system implies capability, particularly the drivetrain’s 1st-gear crawling ratio, but with the Duster’s standard 215/65/R16 road-tyres – you will be thinking twice about crossing a muddy trench or conquering a steep rocky incline. Centrally located atop the transmission-tunnel is the rotary-dial 2H/Auto/4L selector albeit Auto-mode is not permanent 4WD. Instead, it employs a pseudo-type torque-vectoring system via the ESP/traction-control system: engaging the rear-wheels if the front-wheels break traction. Particularly effective during day-to-day wet-weather driving, or loose gravel sandy surfaces of which Auto-mode can be engaged up to 60km/h. Nonetheless, if you do find yourself in a nail-biting off-road situation, not to worry the Duster comes with an escape plan: an electronic differential lock and manual-select four-way surround-view camera system. For example, in a diagonal cross-axle situation, where either one of the front and rear wheels, diagonally from each other, start to lose grip, the system will first detect the loss of traction, apply brakes to the spinning wheels via the ABS, and only then does it engage the EDL  – transferring power to the wheels with the most grip. This also activates the surround-view camera system whereby you can monitor your vehicle’s ground position from your starboard, portside and fore-and-aft. Whereas, the forward and reverse-camera automatically activates when performing a three-point turn. Moreover, the Duster boasts onboard 4×4 telemetry of which via the touchscreen you can monitor your vehicle’s longitudinal, lateral and transversal angles when travelling on steep terrain. 

I have driven every variation of the Duster range – and for me personally – I much prefer the Dynamique 4×4 model. “You can never go 4×4’ing with a 4×2 but you can always go 4×2’ing with a 4×4.” Simply put, on the one hand, the Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique 4×4 serves as a stylish suburban tourer during the week and on the hand a capable off-road 4×4 over the weekend.   

Written by Dean Joseph