Steering Wheel Wonderings

Steering Wheel Wonderings

Sandero Stepway is great value

It might be nothing more than a hatchback in hiking boots, but there’s certainly a calling for vehicles like the Renault Sandero, given how just about everyone wants an SUV these days but not all are willing or able to part with the big wads of cash needed to join that trendy club.

And on that note, the Stepway is more budget-friendly than ever following its recent mid-life facelift.

Not only did Renault introduce a more affordable Stepway Expression derivative, and even the new range-topping Dynamique model. On top of that, the Dynamique, on test here, is better equipped. “So much for being a budget hatch," I thought when first sinking into the car, with its leather seats and gadgets that I would not have expected at this price level. The following is all standard: cruise control and an 18cm touch-screen infotainment centre with satellite navigation, rear park assist, full Bluetooth/USB/CD functionality and audio controls on the snazzy looking leather-covered steering wheel.

In fact, the view ahead is quite pleasing, with its combination of carbon-like trim, chrome surrounds and grainy plastics that are hard but look soft. It’s not as classy lower down and to the sides, and the glovebox on our unit was out of alignment with the dash, but other than that the build quality and finish seemed acceptable at the price.

Ergonomics have also improved with the latest upgrades, the hooter migrating back to its rightful place on the steering wheel and the front electric window controls hopping from the centre console to a far more convenient location on the door panels. The aforementioned MediaNav touch-screen system is also a cinch to operate.

Despite the car’s fairly generous proportions, there isn’t really a lot of space for rear seat passengers to stretch their legs, although the 292 litre boot is big by class standards.

As for stretching the Sandero’s legs, this car has an altitude-cheating advantage over its rivals in the form of a turbocharger, providing a much-needed boost to its ‘downsized’ 898cc three-cylinder engine, which is rated at 66kW and 135Nm.

Unfortunately it is quite laggy through the lower reaches of the rev range, which makes it trickier to pull off, and take gaps in traffic. You really have to stir the five-speed manual gearbox frequently and as a result it’s not as effortless to pilot as normally aspirated rivals such as Toyota’s Etios. That said, when you’re in the rather narrow power band the little engine does deliver very decent-for-its-class performance.

Even if you have to rev it a bit higher than the economy gurus would recommend, fuel consumption remains impressively frugal, our test car averaging 6.7 litres per 100km on an urban-heavy mixture of town and freeway driving.

Chucking it around the urban grind, it’s not only the engine that detracts from its ease of use - there’s also no place for your left foot next to the clutch. The rest of the driving experience was rather painless though and despite a lack of seat height or steering wheel reach adjustment (albeit understandable at the price), I was able to find a comfortable driving position.

The overall ride quality is also reasonably cushy. Despite a slight firmness in the suspension, bumps and ripples are absorbed without any real shock.

With a ground clearance of 193mm, the Stepway rides higher than the normal Sandero hatch, but it doesn’t feel too top-heavy around corners. Its stance might help it out on the dirt roads, but like most of today’s crossovers and SUVs it’s no off-roader, although those black wheel arch mouldings, bulky bumpers, skid plates and roof rails ensure that it most certainly looks the adventurous part.

By the way, its wheels aren’t actually real alloy mags, but you’d have to give them a good nudge to tell the difference. They’re steel wheels carved in the same shape as the smartly designed plastic hubcaps that cover them, so you don’t see the steel rim at all. They’re not only a lot cheaper to make than alloys, but also more cost effective to replace if you scrape them on a rock while trying to prove that the Sandero is in fact an off-roader (which you shouldn’t). Genius.


Compared with its rivals the Sandero Stepway has a cleaner, fresher look to it and it’s better equipped and cheaper. Providing you can live with its few quirks, it is most certainly an excellent and very desirable buy in its seemingly confused segment. But then if you can go without those trendy pumped-up looks and a few of the gadgets, its conventional hatch sibling, the Sandero Expression, is an even better deal - possibly even one of the best on the market right now.

FACTS: Renault Sandero Stepway 0.9T Dynamique


0.9-litre, 3-cylinder turbopetrol


5-speed manual


66kW @ 5250rpm


135Nm @ 2500rpm

0-100km/h (Claimed):

11.1 seconds

Top speed (Claimed):



5-year/150 000km

Maintenance plan:

2-year/30 000km

If you’re looking to get your drive on a new or used Renault Sandero - make sure to contact a Group 1 Renault near you. Book a test drive and discuss the Renault Sandero specs with a knowledgeable staff member at Group 1 Renault.

Renault Duster review

On the face of it, the pitch made to the market by the Renault Duster is so outrageous, so bold, so seemingly implausible that your first thought is to find the catch, which instinct tells you simply has to be there.

The fact is this: buy a new Duster and you'll find a good looking compact SUV with a spacious interior, for not much money, parked outside your house. It's cheaper than a Ford Fiesta, and the diminutive Smart car. It’ll only cost marginally more than Fiat’s asking price for the cheapest Panda, for goodness sake. The cheapest Skoda Yeti featuring an engine of identical power to that of the entry level Duster costs notably more.

Moreover the base ‘Access’ grade comes only with 1.6-litre petrol power so if it’s diesel you want you’ll need to hop up to mid-spec ‘Ambience’ which, model for model is a further four-figure chunk of change and even that won’t buy you air-conditioning or alloy wheels. If you want such items as many might these days be regarded as basic essentials, you’ll need the top of the range ‘Laureate’.

Then again even this most dashing Duster of all still costs less than the skinniest Skoda Yeti.

Were this Duster like the last one, which went on sale here briefly at the end of the 1980s, perhaps the pricing would be understandable. But it’s not an automotive excrescence so terrible it makes a bus pass look attractive, it’s an apparently credible product made in a state of the art factory in Chennai, India out of largely Renault and Nissan components.

Which is why Jean-Christophe Kugler, Executive Vice President of Dacia, is so pleased with the range of as he coins it 'reliable, user-friendly cars that are affordable as well'. Speaking at the 2016 Paris Motorshow, Kugler explained that the effort to improve the appearance and ergonomics hasn't ballooned the price with prices across the Renault range increasing by a mere two percent over seven years.

Design and styling

The Duster sits on the Renault-Nissan B0 platform which, for the avoidance of doubt is B Zero, not a personal hygiene issue. Relative to the Yeti to which it would so love to be compared, it’s a little longer, wider and sits on a larger wheelbase so whatever you’re losing, it’s not metal for the money.

The 2017 update has seen the Duster get a more distinctive exterior, with the new front grille dominating alongside an upgraded headlight system and bumpers. Inside the interior has been improved both in terms of quality and ergonomically, to allow it to retain its position as a compelling choice for those looking for a cheap, rugged small SUV.

