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Renault Duster
    Change Model
Customer Rating
: 4/5
Expert Rating
: 8/10
Warranty
: 2 Yrs / 50,000 kms (Whichever is earlier)
Ex-showroom price in 
Delhi
 help (Rs.Lakhs)
    Change City
8 Lakhs-12.5 Lakhs

Strong Areas

  • Stylish Demeanour
  • Convenience Of AMT
  • Powerful Performance
  • Superior Dynamics

Weak Areas

  • Lack comfort features 
  • Average boot
  • Small rear space
  • Low mileage
     
Renault Duster
 
 

Renault Duster creating paradigm shift in the Indian car market

Year 2012 in the will find a sure shot mention in the history of Indian car market. It was the year when two cars one each from Maruti Suzuki and Renault changed Indian car buyers preferences and made them fall in love with car like MPV's and Compact SUV. In particular, both Duster and Ertiga made Indian car buyers fall out of love of their sedans. How long will this continue only time will tell, but for now both Maruti Suzuki and Renault are smiling all the way to the bank

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ecardlr.com National

Renault Duster

Renault seems to have hit the bullseye with the Duster. Its showrooms are flooded with potential buyers and, on last count, 10,000 customers had put their money down for the small SUV. And it’s not hard to see why. With prices ranging from Rs 7.19 lakh to Rs 11.29 lakh, it is not only large-SUV buyers, but also C-segment saloon buyers, who have the Duster on their radar. And with three engine options – a 102.5bhp petrol, an 84bhp diesel and a 108.5bhp diesel, there’s a Duster for everyone. Clearly the potential for success is tremendous.

But for the Duster to really live up to buyers’ expectations, it has to deliver on the counts that made SUVs popular in India in the first place. It has to have the right image, be spacious enough to transport a family in comfort and, of course, be capable to take on the worst of Indian roads. We test the more powerful diesel to see if the Duster is all the SUV you’ll need.

DESIGN & ENGINEERING

A key questions is whether or not the Duster matches the Indian car buyer’s image of what an SUV should look like. Simply put, yes it does. It stays true to the SUV template with its flared wheel arches, short front and rear overhangs and impressive 205mm ground clearance. All these ingredients add up to give the Duster a very confident stance and make it look larger than it is. So much so that it’s a bit hard to swallow that the Duster, at 4315mm in length, is actually shorter than a Maruti SX4.

What
certainly won’t escape your eye is the fact that the Duster’s design isn’t very flamboyant. That’s because it was designed as a Dacia (Renault’s low-cost brand) and, internationally at least, is marketed as a bare-bones SUV. But the lack of excessive detailing actually gives it a robust and no-nonsense look. Its squarish double-barrel headlights and chrome-rich grille get well, while the scuff plate and plastic cladding on the lower portion of the bumpers hint at the Duster’s off-road ability. There are more interesting touches in the smart running boards, roof rails and the kink in the rear quarter glass, though some bits like the flimsy lift-type door handles point to the strict costs the Duster is built to.

Like many SUVs today, the Duster positions its full-size spare tyre under the body rather than on the hatch. The rounded tail does make the Duster look a bit hunchbacked, but the blister effect beside the small tail lamps is unique.

Underpinning the Duster is Renault’s hardy B platform that also forms the basis for the Renault Logan (now Mahidnra Verito), though the Duster’s wheelbase is marginally longer. Its monocoque construction  also allows it to sit lower than conventional body-on-ladder SUVs. For now, India only gets the front-wheel-drive Duster, which employs MacPherson struts in the front and a programme-deflection torsions beam axle at the rear. The four-wheel-drive version, which is unlikely to be available before late 2013, uses a slightly different rear suspension (independent MacPherson struts) to accommodate the 4WD hardware. All 108.5bhp diesel Duster variants get ABS, EBD and brake assist and ventilated front discs and rear drums as standard.

