Renault Duster review, test drive and video
19th Jun 2012 4:19 pm
We drive Renault's new small SUV for India, the Duster. It genuinely is good enough to give Renault its first big hit.
At first glance, the Duster surprises you with its proportions, as it looks substantially larger than its 4.3-metre length would have you believe. The flared wheel arches, huge wheel clearance, typical SUV scuff plates and the roof rails all play their part in giving it a tough appearance. While the design team may have been conservative in terms of styling, the car holds a certain road presence that is bound to appeal to a large audience.
Moving on to the inside, the Duster’s cabin is a nice place to be but it doesn’t feel particulalrly premium. The shiny, hard dashboard plastics look cheap and even the grain is not what you’d expect on a car of this class. However, the deep glovebox, four cupholders and the storage recesses on the dashboard top all come together to make the interiors of the Duster very practical. The highlight of the SUV is its back seat that offers excellent thigh, back and shoulder support with ample knee – and headroom too. The air-conditioning too is simply outstanding. That said, the rear AC vent on the top RxZ model stands like a pillar and eats into middle passenger legroom. It looks quite cheap too.
Renault is offering the Duster with one petrol and two diesel engine options. The petrol engine is a 1.6-litre, in-line four-cylinder motor capable of 102.5bhp at 5850rpm and 14.8kgm of torque at 3750rpm. Featuring twin-cams and 16 valves, the engine (K4M in Renault-speak) comes mated to a five-speed gearbox. The diesels, however, are the ones Renault is banking its fortunes on. Making use of the now ubiquitous 1.5-litre K9K powerplant, Renault is offering the engine in two states of tune and correspondingly at different price points.
The less powerful version of the engine puts out 84bhp and produces its 14.8kgm of peak torque at 3750rpm. While the numbers may suggest otherwise, performance from this engine is quite impressive. You have access to power from the word go and power delivery is very linear too. The smartly chosen ratios on the easy to use JR5 five-speed gearbox only help to make this model of the Duster even more city-friendly.
Those who want more power would do well to check the more powerful diesel engine option. In 108.5bhp guise, the engine features a variable geometry turbocharger and intercooler and only recently received upgrades to improve in-city driveability. Power delivery is linear and builds smoothly from around 1500rpm with a stronger tug around the 2000rpm mark. That’s not to say the engine is free from any turbo lag. Driving uphill you will need to keep shuffling between third and second gear to maintain momentum. However, the smartly chosen ratios do mask the lag quite well and keep the car in its 2000-4000rpm comfort zone.
This, and the Duster’s light 1308kg kerb weight, means real-world performance is actually quite good. When tested with our data acquisition device, the Duster took 11.03 seconds from 20-80kph in third gear and 12.31 seconds from 40-100kph in fourth, which makes it quicker than the significantly more powerful XUV500! The 108.5bhp diesel Duster also impresses in terms of fuel economy. We got 11.8kpl in city driving while the tall sixth gear allows the Duster to manage 17kpl out on the highway. These figures make the Duster more fuel efficient than all other SUV’s on sale in India.
Watch video review here
Another area where the Duster feels a cut above the competition is in ride quality. Its rigid chassis, meaty 215/65 R16 tyres, front MacPherson struts and a torsion bar rear suspension work in complete unison to soften the worst of blows. Ride remains flat at all times with the suspension always going about its business in a quiet manner. There are no two ways about it – the Duster is simply the best-riding car for its price. And while it may not have the dynamic prowess of other monocoque bodied SUVs like the Honda CR-V, the Duster does well with predictable handling manners. Its steering may not be the most precise either but its light for city use. Braking is via ABS- and EBD-enabled ventilated front discs and rear drums that do a fair job of shedding speed.
In the final analysis, the Duster is a very competent SUV. It’s cabin may not feel premium but makes up by being spacious and comfortable. The 84bhp diesel engine (Rs 7.99-9.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi) has enough pep for urban confines while the 108.5bhp diesel engine (Rs 9.99-11.29 lakh) offers a good balance between power and good fuel economy. Then there are its decent dynamics and brilliant ride quality that make it all the more appealing. The Duster is also the right size for city environs which only strengthens its case as the ideal urban SUV for India.
Also read: Duster vs Scorpio
Renault Duster prices (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
RXE Petrol: Rs 7.19 lakh
RXL Petrol: Rs 8.19 lakh
RXE Diesel 85: Rs 7.99 lakh
RXL Diesel 85: Rs 8.99lakh
RXL Diesel pack 85: Rs 9.99 lakh
RXL Diesel 110: Rs 9.99 lakh
RXZ Diesel 110: Rs 10.99 lakh
RXZ Diesel pack 110: Rs 11.29 lakh
Checkout detailed image gallery here