The platform mandates the use of traverse engines, in this case a 1.2-, 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre turbodiesel. The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine has 123bhp while the bigger capacity 1.6-litre petrol produces a miserly 112bhp and the diesel produces 107bhp. For the first time, the Duster will also receive Renault's EDC dual clutch automatic gearbox, a decision driven, Kugler says, by the increase in sales of automatics - especially the dual clutch variety and the limited effect it has on emissions.

Should you choose a 4x4 version, the all-wheel drive system comes courtesy of Nissan and provides three modes: front drive, permanent four-wheel drive or ‘automatic’ that that switch between the two according to need.

Cleverly these Dusters also come with an unusually low first gear ratio in place of a heavy, complex and expensive low ratio transfer box for off-roading.

As you might expect the suspension of front drive Dusters varies not at all from the class norm with struts at the front and a torsion beam rear axle. However four-wheel drive models receive an independent four link rear end that provides better wheel control and, in theory at least, superior ride and handling, in exchange for a substantial 67 litre reduction in boot capacity.

A word now about safety. For years now there has been an almost automatic presumption that any major new car from a major organisation competing in the market mainstream (Dacia has been owned by Renault since 1999) would almost inevitably earn a five star EuroNCAP crash rating. Not the Duster, which received a three star rating when tested in 2011.

Dacia says this is because the overall star rating cannot exceed the rating for the worst component of the test and it was clobbered in the ‘safety assist’ category by the test vehicle lacking stability control. It contends that had the car been so equipped (an option on diesel Dusters but not available on petrol cars), a more conventional, but still unimpressive, an overall four star rating would have been recorded.

Scratch the surface though, and you'll see a car that recorded four stars for adult protection, five stars for child protection and four for pedestrian safety.


Peer into the Duster’s cabin and while you’re not going to conclude that the Promised Land now lies before you, you're unlikely to throw your hands up in horror. The interior looks perfectly pleasant and proficiently styled, even if a little grey. We say ‘looks’ because your fingers will not be rewarded by probing away too diligently at the largely rock hard plastics of many different textures.

For a car in which right hand drive appears an afterthought – it took two years for Dacia to get around to making it – the fundamental driving position is actually quite reasonable. There’s no reach adjustment on the steering wheel which is disappointing and taller drivers will find it’s too far away, but the relationship between seat, driver and pedals is acceptable.

Offering air-con only on the priciest models dents the Duster's value appeal

You sit high in the car in time-honoured SUV style and while the driver’s seat is height adjustable the squab itself is flat, short and shapeless providing no more than adequate comfort over longer distances. Likewise the Renault's side bolsters, whose lack of support is mitigated only by the fact the Duster is not a car that’s ever going to generate substantial lateral g.

Ergonomically it’s there or thereabouts. The switchgear is not pretty and the ventilation controls are set a little too low but it’s never a problem to identify and operate whichever dial, switch or button you need. All round visibility is excellent too. It’s worth remembering however that air conditioning is available only on top spec Laureate models.

And by class standards the Duster is quite spacious too. There’s room in back and front for four average adults to travel in peace. The only short straw will be drawn by the fifth person on board. Not only will he or she be perched uncomfortably on a pad between the rear seats, but the centre seat belt arrangement, which has its upper mounting point far behind you on the C-pillar, is sub-optimal not just for you, but the person sitting to your left.

Predictably, given the price, there's not a great deal of equipment on the basic Duster model - but you do get power steering and remote central locking. Opting for the Access trim gets a bit more equipment, mainly in the shape of bigger steel wheels, electric front windows and height adjustable rear headrests. Move up to mid-spec Ambiance trims and suddenly the Duster gets a lot more modern, with kit including fog lights, DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, while for 2016 the Ambiance Prime spec added a bit more luxury, including an exclusive metallic paint job and 16in alloy wheels.

The range-topping trims - Laureate and Prestige both offer 16in alloy wheels, air conditioning, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, and convenience lights throughout the interior as standard, while the latter also includes a 7in touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav and traffic updates, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors within the package.

The Duster also has a decent boot: if it's just pure space you want, at least in the two wheel drive Duster, there’s more space than you’ll find in the Yeti, Nissan Qashqai and even the Range Rover Evoque. Seats down and load area is comparable to that of an Audi A6 Avant.


The Renault Duster is lighter than you’d think, with even the diesel model weighing just 1205kg (though this rises to 1294kg with four-wheel drive). On paper there appears little to tell between petrol and diesel performance but in the real world diesel will likely prove the preferable choice every time - not just because of the extra range and fuel consumption it provides.

It weighs in at 1kg more than the latest Renault Sport Clio.

This is not the kind of car you’ll ever be likely to drive to the limit of its performance potential so what matters in everyday life is that the engine responds keenly to each press of the pedal, no matter what revs the engine is pulling.

This is territory the ubiquitous Renault/Nissan 1.5-litre diesel knows well. It has excellent low down torque although, even by diesel standards, it gets breathless very quickly at the top end.

There’s little turbo lag and always a strong response to your commands, aided by the slightly notchy six speed gearbox that nevertheless has all points of the Duster’s power curve nicely covered.

A shame then that in the Duster installation the diesel is intrusively noisey at all speeds from idle to redline. In most such cars you accept a degree of clatter when the engine’s cold or under load but so too should you be able to expect it quieten down to a point where it’s nearly inaudible at a cruise. In the Duster this never happens.

Ride and Handling

ou get the impression that the provision of decent handling and ride were not among the options presented to Renault’s chassis engineers by the raw material at their disposal. Drive the Duster, at least the front-drive Duster with a beam axle at the back, and you can almost see the thought process that followed. Probably correctly ride comfort has been prioritised and as a result the Duster chassis actually seems superficially quite sophisticated at first, sponging away everyday lumps and bumps like a seasoned pro.

Its suspension set-up, though rudimentary, fits the car's billing. But there is a price to be paid: while the soft springs may keep such intrusions from shuddering through the cabin, the same cannot be said of the steering which feels like it has a less-than-rigidly mounted rack.

It provides the unlikely and unfortunate combination of substantial kickback through the rim with almost zero feedback - precisely the reverse of what you might choose.

And those soft springs also affect primary ride comfort with quite pronounced roll rates evident on country roads and notable heave and wallow over crests and into dips.

Braking ability is reasonable: the pedal is a little spongy and ultimate retardation feels limited by the amount of forward weight transference created by those soft springs, but ABS actuation is sensibly delayed and the system itself is fade free in all normal use.


you cannot ignore the pachyderm sitting patiently in the corner. The Duster is an attractive, spacious and, with diesel power, a relatively frugal SUV available for much less than you’d expect. Its proposition to the marketplace is truly remarkable and so long as you go into the dealer knowing the car you’re looking at is far from the state of the art, certain allowances can be made.