INTERIORS

While the Duster is spacious enough in its own right, it doesn’t feel as roomy as other SUVs in its segment, like the Tata Safari, for instance. However, ingress and egress are a breeze, there’s head-and-legroom aplenty for all passengers, and the cabin is wide enough to seat three average-sized adults in comfort on the rear seat. And while the flat rear seat may not look it, it is really comfortable, with great back and thigh support. Likewise, the front seats, which get lumbar-support adjustment, are also comfy enough for long distances, though we found the driver’s seat height adjuster cumbersome to use while seated.

But more than anything else, it is the quality of plastics throughout the cabin that disappoints. Some bits, like the well-finished door handles and curvy instrument binnacle, do look nice, but elsewhere the hard plastics seem straight out of a budget hatchback. The pillar-like rear AC vent (engineered especially for India) stands out like a sore thumb, looks cheap, and also eats into middle-passenger legroom. Everything does feel solidly put together though and the fit between panels on the dashboard is decent. The dashboard itself is quite functional, but places the air-con controls a bit low for comfortable access; the mechanically operated air-con switches, both front and rear, also feel quite rudimentary. Then there’s the unusual positioning of the electric mirror adjuster under the handbrake lever, and audio controls on the steering column (and hence out of sight) that take time getting used to. Thanksfully, Renault has repositioned the power window switches from the dashboard to dedicated pods on the doors before launching the Duster here, but it’s still not perfect. Hard driving will have the switches foul with the driver’s right leg.

Storage space for odds and ends is decent with a useable recess just above the centre console and a larger bay above the deep glovebox. You also get a total of four cupholders, though the average-sized front door pockets can’t hold more than a half-litre water bottle. With no third row of seats to eat into boot space as with seven-seat SUVs, the Duster has plenty of space for cargo. The boot is cleverly shaped and can gobble up a lot more luggage than its 475-litre capacity suggests. Folding down the single-piece rear bench further increases the carrying capacity to 1,064 litres.

ENGINE, GEARBOX & PERFORMANCE

In keeping with its small SUV tag, the Duster also uses relatively small engines. Apart from a 1.6-litre petrol motor, the Duster comes with Renault popular 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine. With an SOHC for its eight valves, this four-cylinder motor may not be cutting-edge in terms of technology, but it is a very flexible unit. On the Duster it is available in two states of tune – 84bhp and 108.5bhp – with different injection systems and turbochargers responsible for the varied power output. The more powerful version tested here, THP in Renault-speak, features seven-hole Piezo injectors, a variable-geometry turbocharger (as opposed to the fixed-geometry turbo on the 84bhp version) and also comes with an intercooler. Prior to the Duster’s launch in India, the THP engine received updates to improve drive ability in the form of a simplified air-intake path and new low-inertia turbo.

This Duster felt far more responsive than the one we drove last month and we put this down to its engine being run in. Power builds smoothly from as low as 1500rpm with a stronger shove around the 2000rpm mark. That’s not to say the engine is free from turbo lag. Driving up the twisty hill roads near Munnar, we had to keep shifting down from third gear to second to maintain momentum. For the record, this motor churns out its 25.3kgm of peak torque at 2250rpm. Thanks to the engine’s broad spread of power, even part-throttle responses are good and you can actually pull cleanly from 30kph in fifth gear. But to get the most out of this engine, you need to stay within the 2000-4000rpm band. Hold gear and the engine will crawl further to its 5000rpm redline, at which point it does sound quite thrashy. In fact, in terms of overall refinement, the engine is just about average. There are no vibrations but there is a clatter at idle, you can always hear the whistle from the turbo, and there is plenty of mechanical noise that creeps into the cabin. Renault’s skimping on sound deadening material, like the rubber beading on the doors, is sure to have played a part here.

