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There’s a sea of car choices these days. A good place to start; a popular one, is with an SUV. But SUV’s are expensive, right? Most of the time, I’d have to concur – yes, they are pricey.

 

Renault and Ford have created compact family SUVs that are designed predominantly for road use that are budget-friendly. Renault’s starting price is just below R250K, while the Ford’s price starts at R265K. In today’s terms that is competitive, albeit it’s important to note they are the starting prices for the bog-standard version of each of these cars. The Duster tops out at R315K while the flagship EcoSport retails for R340K.

So, which of these two economy SUVs is better? Let’s unpack them:

The Duster, now in its second incarnation, is bolder than ever before. Visually, it is unique with a distinctive character, setting it apart from other cars on the road, like its retro predecessor but objectively better. It now looks more substantial, feels better made and looks deservedly dynamic while retaining its uniqueness.

The interior is also vastly improved over its predecessor, albeit to keep costs down, all plastics are firm to the touch, like a Tupperware container. Where the interior excels is in its utility, space and practicality.

The new Duster’s chassis is also better engineered than before – feeling firmer while being suppler to drive. Steering is lighter - making for easy parking. If your budget can afford it, I strongly suggest purchasing the automatic EDC model. The EDC is a good double clutch gearbox that seamlessly splices through its six gears. Unfortunately, this gearbox is only mated to the pricier 1.5dCi motor. There is nothing wrong with the motor. In fact, the motor is actually very good. There is 80kW/250 Nm on tap. That’s enough power to see the Duster hitting 100km/h in 12 seconds. That’s adequate for day-to-day use. Impressively, this engine sips on fuel at a rate of 5l per 100km. If keeping the buying cost low as a priority, then opt for the 1.6l petrol motor that’s mated to a 5-speed manual for R250K.

Keeping up with the times, the Duster comes with features like Rear Park Distance Control, Hill Start Assist, Blind Spot, Multiview Camera, Detection Keyless Entry – a hands-free card that automatically unlocks the doors as you approach the vehicle; automatically locking the car as you walk away.

Two points worth noting are is its boot loading capacity of up to 478L and if you’re a real adventurer, then the Duster has real off-road capabilities with the option of the 4x4 model. The Duster has a class-leading ground clearance of 210mm, with approach and departure angles suited for all-terrain driving.

 

So, what about the Ford?

The Ford EcoSport isn’t all-new but rather, an extensive revision. From the exterior, you’ll notice its “new face” that combines the quirkiness of a backpack and Ford’s current aesthetic DNA. On the inside, the EcoSport has been extensively revised. Thankfully. The prior version felt cheap. Well, not anymore! The refinements can be seen and felt. There is an entirely new dashboard along with an all-new tachometer and a floating central touchscreen of up to 8-inches that has reduced the number of switches and knobs. This touchscreen includes Ford’s SYNC®3 connectivity software that includes a Navigation system. Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiter has also been added.

New seat designs are optimised for greater front and rear occupant comfort and deliver a more upscale feel with luxurious full leather on the Titanium derivatives. The interior features a host of smart stowage solutions, including a new height-adjustable boot floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres. The boot floor uses a special honeycomb construction that makes it gram-for-gram stronger than steel and able to support more than 300 kg.

The range is sold with two engine derivatives – the award-winning 1.0 EcoBoost engine or the frugal 1.5 TDCi, which is exclusively fitted to the entry-level Ambiente model. For those looking for extra mod-cons, Ford offers the EcoSport in the medium spec Trend trim or the flagship Titanium. These models are only available in the 1.0 EcoBoost motor in either 6-speed manual or with a good 6-speed automatic.

The EcoSport’s highlights are its ride quality, ride height and noise deadening insulation. These combined attributes leave the driver feeling safe and reassured, which is further enhanced by the cars electronic Stability Control, minimum of six airbags and rear parking sensors standard across the range.

Ford has a very practical, nicely-made product that caters to the needs of young urbanites.

So, which is the better SUV? Consider your needs first. If you are a part of an active family or are an outdoorsy person that enjoys adventure over the weekends and holidays, then I’d suggest the Duster 4 x 4. If you and your family enjoy popping into the mall or stopping at boulevard cafes, then I’d recommend the 1.0 EcoSport Trend.

The competitors

Honda BR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Opel Mokka X, Peugeot 2008, Fiat Panda and Toyota Rush.

 

The Pricing

Duster

1.6 Expression R249 900

1.5 dCi Dynamique R282 900

1.5 dCi Dynamique Auto R316 900

1.5 dCi Dynamique AWD R321 900

1.5 dCi Prestige R334 900

 

Service and warranty

3 years/ 45 000km

Ford

1.5 TDCi Ambiente R267 500

1.0 T Trend R293 500

1.0 T Trend Auto R306 900

1.0 T Titanium R334 500

1.0 T Titanium R346 900

 

Service and warranty

4 years/ 60 000km

www.ford.co.za/suvs/new-ecosport

www.renaultretail.co.za/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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