The Renault Duster is a proposition unlike any other on the market. It may be based on some old technologies and it certainly has its flaws, but it is relevant, effective and cheap.

In our eyes and those of the thousands all over Europe who’ve turned it into such an astonishing success and will doubtless now do the same in Britain, that is what counts for most.

Group 1 Renault has the Renault Duster on offer. Test drive a Renault Duster and experience the Renault magic!

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Renault Clio - Honest Motoring Review

IT IS always exciting when you get to test drive a hot hatch, but with the Renault Clio RS 200 EDC, it has been different.

You see, I am the owner of a previous-generation Renault Clio for sale, so when I heard how the DNA of the new version had been altered, I began to worry. But I came into the test with an open mind; I had driven all of its rivals enough to make an informed decision.

The most fuss was about the free-revving 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine being replaced by a 1.6-litre turbocharged unit. It has the same claimed output figure as its predecessor (147kW), albeit now with 240Nm of torque. The six-speed manual gearbox is gone and in its place is a six-speed twin-clutch automatic. There is also only a five-door option now, whereas the third generation was a three-door. The Brembo brakes have also been done away with.

Why would a manufacturer famed for its pure performance hatches do this? Sales. Some of the best-selling hot hatches on the market are the Volkswagen Golf and Polo GTI models, which are mostly also double-clutch automatics. The other thing is that they are locally also five-door-only models. The Clio has taken this recipe for sales success by downsizing in terms of mechanicals and upsizing in terms of practicality.

The gearbox is not very impressive in normal mode - it holds gears for too long and then drones as it changes, but RS Sport mode remedies this problem. The sport setting means that the traction and stability programmes are still on, but they are progressive and only intervene when it is absolutely necessary.

For those who want the pure driving experience, race mode means no traction control and manual shifts via the steering-mounted paddles. The upshifts are truly very quick, but on downshifts the gearbox hesitates to respond to your inputs, which in a track situation could prove frustrating.

We had the Cup spec, which does what it says on the box: the car is lower and can corner better than its Lux sibling, but does sacrifice in terms of comfort.

The straight-line stuff is where the Clio RS is very impressive. A 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds is achievable thanks to a brutal launch-control system. I found the claimed fuel consumption of 6.3 litres/100km difficult to replicate. On a mixed cycle, I could only muster a figure north of 8.0 litres/100km, which is still more efficient than the model it replaces.

Overall I have to say that I liked the new Clio RS quite a bit more than I thought I would. You get the sense that this vehicle was well thought out from a marketing perspective. It has all of the necessary ingredients to appeal to the boy racer market, yet is also something that anyone would be happy to drive as a daily.

I think that it’s only real rival is the Polo GTI, as it’s the only auto-only model in this class and therefore appeals to a different market. As a daily driver I can’t say that I wouldn’t prefer the Renault with a newly found maturity.

If you’re interested in and want to know more about the available Renault Clio’s on offer - contact a Group 1 Renault dealership today. Their capable and knowledgeable staff look forward to assisting you from booking a test drive to buying a Renault Clio for sale.

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Review: Renault Sandero Stepway

The new Renault Sandero Stepway, however, is an infinitely superior vehicle to its predecessor. One expects manufacturers to incrementally improve their wares with each generation, but with the latest version of the Stepway, Renault has does more than just that — the urban crossover has taken giant leaps forward in virtually all departments. And the best part of it all? The second-gen Stepway's pocket-pleasing price-tag has hardly changed.

Perhaps most impressive is the Stepway's standard specification list, which includes a number of features that are pretty unusual in the budget segment. It boasts rear parking sensors, cruise control (with a speed limiter), Bluetooth, leather steering wheel (with tilt-adjustment) and satellite audio controls, as well as an electronic stability programme, traction control, hill-start assist, emergency brake assist, and four airbags.

In addition to these handy items, the Stepway also features all the kit one would expect from such a vehicle, including electric windows, air-conditioning, a multi-information display, audio system (CD/radio/USB/Aux), electrically adjustable side-mirrors, front fog-lights, a 60:40 split folding rear bench, IsoFix child-seat anchors, and ABS with EBD.

The styling is similarly pleasing, allowing the Renault Sandero Stepway to come across as more premium than it actually is. In fact, we reckon this crossover version — with its subtle black cladding, raised ground clearance (up 29mm to 193mm), front and rear scuff-plates, and silver roof-rails — is a fair bit better looking than the standard hatch on which it is based.

Of course, the Stepway shares its powerplant — an 898cc turbo triple we first sampled in the Renault Clio 4 — with the self-same Sandero. This forced induction three-potter makes a credible 66kW at 5250rpm and 135Nm at 2500rpm (besting the previous generation's naturally aspirated 1.6-litre), which the French automaker reckons is good for an 11.1-second dash to 100km/h.

In reality, though, the Sandero Stepway feels a little sluggish at the bottom of the rev-range, even if the fuel-saving Eco Mode (which dulls engine response for the sake of efficiency) is disabled. This lack of punch compels the driver to push a little harder, resulting in a menacing three-potter thrum as the revs rise, as well as a general decrease in fuel efficiency.

Although we didn't manage to match Renault's consumption claim of 5.4 litres per 100km, we were nevertheless left impressed by our final figure of 6.1 — which translates into a theoretical range of well over 800km from the 50-litre tank. Bear in mind, however, that in top gear the small capacity engine spins at a rather lofty 3000rpm at 120km/h.

The shift action of the five-speed manual gearbox, meanwhile, is disappointingly flimsy and the ride a little choppy over scarred tarmac. In fact, chuck the Stepway around and it feels decidedly unsettled thanks to the appreciable increase in ride-height. But customers buying a Stepway are likely to care more that it can take poor road surfaces in its stride than that it doesn't corner particularly flat.

Inside, the Stepway comes across as hard-wearing but without looking "cheap and nasty". The layout of certain controls, however, takes some getting used to (the front electric windows, for example, are operated via dash-mounted buttons in front of the gear-lever, while the rear window controls are bizarrely situated between the front seats). Cabin space is considerable, with rear leg-room perfectly acceptable and head-room back there really rather good. The boot, meanwhile, can swallow 292 litres (and hides a space-saver spare wheel).

Make no mistake, the Sandero Stepway is a budget car, but the fact that it's easy on the eye and absolutely crammed with kit — as well as a standard five-year or 150 000km warranty and two-year or 30 000km service plan (with intervals of 15 000km) — makes it stand out from the cut-price crowd. In fact, it outshines the recently launched Toyota Etios Cross in all areas other than engine response and road manners.

