There are no two ways about it. If there’s one model the new Hyundai Creta has to better it’s the huge-selling Renault Duster. And it’s for no other reason but just how similar these SUVs are. Both use monocoque construction, can seat five and are roughly 4.3 metres in length. A brochure-to-brochure comparison will also reveal that each can be had with petrol and diesel engine options and that both are available in the Rs 8.5-13.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) price band. Sure, the Hyundai Creta comes with the option of an automatic gearbox and the Renault Duster can be had in all-wheel drive form but for this comparison, we’ve taken the most closely matched forms of both. That is the front-wheel drive and manual gearbox versions of the Creta 1.6 diesel and Duster 110PS 1.5 diesel. Let the scoring begin.
Design and styling
We won’t go too deep into the subjective aspect of looks but a few things are worth mentioning. While the Duster is marginally longer, taller and wider than the Creta, it’s the Hyundai that has the more upright stance. The Duster looks more of a crossover but it’s not lacking in appeal. Design elements like the bulging wheel arches, in particular, give the Renault great presence.
Simply put, the Hyundai Creta’s cabin is better turned out than the Duster’s. The dash looks smart and there are many other interesting design elements elsewhere too; the sculpted door pads, for instance, look great. Drivers will also like the rich-looking steering wheel and how clear and easy to read the instruments are. Fit and finish throughout the cabin is of a high standard as well.
Renault has spruced up the Duster’s cabin over the past year with new instrument's binnacle, soft plastics for the dash top and a new three-spoke steering wheel. But it still doesn’t look as special as the Creta’s. The dashboard looks quite plain and bits like the large knobs for the air-con control system seem very old-school. There are some ergonomic anomalies in the Duster’s cabin as well. The electric mirror adjust control is located under the handbrake while the secondary audio controls are positioned on the steering stalk (and hence out of view) rather than on the steering itself.
Space and comfort
The Creta scores quite well in these departments. The front seats are supportive, wide and remain comfortable even over long journeys. Rear occupants have lots of space and even sitting three abreast isn’t an issue thanks to the seat’s generous width and the near-flat floor. Just wish the upswept rear windows were larger.
The Duster is marginally down on space from the Creta and that’s a surprise because it actually has the longer wheelbase. However, there’s no shortage of legroom, headroom or shoulder room here although the (optional) protruding rear AC vent does eat into the middle passenger’s legroom. The flat rear seat itself is comfortable with better all-round support than what’s on offer in the Creta. Front seat comfort on the Duster is good too but again, the cumbersome-to-use driver’s seat height adjuster costs it points.
Engine and performance
Depress the clutch, thumb the starter and you will realise just how refined Creta’s 1.6-litre diesel engine is. The engine is silky smooth and vibe free. It’s a powerful motor too. This common-rail diesel churns out a very impressive 126bhp and 26.5kgm of max pulling power. Power delivery is pretty linear and you can barely feel the turbo kicking in. There’s a gentle surge at around 1900rpm, followed by a strong push till the 5100rpm rev limit. What’s also good is that the engine is fairly tractable for normal driving and you don’t have to constantly work the smooth-shifting gearbox to make quick progress.
You may think the Duster with its 108.5bhp diesel engine would be down on performance, but it isn’t. There’s decent power available at low revs so you don’t have to be particularly mindful of which gear you are driving in. Just as well because the gearbox is notchy and the clutch is also on the heavier side. Keep the engine spinning in its 2000-4000rpm sweet spot and it will reward you with punchy performance. Part throttle responses are also good in the mid-range, so overtaking on single-lane roads is not much of a problem. In fact, performance on the highway is comparable, if not better than the more powerful Creta. But where the Duster trails the Creta is in engine refinement. Idle on the Duster is gruff and the engine also sounds strained when worked hard.
Ride and handling
The Creta’s soft suspension is ideally suited to tackling potholes and patchy bits at slower city speeds. And here, it does its job very well, absorbing the bumps with a nice damped feeling and more silently than what the Renault manages. But, gather some pace and the car feels loose and the damping isn’t as consistent as it is on the Renault. While a boon in the city, the excessively light steering wheel also has a sort of floating feel around the straight-ahead position and this does induce a bit of nervousness at very high speeds. The Creta also doesn’t have the ultimate stability of the Duster and it does feel a little unsettled when you’re going fast. It must be said that although the Creta, in general, has niggles with the way it handles and rides, the dynamics are quite acceptable for regular driving.
The Duster has always impressed with the way it tackles our rough roads and that's something that shines through today as well. It’s the SUV you can enjoy more, thanks to fantastic grip, reasonably accurate steering and well-tuned suspension. Over any surface, the Duster remains unfazed and the refined suspension simply goes about its job keeping you isolated from the biggest of potholes. It’s only at low speeds that you feel some stiffness especially as compared to the Creta.
Features and pricing
The Creta 1.6 diesel is offered in three variants. The range starts with the SX variant (Rs 11.6 lakh - ex-showroom, Delhi) that itself is quite loaded with features. Part of standard kit are two airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, rear air-con vent, reverse parking sensors, steering-mounted audio and telephone controls, and a touchscreen for the audio system. The mid-spec SX+ (Rs 12.68 lakh) sees the addition of a rear-view camera with guide lines, keyless go and satellite navigation. Top-spec SX(O) Cretas are quite expensive at Rs 13.6 lakh but do get six airbags, ESP, hill start assist, 17-inch wheels and leather seats.
Renault Duster 1.5 110PS's prices start at a lower Rs 11.17 lakh for the RxL version. These cars feature a single airbag, 16-inch steel wheels, reverse parking sensors and steering-mounted audio and telephone controls. The higher spec RxZ Plus (Rs 12.45 lakh) brings with it dual airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, cruise control and touchscreen with satellite navigation. Those who additionally want a rear air-con vent can additionally go for the RxZ Option version that costs Rs 12.49 lakh.
Points to note here are that a rear-view camera and auto climate control are not offered on any version of the Duster, while you’ll have to opt for the pricey top-spec Creta if you want leather seats.
The Duster has been in huge demand ever since its launch back in 2012 and that’s something we don’t expect to change dramatically despite the arrival of the Creta. Things that will hold the Duster in good stead include its brilliant ride quality, confident handling and strong image. However, when we see the Duster in light of the newer Creta, shortcomings we’d have previously glossed over become hard to ignore. The interiors feel too basic and you just can’t miss signs that the Duster is still a bit rough around the edges in fit and finish.
Cabin quality is one area where the Creta really trumps over the Duster. It feels a lot more premium on the inside and in actual fact, also looks a whole lot more contemporary than the Duster. You also get a bit more space in the Creta’s cabin and overall comfort is more than satisfactory too. It’s a car you won’t mind spending lots of time in thanks to the high levels of refinement. All-round strong performance is another highlight. Sure, the Creta isn’t dynamically as accomplished as the Duster, but the fact that it’s easy to drive is likely to be of more interest to the average buyer.
In effect, the Creta does everything the Duster does, but in a more sophisticated, up-to-date and desirable manner. And for that, it’s our pick of the two SUVs.