The Renault Duster opened up the compact SUV segment in India like never before, and it has been a huge success ever since its launch. But now it has a credible rival in the form of the Ford EcoSport. It’s even smaller than the Renault (it’s under four metres long), but what it lacks in size, it claims to make up in premium feel. So, is it enough to topple the reigning king?
Renault’s Duster is powered by the familiar 1.5 dCi engine we’ve seen in the Logan, Fluence, Scala and Pulse, as well as a number of Nissans, and in the top-of-the-line variant we are testing, it produces 108bhp. The Duster takes a bit longer than the EcoSport to spool up its turbo, so when you cross the 2000rpm mark, there’s surge in power that can be a bit irritating in stop-and-go traffic. However, if you keep your foot down on the throttle pedal, it is the Duster that is the more rewarding car to drive. The engine builds revs quickly and the Duster does the 0-100kph sprint quicker (11.88sec versus the Ford’s 13.72sec). It’s on an open road that you can enjoy the Renault the most and it is a very good cruiser too. But in the city, the combination of an unprogressive, heavy clutch and turbo lag spoils the fun.
On the contrary, the EcoSport’s 89bhp, 1.5-litre turbo-diesel engine is at its best in traffic. This has a lot to do with this motor’s ready responses and instant delivery of power at low to medium engine speeds. The Ford is happy to amble around in third gear, even at speeds as low as 30-40kph, and tap the accelerator and it picks up the pace quite rapidly. This is in contrast to the Duster, which needs you to execute almost twice as many downshifts. It’s also got the lighter clutch of the two and its gearbox has a nice mechanical feel to it.
However, the EcoSport tends to run out of breath on the highway, particularly when you have to execute a high-speed overtaking move.
The Ford is by far the more refined car, but this is down to the sound insulation rather than the engine. Where the Duster’s motor has a sharp clatter at idle and feels gruff when worked hard, the EcoSport’s motor feels composed. It only gets noisy closer to the redline, and for the most part, it sounds and feels almost petrol-like on the move.
Issue: 196 | Autocar India: December 2015
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