The Stepway represents terrific value for money, even if it is some R14k more expensive than the standard Sandero hatchback.

Very much unlike its predecessor, the new Renault Sandero Stepway's significant strengths render its flaws almost inconsequential.


Engine: 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Power: 66kW at 5250rpm

Torque: 135Nm at 2500rpm

Tyre Size

205/55 R16


Luggage compartment: 292 litres

Get a close-up look and personal feel for the Renault Sandero at a Group 1 Renault dealership or view the Renault Sandero for sale online. Find the perfect Renault for you at a Group 1 Renault today.


Another major automotive company that had started as a small family business, Renault traces its history back to the 19th century. Long-time famous French carmaker bears the family name of Renault brothers. Here are some interesting facts about its long and rich history.

  1. The history of Renault company had started with the story of one man with an unusual destiny. His name was Louis Renault, and he was one of the greatest industrialists of 20th century. From early years, Louis was obsessed with machinery and technology. His rich family supported the passion of young engineer, providing him with means to establish his own workshop. He built his first car in 1898, modifying a 0,75 hp single-cylinder engine. The Renault Voiturette (from French voiturette – a little car) was Renault ‘s first ever produced automobile.
  2. 21-year-old Louis was a bright, aspiring young engineer who had already designed and built several prototypes before deciding to expand his enterprise. Seeing the commercial potential of a new technology, Louis had teamed up with his two older brothers, Marcel and Fernand, who had business experience from working in their father’s company. They founded Les Frères Renault (Renault Brothers) company in February 25, 1899. The first Renault factory was established in the small town of Billancourt (now a commune in the western suburbs of Paris). It produced two-seater vehicles with a single-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engine and transmission of Louis Renault’s design.
  3. In 1900, company’s leadership had changed dramatically. In 1903, Renault began to manufacture its own engines; until then it had purchased them from De Dion-Bouton. Les Frères Renault had shifted gears towards the production of large, expensive cars with a closed cabin. In 1906, the streets of Paris saw more than 250 Renault luxury vehicles, powered by modern two-cylinder engine, with fascinating maximum speed of 35 km / h.
  4. One of the first major volume sales came in 1905 when Société des Automobiles de Place bought Renault AG1 cars to establish a fleet of taxis. This early taxicab with landaulet body style was nicknamed “Browning", because of the its dark-brown colour and extinguishable profile. The model become famous during the First World War, when the fleet of 600 Parisian taxis was requisitioned by the French Army to transport 5000 soldiers from Paris to the First Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. Those taxicabs soon were nicknamed Le Taxi de la Marne (The Marne Taxi). To honour its role in French victory, Parisians built the memorial for the Taxi de la Marne in Levallois Perret, suburb of Paris.
  5. At the beginning of the First World War, Renault factories had occupied 14 acres of land, and employed more than 4,000 workers. In order to support French war effort, company switched to production of heavy military equipment, like trucks and artillery carriages, as well as artillery shells. Renault FT-17 light tank, designed by company’s most talented industrial designer, Rodolphe Ernst-Metzmaier and Louse Renault himself, was among the most revolutionary and influential tank designs in history. Its classical configuration – crew compartment at the front, engine compartment at the back, and main armament in a revolving turret – became and remains the standard tank layout. The Renault FT was widely used by French forces in 1918 and by the American Expeditionary Forces in the later stages of World War I.
  6. After the end of the world wide conflict, the company returned to car production. Renault invested heavily in the new technologies, most of which were far ahead of its time, thus having only limited commercial success. Nevertheless, this period was marked by the series of victories in various motor sports events. In 1923, French expedition had traversed Sahara Desert, using a six-wheeled Renault prototype, being the first vehicle-based expedition to successfully cross the great desert. Technologically advanced and innovative Renault Juva 4 (Juvaquatre) model arrived in 1935. The Juvaquatre featured independent suspension at the front. Power was transmitted from the front-mounted engine to the rear wheels via a traditional three-speed manual gear box, with synchromesh on the upper two ratios.
  7. Right after company’s 40th anniversary the Second World War broke out. After the crushing defeat of French army and German occupation, Louis Renault was faced with a grim choice between losing everything he built and cooperating with the Germans and hopefully stalling them from moving the Renault staff and equipment to Germany. His decision was to retain his factory at all cost. When military and Daimler-Benz officials arrived at the gates of his Billancourt factory to assess it for removal into Germany, together with its workforce, Renault fended them off by agreeing to make vehicles for the Wehrmacht. His choice to cooperate with an enemy made him unpopular among members of the French resistance. After the liberation of France, co-founder of Renault was accused of industrial collaboration with the Germans and was imprisoned, being already seriously ill at the time. He denied all the accusations, claiming that his goal was to keep the French manufacturing base, crucial materials and equipment out of Nazi hands and to save the workers from deportation. Before getting a chance to clean his name, Louis Renault had died under uncertain circumstances while awaiting the trial, in 1944. His company was seized and nationalized by the provisional government of France.
  8. On January 1, 1945, four months after Louis Renault’s death, an order of General Charles de Gaulle’s provisional government decreed the dissolution of Société Anonyme des Usines Renault and its nationalization, giving it the new name Régie Nationale des Usines Renault (RNUR). Two years later, company debuted with the new Renault 4CV prototype at the Paris Motor Show. Given the low price, this model become very popular – more than 1 million cars have been sold as on 1961. Alongside with a famous Citroën 2CV, Renault 4CV had become the French people’s car.
  9. In 1958, Renault opens a new automotive engine production plant in Cleon (Normandy). The French automaker introduces a number of successful car models. Renault 4, a front-wheel drive economy car enjoyed a great commercial success (more than 8 million cars was produced between 1961 and 1992). Renault 16, a large family hatchback with 1,5 litres engine, was launched in 1965. The layout of this model was quite innovative – front-wheel drive, engine mounted in line behind the transmission, torsion bar suspension, and column mounted shift. Its big advantage was the modern, practical body style – introducing the hatchback to the mid-size family segment.
  10. In 1971 three major automakers – Renault, Peugeot and Volvo had signed a tripartite agreement, entering into the joint venture for engine manufacturing. This was the first step towards the extensive industrial partnership.
  11. The 70th were the period of rapid growth for the company. Renault had signed-up an agreement with another major French automaker – Peugeot to build the new factories in the Northern France. Renault 5 and Renault 12 models had become the two best-selling French cars in the world. At the end of a decade the brand starts to win the North American market.
  12. In 1977, the company entered the Formula One as a constructor, introducing the turbo engine to F1 in its first car, the Renault RS01. Since its debut, the French car manufacturer was constantly involved in F1 as both constructor and engine supplier. Renaults very first F1 victory was achieved in 1980.
  13. Renault 9 model was produced in the North America under the name of Alliance since 1982. It was named European Car of the Year of 1982. The car appears in 1985’s “A View to A Kill" as James Bond’s impromptu vehicle.
  14. In 1984, the French company had presented its latest model with brand-new body stile. Renault Espace, that was first showcased at the Brussels Motor Show, is often considered to be the first modern minivan. The model has proven successful, allowing Renault for the first time in its history to increase car production up to 2 million vehicles per year.
  15. This period of success was followed by a short decline in production. The company managed to overcome this local crisis, releasing the Renault 19 model in 1988.
  16. The 1991 was a peak year for the company. The French manufacturer had collected most automaker rewards – Renault Clio was voted European Car of the Year soon after its launch, and was one of Europe’s best selling cars in the 1990s; Renault Ligne was named the Truck of the Year; Renault FR1 became the Bus of the Year and company’s CEO Raymond Lévy was awarded the title President of the Year. The same year, Renault Scénic prototype – a compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) – the first to be labelled as such in Europe, was presented to the public for the first time during the Frankfurt Motor Show.
  17. Renault Twingo debuted at the Paris Motor Show in September 1992. Its unusual name is a combination of the words Twist, Swing and Tango. Renault’s new city car gained instant popularity, with 2240 vehicles bought by Paris Motor Show visitors.
  18. Renault Laguna, a large family car, was launched in 1994. This D-Class vehicle was manufactured by Renault from 1994 to 2001. It was offered in the hatchback and station wagon body styles. Renault Laguna of the second generation was the first European car to use remote keyless ignition system.
  19. In 1999, Renault acquires the 99% stake in the Romanian Dacia company, as well as 36.8% stake in the Nissan company. A little later, in 2008, Renault acquires a blocking shareholding in Russian AvtoVAZ company.
  20. Currently, the Renault Group continues to be a state-owned company.

