First drive: 2013 Renault Duster 4x4 manual in the UAE (video)

First drive: 2013 Renault Duster 4×4 manual in the UAE (video)

2013 Renault Duster 4x4 in the UAE 7
The first time I heard about the Duster was when a Romanian colleague of mine proudly showed me pictures of a new Dacia on the internet, sometime back in 2009. A couple of years later, the Duster was introduced in the UAE with a Renault badge for an incredibly cheap price tag. Fast-forward to the present, and Renault claims that the Duster is a success story. We wouldn’t entirely refute that statement, considering the increasing number of Dusters we have been seeing on the roads. Even a buddy of ours bought a 2013 Renault Duster just a few weeks ago, and we decided to test-drive it once again, because this Duster is a little different. According to the showroom, only three of its kind exist in the UAE.

The car our friend bought is a brand-spanking-new Duster, but this one is a four-wheel-drive version offered that’s only with a manual gearbox, that latter bit making it rarer than a Bugatti here. Almost all of those you see on the roads are the two-wheel-drive automatic models.

2013 Renault Duster 4x4 in the UAE 3

Nothing has changed in the Duster since our last road test report. The 4×4 Duster has a few minor differences from its two-wheel-drive sibling though. There is a knob-operated transfer-case selector just above the gearbox, offering three drive modes –- two-wheel-drive, automatic all-wheel-drive, and four-wheel-drive with locked centre-differential, complete with dashboard indicators. The spare tyre in the 4×4 model is mounted inside the vehicle, resulting in a shallower boot floor, unlike in the front-wheel-drive models where the spare-tyre is mounted underneath the vehicle. There is also a cheap-looking sticker that reads “4WD” on the tailgate.

We did notice that the a/c has become significantly better, fairly keeping up with the summer heat even while idling. There is also an optional central armrest at extra cost, cloth door inserts and rear door handles, things that weren’t there on the base model we drove earlier. On the outside, the headlamps and alloy wheels are now smoked, thus becoming the only good-looking bits in the otherwise bland design.

2013 Renault Duster 4x4 in the UAE

The Duster 4×4 comes with all-wheel-drive and is available only with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The engine is the same measly 2.0-litre motor powering the automatics. The first, second and third gears in the manual version are close-ratio, aiding in quicker acceleration, with the first gear being short to the point where it is mostly unusable in daily driving. Almost every time, we found ourselves accelerating off from standstill in second gear, and the Duster still picks off decently. Driving the manual Duster is not a hassle, as the clutch is light and the gear shifter, though a tad bit notchy, slides into place without drama. Expectedly, the manual version is faster from 0-100 kph than the automatic one, with our example consistently clocking 11.5 seconds in August weather.

Our usual off-road tests for such crossover SUVs do not stretch beyond the mild roadside dunes, for fear of breaking things. But this time around, we decided to do the unthinkable with our vehicle -– to go for a proper desert drive with a group of off-road enthusiasts. This also marked my first ever desert drive with a manual vehicle.

2013 Renault Duster 4x4 in the UAE 8

Before the drive commenced, some people in the convoy had joked about the Duster breaking into pieces. Thankfully, the little Duster never disappointed us.

The miniscule crossover actually amazed everyone in the convoy, every time we climbed up and hopped over the sand ridges. We were mostly using the second and third gears as we negotiated most tricky spots without drama. At one point, we even managed to cross a very tall dune with a 45-degree incline, although only in the fourth or fifth try. We did get stuck a couple of times during the entire run, but so did the other proper off-roaders in the convoy, although lack of low-range gear meant we had to be pulled out whenever we got stuck. Nevertheless, by the end of the drive, our Duster emerged unscathed.

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At the end of the desert run, we were convinced that Renault’s billboard advert of the dirt-covered Duster on a dirt track is not false advertising. The fact that anything with all four wheels powered can go off-road, is a given. But, aided by very good suspension tuning and wheel articulation, commendable approach and departure angles, the manual gearbox with close-ratio initial gears, and a lockable centre-differential, the Duster can do it better than any random crossover, and more importantly, without breaking anything. The low-range gear may not be there, but whether anyone will get so enthusiastic with the Duster, even to the point where we did, is highly questionable. And, aren’t we talking about something that costs about as much as a crappy little Chevrolet Sonic?

