I don’t enjoy driving in Mumbai. Our gridlocked roads and lack of parking spaces make driving a chore. I prefer the freedom of a motorcycle, which allows me to squeeze past traffic as well as park just about anywhere. But come Mumbai monsoon, it was time to give up the simple pleasures of a motorcycle for the practicality of a car. And the one car in our long-term fleet I had my eyes on was the Duster. It’s a diesel, and with the roads being rapidly replaced by potholes, I wouldn’t have to gingerly crawl around in first gear to protect my weak lumbar vertebrae.
The Duster had just come back from a service and was running as good as ever, except for a few battle scars picked up over the almost-two years it’s been with us. The very next day, we had a shoot in Pune and I topped up the car before the trip. Though this is no hotrod, the strong 108.5bhp diesel motor under the hood covers distances at a decent clip. But the thing that stands out about the Duster is its ride. The suspension soaks up all but the worst of road surfaces. So at places where you have to lift off the throttle in other cars, in the Duster you keep your foot planted down and let the suspension work it out. And after a long day of shooting at Pune, as I was parking the car for the night, I glanced at the fuel gauge and got a shock. It was still full. Not even one bar down!
As I have put in more kilometres on the odo, I have really come to appreciate the Duster’s practicality. The 50-litre tank along with the car’s fuel efficiency means fewer trips to the pump. And even with our peak-time traffic crush, the Duster has consistently given me over 11.5kpl. While the interiors are not what I would consider luxurious, they are extremely practical. The rear air-con vents are useful to keep the passengers happy. There are enough storage places for knick-knacks. The stalk-mounted audio controls may be quirky, but you soon get used to it. And the day I went and picked up a cabinet for my kitchen, it fit in easily in the boot. Also, unlike other bulky SUVs, I can squeeze in the Duster into tighter parking spots.
While there is a lot going for this Renault, my biggest grouse is the heavy clutch. In stop-and-go traffic, driving it is painful business. And
while cornering hard, there is a
strong kickback from the steering, which is a little disconcerting. But given the car’s all-round ability, I choose to live with it rather than exchange it for some other car in our fleet. The only money I have spent on it, apart from fuel, is in renewing the PUC certificate.
Now that the monsoons are here and the roads have disintegrated into a series of potholes, the Duster has made my daily commute a bit more bearable. And by the time you read this, the 4WD version will be in showrooms. That I am waiting for.
Price: Rs 13.26 lakh
Maintenance costs: None