Looking for good advice about Renault, Johannesburg-based dealership Group 1 Renault is ready to assist you and advise you regarding anything Renault!

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When Renault announced that a production version of its immensely funky 2014 Kwid concept was on the cards, the decision was no doubt met with nods of approval at the prospect of a city-bound, playful crossover hatch joining the ranks of a resurgent company. It made great sense: offer the lifestyle-oriented little car at a wallet-friendly price that its true target audience, younger, first-time buyers, could actually afford. All of this while undercutting rival offerings by a considerable margin and throwing in some appealing comfort and convenience features not found elsewhere at its price point.

In a market where crossovers are very much the in-thing, it all sounds too good to be true. But, while the Renault Kwid does cover the aesthetic, standard-specification and price bases, something has to give.

There’s a pleasing chunkiness to the Kwid’s styling that, along with a raised ride height and black-plastic wheelarch caps, goes some way to lending it the pseudo-SUV air that’s gained wide appeal of late. But, while the nose, with its snazzy honeycomb grille and neat headlamp arrays, looks fairly upmarket and substantial, the 13-inch wheels appear lost in their wells. And the first concrete sign of the Kwid’s budget roots is evident when you peer into the engine bay to be greeted by reams of hand-applied sealant untidily smeared along most of the sheetmetal seams.

The cabin, meanwhile, initially looks rather promising. It’s trimmed in hard plastics, but their quality and fit are of a good standard for this price point. The standout feature has to be that slick seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and sat-nav functionality. It’s included on the Dynamique and a feature that will prove a big drawcard for the youthful, tech-savvy audience at which the Kwid is aimed. It sits alongside other niceties such as electric front windows and an air-con system that is chillingly effective.

But they’re features that are applied to an interior that, in terms of its overall packaging, is rather poorly executed. Anyone of more than medium build will find the passenger compartment a rather pokey environment where scalps graze the headliner and occupants rub shoulders. Conversely, the boot is generous for its class, with 224 dm3 of luggage space expanding to 840 dm3 with the one-piece rear seatback folded. The driver-position ergonomics further frustrate; the seating position is perched, leading to most team members staring at the sun visor, and the fixed steering column either saw the wheel obscuring the instruments or contacting a left knee when the clutch was operated.

Having fired up the thrummy three-pot engine, it becomes clear that these issues are the opener to a driving experience that is unsettled at low-to-moderate speeds and somewhat disconcerting thereafter. Underpinned by the Renault-Nissan-developed CMF-A compact modular platform shared with the Datsun Redi-GO and stretching 2 422 mm from axle to axle, and possessed of the soft, long-travel MacPherson front, torsion-beam rear suspension setup designed for shattered roads, the Kwid’s ride is an odd mixture of choppy at times, occasionally decently damped at others.

Factor in an almost SUV-appropriate 180 mm ride height and a high centre of gravity, and this setup, although benign enough at low speeds, doesn’t take well to brisk directional changes and conspires with numb steering to create the sensation of the car not feeling entirely beneath you. Our tenure with the Kwid was also marked by the presence of the infamous Southeaster whipping across Cape Town. These conditions are challenging for most light cars, but with its combination of flat, high-sided bodywork and a featherlight (695 kg) kerb weight, the wind buffeting that unsettles most cars nearly saw the Kwid drifting out of its lane on several occasions.

Thankfully, that light weight also means that the 999 cm3 engine, with its modest 50 kW and 91 N.m outputs, isn’t overly taxed; thanks to close-set lower gears, it does feel sprightly in town traffic. It also makes the Kwid a frugal little runabout, with our fuel-route run returning just 5,4 L/100 km.

This unit’s maximum torque comes to the fore only above the 4 000 r/min mark, so it does occasionally struggle for overtaking momentum, but once it’s up to speed, the engine feels comfortable enough in maintaining momentum, if a little gruff.

We detected a hint of delay between accelerator input and power delivery that possibly points to throttle calibration which drops the engine’s revs a touch so as not to spin this light car’s tyres when shifting with more gusto than usual, something a couple of us managed to unintentionally do anyway.

But, while motive power was a mixed bag at best, it was the Kwid’s performance in our 10-stop 100-0 km/h emergency-braking test that really opened some eyes, especially those of the hapless tester. Despite a measured foot and some cadence braking, he managed an average stopping time of 3,95 seconds for a resounding “poor" rating. Given the younger, less-skilled drivers at which this car is aimed, we find it astonishing that ABS is neither standard, nor optional.

To review and test a Kwid yourself - test drive the Renault Kwid at a Group 1 Renault dealership near you. Group 1 Renault offers expert and honest advice on all their Renault models.

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New Renault Duster in SA: Revamped, revitalised

WINNING FORMULA: Renault builds on the local success of it Duster with design and interior tweaks as well as revised diesel engine.