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If you know how to drive a manual, like to drive a manual, and suffer from a strained budget, the manual Renault Duster 4×4 is well worth a look, as it drives and handles good, offers a spacious cabin, and can even fulfil your urge for off-road thrills to a good extent if you like to live on the edge.

For full prices and specs, visit the Renault Duster buyer guide.

Photos by Vivek Menon and Mashfique H. Chowdhury.

What do you think?



  1. Nice review. 🙂
    And the pictures are impressive.

  2. Good to know it can perform.

  3. solid report

    must have been a really close friend if he allowed you to pound his new car through proper dunes.. 🙂

  4. Vivek, Have you found your new ride yet? Or still on a search?

  5. Really? Didn’t see any ownership updates after your pajero sellout. Seems I was outdated after all. 🙂 So which’s your new ride? And by the by, belated congrats 😉

  6. Hey guys,

    Can anybody provide a rough estimate of service/maintenance cost probably in comparison with budget japanese cars or Chevrolet Aveo?

    • Most minor services amount to approx. 370 Dhs, while a few amount to 680 Dhs. The major service will cost about 1100 Dhs, which is at 80,000 kms i think (+/-). The service intervals are every 10,000 kms as opposed to 5000 kms intervals in Jap cars.

  7. Romanian made junk.. shhh

  8. Could anyone give me an idea of the price for one of these at the moment. I’m actually *gasp* seriously considering one!

    • The basic trim is priced at 49,900 Dhs, while the mid and top-spec models retail for 58,500 Dhs and 62,000 Dhs respectively. These are prices for the 2-wheel-drive models with 4-speed auto transmission.

      The manual 4×4 variant also retails for AED 58,500 Dhs, and is similar to the mid-spec auto variant, except for the manual gear and all-wheel-drive system.

      If you do some talking, discounts up to 2,000 Dhs is possible.

  9. if Renault co. want more sale for Duster SUV in world wide they have to make “automatic transmission” for 4×4 (4 wheel drive).

  10. I buy renault duster 2014 in saudi arabia. I am very happy with overall performance.But there are some minor issues dacia/ renault need to fix interior feel is just below average early 2001 need serious redesign specially inbuilt handrest, cup holder, handbreak area etc( check hundai tucson; kia sportage; kia soul; yaris; elantra or even corolla) vehicles in its category. 2- stearing should be telescopic with stearing mounted controls;3- external air humming sounds when u drive on high speed.4-great potential in this car if renault upgrade the interior to 2015 standards with sunroof and more smooth 2 liter engine which sounds bit rough. 4-There ia no provision to put led music system or rear camera by replacing the company fitted audio system.5-I dont know why renault trying to tarnish the image of duster by selling Grey colors cheap bumpers which was alread obsoleted even from the cheapest car in middle east. My advise to them is to stop it immidiately. but overall I recommend this vechile because if value for money and v good service offered by renault.

  11. I am still trying to convince myself about buying the 2015 Renault Duster. Need your help deciding..

    1) Is it true that this car was assembled in Korea?
    2) Parts came from which country? Are they available here in the U.A.E.? are they more expensive compared to japanese, korean cars?
    3) Is Renault planning to produce more dusters in the coming years? 2016, 2017 etc..
    4) I was offered a 3 years or 100,000 KM warranty, is there an option to extended the service warranty?
    5) What features are different from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 duster.


  12. New Duster or 2012 X-trail? Confused…
    Budget is 60K

  13. Comment from the article : Before the drive commenced, some people in the convoy had joked about the Duster breaking into pieces. Thankfully, the little Duster never disappointed us.

    Note: Sorry, we cannot accept the above comment as we haven’t heard anyone saying any joke as mentioned below and we all have given a hearty welcome to our friend. Our group is always supportive and open to take challenges.

    • Hello Sarathji, please do not take it as an offensive statement. You guys were extremely supportive, not to mention that the entire drive was organized for the Duster’s off-road test. We have had a few drives with each other, and know each other personally. That line was just part of a funny conversation which, as I vaguely remember, Tarunji, Sujithji, Prince, my friend Sooraj, and I were having just for a laugh. In the end Tarunji and Sujithji actually encouraged me on a serious note, saying that its all about skills to get the Duster to cross the desert, and not to worry. The UAE Outdoor team was fun, friendly, and great to have a drive with. Once again, thanks to you all for having made this happen 🙂

  14. Hello friends. I had a question. What should the gearbox selector be for to drive on the street and in the city?
    Automatic or two-wheel drive?

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