• More than 8000 units sold in SA

• New production factory in Romania

• Revised diesel engine

• Revised exterior and interior

Revamped and revitalised, facelifted Renault Duster has arrived in South Africa. Enhanced inside and out, Renault builds on the local success of its Duster with refreshed styling, new features and improved turbo diesel.


Since its launch in 2013, Renault has sold more than 1.3-million globally and 8000 units locally.

According to Renault: "The first Renault model designed to meet stringent European standards - yet be capable of conquering international markets where usage and road conditions are considerably more rugged - two years down the track, Duster continues to be a formidable contender in South Africa’s B-SUV segment."

IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Renault Duster

The Duster line-up remains unchanged; two specification levels (expression and dynamique), two engine options (petrol and diesel) and two variants (4x2 and 4x4)

The 1.6 normally aspirated petrol (Expression and Dynamique 4x2) is capable of 75kW/148Nm and is mated to a five-speed manual. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.6 litres/100km with emissions of 181g/km.

The 1.5 dCi turbo diesel engine (Dynamique 4x2 and 4x4 models) is capable of 80kW/240Nm. The revised diesel outperforms its predecessor in terms in terms of fuel efficiency, with a claimed consumption of 4.8 litres/100km (down from 5.5 litres/100km) with emissions of 127g/km (4x2) and 135g/km in 4x4 guise.

What's new

• Two chromed horizontal grille strips (instead of three) and re-designed Renault diamond logo

• Less chromed trim at the front

• New roof bars with Duster moniker etched into the aluminium insets.

• Body coloured side-mirrors

• New alloy rims.

• Parking distance control (standard)

• Patterned fabric replaces plain seat and door panel design.

• 7" touchscreen satnav (Dynamique variants only)

• Cruise control now standard

• Leather trim and seat optional on all three derivatives


Sure the new diesel is refined with, Renault says, reduced consumption but can it walk the talk? Renault SA pitted journalists against each other in its Duster eco challenge (part time-trial, part economy run). In reality, it was more akin to a 300km off-road rally as we took on tar and dirt roads throughout Parys.

During the run I kept an eye on the fuel gauge throughout, while my navigator observed a stopwatch to make sure we reached our check points on time.

I achieved 4.8 litres/100km but due to time penalties was relegated to second place. The winner achieved 5.03 litres/100km without receiving a single penalty.

Overall, an impressive improvement by Renault.

At moderate speeds on smooth surfaces, the ride is adequate and with the addition of slick cruise control for its entry-level units, road trips are made that much more pleasurable.

Renault maintains its Duster is quite adept as an off-roader in 4WD guise. It’s no Land Rover but considering its price and performance the Duster is accomplished off-road.

In terms of practicality it ticks all the right boxes for space and comfort with a spacious boot and plenty of head- and legroom.


Production of the 2015 Duster has been moved from Chennai, India to Pitesti in Romania and is now manufactured at the same factory as its Sandero sibling.

Product manager at Renault SA Jeffrey Allison said: “Moving production to Pitesti provides us with the opportunity to refresh Duster within a sharper turnaround time - good for the brand and good for our customers here in SA."


The Duster is a bargain compared to other SUVs with similar talents. It’s not perfect but if you’re looking for space and practicality, the Duster could be the car for you. If you're in need of a something more upmarket you could consider the Renault Captur.

The Renault Duster takes on the likes of Nissan Juke and Ford EcoSport in South Africa.

The Duster is sold with a five-year or 150 000km mechanical warranty, a three-year or 45 000km service plan (service intervals at 15 000km) and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Test drive the Renault Duster at a Group 1 Renault dealership near you.

The new Renault Sandero - a Stepway in the right direction

2017 is Renault's best year to date, so far. Its pillar models are doing far better than expected, with the one-airbag, no-ABS Renault KWID in such demand that the French automaker can't keep up.

For February, the comely Renault Sandero was in 7th position overall in the local top ten best-selling passenger vehicle list, less than nine days before the SA launch of the facelifted Sandero even took place. Renault’s February sales figure of 681 Sandero’s reigned supreme over the Datsun Go, as well as the other entry-level contenders such as the Ford Figo and VW Polo Vivo.

I attended the local launch near the Cradle of Humankind last week, and was reminded as to why this little runabout is packing such a punch in the popularity stakes. The new one will undoubtedly be punching even harder. Here’s why:

1. It’s a more dapper-looking Frenchman

The outgoing Sandero was sufficiently attractive, but the new Sandero makes more of an urban style statement. All models benefit from a reshaped nose, grille, and headlamps with C-shaped daytime running lamps. Other changes are hard to spot, but the fog lamp housings look different, and at the rear, the tail lamps gain the C-shape as well.

I find the grille design of the entry-level Sandero Expression (R159,900) more attractive than that of the Stepway.

The interior has been upgraded and enhanced, with different trims and a redesigned front fascia. The practical placement of window controls in the doors (instead of on the front console) is also new. The interior is no Audi A1, but for what you’re paying you really shouldn’t complain. Leather seats are a 10K option in the Stepway Dynamique.

2. You can be counting pennies and still afford an SUV

The Stepway always offered a raised ride height and other outdoorsy details, and since the SUV-lifestyle is all the rage right now, the flagship Sandero Stepway Dynamique cross-hatch is now joined with another Stepway-variant: the more affordable Sandero Stepway Expression.

The Sandero Dynamique hatchback will be falling away completely – Renault found that people would rather buy an entry-level SUV than a more luxuriously-specced Sandero hatch. In the Stepway Dynamique, you can adjust the height of the driver’s seat for maximum visibility up ahead.

3. It’s loaded with technology unheard of in this price range

The new Stepway Dynamique is kitted out with Renault’s MediaNav 7-inch touchscreen system, featuring integrated navigation. Other creature comforts such as cruise control, rear-park assist and electrically operated door mirrors are thrown in as well. Even the humble Sandero Expression gets a 2-DIN integrated radio CD MP3 with a USB port, Bluetooth telephony and music streaming, fingertip controls, front power windows, and a gearshift indicator as well as Eco Mode.

4. Its fuel economy is exemplary

Agreed, the turbocharged 900cc engine is not going to give you a jolt in the backside when you pull away from stop streets, but it’s perfectly sufficient for town as well as open-road driving. Hitting the winding roads of the Magaliesberg proved to be a fun exercise. However, going around a slow corner in first gear is sometimes needed when you think second would have sufficed. You quickly get used to the turbo lag in first and second gear, and you adapt your driving style accordingly. We only spent 180km inside the 66kW Sandero, but it was a relatively vivacious 180km, while our fuel economy returned a fantastic figure of 5.6 litres per 100km.

5. It’s suited to our poorly-maintained roads

The Sandero is loved by rental companies, who prefer their cars to be robust and capable of handling a fair bit of everyday punishment. The 16-inch FLEX wheels that the Stepway-variants are shod with, are especially designed to withstand those pesky potholes.

6. It’s the safest car in its class

If you needed one reason to convince someone to go for the Sandero Expression rather than the bestselling, more expensive Polo Vivo, the safety features are it.

In this class, not even ABS is a given, but every Sandero is equipped with ABS as well as EBD and Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist, and (drum roll please!) ESP (Electronic Stability Program) with ASR (Anti-Skid Regulation).

Sandero and Stepway Expression-variants get two airbags, and the Stepway Dynamique gets four. Younger, inexperienced drivers need safer cars, and Renault realises this – let’s hope this way of thinking is continued into the next KWID.

7. After sales service, warranty and service plan

Once again very competitive, beating the VW Polo Vivo, Ford Figo and Toyota Etios with its warranty of five years/150,000km and its two-year/30,000km service plan. Its parts basket is also the lowest of the bunch mentioned above.

Parts availability is no longer an issue since the Nissan/Renault alliance. According to the Kinsey report, the Sandero is also one of the cheapest cars to maintain, service and repair.

Test drive the Renault Sandero today! Visit a Group 1 Renault or view Renault’s range here.

Renault Captur review 2017

The Renault Captur receives an aesthetic update that, while welcome, does little to keep it ahead of the pack

Back in 2013, when Renault decided to dive headfirst into the booming small SUV market, we were rather taken by its handsome Captur. Based on the sharp-handling Clio hatchback, it quickly established itself as a credible rival to cars such as the innovative Nissan Juke and formidable Skoda Yeti. With a flexible interior, efficient engines and a range of customisable trims, it’s no surprise that it quickly earned the accolade of being Europe's best-selling 'crossover'.

And yet the small SUV market has moved on at a truly startling rate since the Captur arrived, with new models such as the Suzuki Vitara and the larger but similarly priced Skoda Karoq offering a more convincing blend of practicality and performance. Therefore, for 2017, Renault has treated its entry-level SUV to a comprehensive mid-life facelift, in the hope of keeping it competitive for the foreseeable future.

With a great deal of the Captur’s popularly attributable to its adventurous styling, it makes sense that most of the Captur's visual updates revolve around new personalisation options, rather than revised body panels. Up front, a new chrome strip on the grille, as well as new skid plates on the front and rear bumpers help bring the Captur’s styling closer to its bigger sister, the Kadjar, while LED daytime running lights round off its upmarket look.

Unsurprisingly, the 2017 Captur keeps the previous car's recognisable two-tone body colour option, but buyers now get another three colours to choose from, as well as a new roof colour. A fixed glass roof is also available, depending on the trim level you choose. Unfortunately, though, there are no mechanical changes.

What's the 2017 Renault Captur like to drive?

Dynamically, the Captur has never been the most engaging car in its class, and sadly, that hasn’t changed here. On fast and flowing roads, it's nimble enough through the corners, but a shortage of feedback from the steering and a surprising amount of body roll robs the driver of any real enjoyment.

Instead, it’s best to stroke the Captur along at a more relaxed pace. In fact, it’s at low speeds, in an urban environment where this small SUV feels most at home. Renault has made good use of the Captur's increased ride height with its longer suspension travel compared with the Clio its based on allowing for a comfortable ride over ruinous surfaces. Combined with a high-riding, sit-up-and-beg driving position, threading the Captur through tight city streets couldn’t be easier.

Engine options are carried over from the outgoing model, so there's a 0.9-litre petrol, 1.2-litre petrol or 1.5-litre diesel that produce between 89bhp and 118bhp. The latter has a pleasing amount of low down shove, and is a good option if you do lots of motorway miles thanks to its impressive frugality – the Captur pretty much matches the eco-focused diesel Vauxhall Crossland X Ecotech

Blueinjection, with an official combined fuel economy of 76.3mpg, versus the Vauxhall's 76.4. Just be aware that you pay a big premium for a diesel Captur over the reasonably-priced 0.9-litre petrol engine version in the first place.

Ultimately, for private buyers, the 0.9 is the best option. Not only do you benefit from a reasonable entry-level price, but the engine’s power delivery makes the Captur ideal for driving around town, feeling grunty at low revs and far more refined than any of the diesel units. The only downside is that you’re restricted to a manual gearbox, which could be frustrating if you find yourself commuting in heavy traffic.

What's the 2017 Renault Captur like inside?

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be a huge difference inside, but look closer and you start to notice small yet significant changes. The interior benefits from higher-quality plastics throughout, the steering wheel and gearstick come trimmed with full-grain leather (in our range-topping Signature S Nav trim test car, at least) and the door panels have been reprofiled to give a sleeker appearance.

That said, there is only so much that can be done to lift what is essentially a redesigned Clio. Compared with the Karoq, there’s no doubt that the Captur is starting to show its age both in terms of materials and design. Even the once class-leading R-Link infotainment system - which now comes with Android Auto smartphone mirroring - lacks the responsiveness and clarity of the Volkswagen Group’s latest systems.

Where the Renault still impresses, however, is in its interior flexibility. A sliding rear bench comes as standard, and is particularly useful because it can be adjusted either by those sitting on it, via a lever underneath the seat, or by someone leaning in from the boot, via a lever that protrudes from the seatbacks.

The Captur’s load space is equally practical. There’s a variable-height boot floor on all models, which in its lowest position brings the floor flush with the rear seats when they're folded down - ideal for maximum storage. The boot opening is also of a practical square shape.

Renault Captur review verdict and specs

The Renault Captur receives an aesthetic update that, while welcome, does little to keep it ahead of the pack

Should I buy one?

There is good reason for the Captur being Europe's best-selling small SUV. With a competitive starting price, an attractive aesthetic and a flexible interior, the Captur sticks to the formula well.

And yet this updated-for-2017 model doesn’t feel quite as accomplished as its newer, fresher rivals. The variety of engines on offer feels restrictive, interior quality isn’t quite up there with its best rivals' and the driving experience leaves us slightly cold. A practical, cheap to run small SUV, then, but one that's also a tad underwhelming.


The Renault Duster is regarded as a soft-roader, which means it’s quite good in a shopping mall's parking lot but not much use when the going gets tough. So what happens when you drive it through some really harsh terrain?

The term “soft-roader" is widely recognised as the description of a car that has bigger tyres than usual, added ground clearance and some suspension tweaks, but not to the point that it’s as capable off-road as a proper 4x4.

The question is, how far removed from a real off-roader is the average soft-roader? Is the gap between the two really that big, or would a soft-roader get you to some of the places seen as the preserve of the hardcore 4x4s?

We had the opportunity to find out a few months ago, on an epic adventure in Namibia. Renault invited us to drive a Renault Duster through some remote parts of this beautiful country – to a secret location where a film crew was busy shooting a new season of Ultimate Braai Master.

We had previously driven the Duster on our own soft-roader adventure, but on that occasion it had faced little more than a badly corrugated dirt road in the Komatiland Forest. A bad road in Mpumalanga and five days through Namibia’s most hostile terrain are two completely different things, and to be honest, we thought the Namibia trip could do some serious damage to the Duster's reputation.

On our arrival in Windhoek, the Renault dealership wasn’t exactly reassuring. We were told over a cup of coffee that the Dusters we’d be driving were brand new and that the modifications made for the trip had been completed that very morning. So not only were we heading out in vehicles with delivery mileage on them, but we were using untested equipment. The odometer had barely reached double digits, and we faced a five-day drive covering 3000km. At least we could look forward to a 600km section of tar on the final day!

The first leg of our trip was a gravel route from Windhoek to Sossusvlei Desert Camp. These roads are notorious for shredding tyres, so we were surprised to see that the modifications made to our cars did not include a new set of shard rock resistant rubber. In fact, the modifications were limited to a sturdy roof rack and a set of jerry cans in case we couldn’t find 50ppm diesel.

The Namibian version of the Duster includes a stainless steel bull bar as standard, but other than that it was the same Duster we know in SA.

The first 300km turned out to be mostly uneventful. The Duster has a rather rudimentary all-wheel drive system that kicks in automatically when it detects a loss in grip. This made the Duster fairly entertaining on the first leg of the journey, simply because it lets you get the tiniest bit sideways before it intervenes and saves the day. It was loads of fun, but too much of a good thing can lead to a brand new Duster landing on its roof in the middle of nowhere, so we turned off the road to check the tyre pressures. In our hurry to get going, we had forgotten to check this vital element. The car was still set up for city driving and as anyone in the know will tell you, an overinflated tyre and a gravel road really don’t mix. After we had let out some of the air the Duster fell back in line again.

We were missing the sideways action, but had some time to reflect on the Duster’s 1,5-litre turbocharged diesel engine. We have praised this engine before, and it is certainly one of the best currently in production. For its size it delivers a powerful punch, and this allowed us to cruise kilometre after kilometre, without ever having to gear down from fifth.

The hours flew by uneventfully and eventually we pulled up at the Tropic of Capricorn to watch the sun setting over the magnificent Namibian horizon. Our tour guide started getting uncomfortable with our constant picture-taking and loitering, but we regarded this as a wonderful moment that needed to be savoured.

The reason for the guide's scurrying became apparent an hour or so later when we still had 100km or so to drive, without sunlight illuminating the way. The Duster’s headlamps were in working condition, but a moon-free evening in the middle of nowhere is just about as dark as it gets. Couple that with wildlife running around freely and you have a recipe for disaster.

We suppose it was inevitable that one of us would hit something, and we just happened to be in the car when Lady Luck decided to go home for the night. We were in a hurry to get to Sossusvlei and, while driving at 100km/h or so, crossed paths with a frightened young buck. It had simply stared at the first car in convoy, but decided to run across the road a split second before we arrived. There was no time to brake or swerve. The buck died instantly, as did our stupid determination to get to our destination quicker rather than safer.

Surprisingly, the Duster suffered little damage, mostly thanks to the standard Namibian bull bar. The fog light was broken and the bumper was a bit scuffed, but other than that the car was fine.

We eventually arrived at Sossusvlei late at night, thankful for the harsh lesson in mortality. Let’s just say that, in our experience, it’s best not to drive in Namibia after dark.

The next morning we headed for Death Valley. We had seen our itinerary a few weeks earlier and knew that this would be the true test of the Duster’s off-road prowess. You can drive yourself into the desert up to a certain point, but then there’s a large sign stating that only real 4x4s may enter here.

We were in a car with four driven wheels and we weren’t about to give up just because some sign advised us to. It seemed that the previous night’s lesson had been quickly forgotten.

We drove past the sign and got stuck about 300m later! It wasn’t the car’s fault, but rather our own for thinking that we could drive a soft-roader over soft sand in its default auto mode. In sand, momentum is king and the traction control was making anything resembling momentum nigh impossible.

We switched it off immediately, locked the car in all-wheel drive with power distributed 50/50 to the front and rear axles, and set off again. This time we not only kept up our momentum but found ourselves choosing the most difficult path through the soft sand, time and time again.

We made it through, much to the amusement of a large crowd gathered in the 4x4-only parking lot. We explored the area and came back to an entirely new crowd that had gathered around our little 4x4. As it was decorated in “Ultimate Braai Master" livery, most people thought it was a publicity stunt. They wouldn’t believe we had got the car there under its own steam. One guy suggested that Renault had used a helicopter to drop it there. Another wondered aloud whether he had made a mistake in renting an expensive Hilux overlander at the airport. After all, there was a perfectly good Ford Kuga standing at home, but he'd thought a soft-roader wouldn't make it.

By the end of the second day we had proved that you could push a soft-roader much further than you’d expect, but that deduction may be limited to the Duster. After we had driven it for the first time, we expected as much because it is a relatively straightforward, lightweight all-wheel drive crossover.

In the days that followed we kept on driving the Duster into places it really shouldn’t have been. We went to the edge of the Fish River Canyon, through dried riverbanks and over the occasional rocky stretch. On the last day, we even did a 50km off-road track in the hopes of seeing some wild horses.

The Duster got us to the set of Ultimate Braai Master, where we enjoyed plenty of meat and melktert and revelled in the atmosphere of a reality TV show set. (In case you were wondering, the cooking time and elimination process really is as intense as it seems on the screen.)

The trip left us with renewed respect for Renault’s humble little Duster. It started with almost zero kilometres on the clock and by the end we had added 3000 more.

Along the way we lost a fog light and one tyre. That’s the grand total of the damage Namibia could inflict on our French car. It did not develop a rattle, squeak or niggle. The dust did work its way into our luggage in the boot, but this was a small annoyance and something that would probably happen to a hardened 4x4.

Namibia is basically a torture chamber for cars. We often heard stories of how people had rolled their cars, or ruined tyres and been left stranded for days.

On the fourth day, we saw an example of what can happen. We came across a Prado claimed by the desert. It had rolled and burned out – just beyond one of those sneaky corners after a rise in the road.

Namibia is as harsh as it is beautiful, but it turned out to be no match for the Duster.

Find this inspiring? Let the adventure begin and book a test drive in the unconquerable Renault Duster today.