This
engine is mated to Renault’s six-speed TL4 manual gearbox, and while it doesn’t require much effort to effect them, the gearshifts are not very precise. A bigger bother is the slightly heavy clutch that gets tiring to operate in stop-go traffic. What does help drive ability is the short gearing for first, second and third, which allows you to keep the engine on the boil in typical city driving scenarios. In contrast, fifth and sixth gears are tall, to aid relaxed highway cruising; 80kph in sixth gear has the engine spinning at a lazy 1800rpm. The Duster does quite well for itself when it comes to performance. The engine may not have the outright power of a Mahindra XUV500, the current performance benchmark, but then it also has far less mass to move. Its 0-100kph time of 11.88 seconds beats the Mahindra, and it is also faster in the 20-80kph third-gear and 40-100kph fourth-gear slogs.

RIDE & HANDLING

An area where the Duster really stands out is ride quality, it is simply phenomenal. And we’re not talking by typical SUV standards. The manner in which the Duster causally dismisses the worst patches of road makes it a more comfortable drive than all comparably priced saloons too. The suspension always goes about its business in a quiet manner, sharp bumps like expansion joints are easily filtered out and your passengers won’t be able to tell the size of the crater you just drove over. What this also means is that you don’t need to tiptoe through pothole-infested streets and can actually maintain a fair clip.

Even at highway speeds the Duster remains very composed and free from any undue up-and-down movement. Its wide footprint and relatively low centre of gravity also come together to give it good stability at all speeds and also under braking. Body control is also good and roll is fairly well contained. But, driving up a twisty section, we found the Duster lacked the agility you’d expect from a monocoque. SUV. While it is not ponderous around bends, it is not as engaging as a Honda CR-V either. The electro-hydraulic steering doesn’t serve up much feedback either, with some slack at the straight-ahead position. However, it is light enough at low speeds, which is a boon in city confines. A tight turning circle further aids the Duster’s ease of use. And while it may lack four-wheel-drive hardware, even this front-wheel-drive Duster is quite adept off-road, so long as you are realistic about its abilities. The short gearing and the 30-degree approach and 35-degree departure angles allow the small SUV to clamber up hillocks, and it can also wade through knee-deep water if the need arises.

FUEL ECONOMY

At 1308kg, the Duster is light by SUV standards, and this more than anything else was bound to reflect in its fuel consumption. Driving in congested city streets, the Duster delivered a fuel economy figure of 11.8kpl. Out on the highway, the tall sixth gears makes the Duster a relaxed cruiser and allows it to stretch each litre of diesel for a remarkable 17 kilometres.

Renault Duster

Well-rounded and practical SUV for urban buyers.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Duster and we are happy to report that this Renault lives up to the hype. Sure, it can’t seat seven people like the larger SUVs in the market and the interior isn’t really special either. Also, at Rs 11.29 lakh for the top-end diesel, it is on the pricier side and not as affordable as people expected. But viewed in totality, the Duster has a lot going for it. It looks smart, comes with a comfortable and spacious-enough cabin and it is well built too. The 108.5bhp diesel engine has ample pep for most occasions and also scores on fuel economy. The handling is predictable, but what most buyers will be interested in is the fantastic ride quality that is good enough to humble some more expensive saloons. All Renault needs now is to enhance its sales and service setup because, in the Duster, they have the ideal urban SUV for India.

TEST SCORECARD


COMFORT                                                                                                                           8/10

Seats are comfortable and the cabin is spacious enough for live.


PERFORMANCE                                                                                                                  8/10

The engine is flexible and suited to both city and highway use.


REFINEMENT                                                                                                                     6/10

Engine free from vibrations but there’s plenty of mechanical noise.


VALUE                                                                                                                                 7/10

Equipment is decent but it still doesn’t feel premium for its price.


SAFETY                                                                                                                                8/10

ABS is standard on Diesel 110. Top variant comes with two airbags.


RIDE                                                                                                                                    10/10

Suspension soaks up all bumps and high-speed ride is very flat.


HANDLING                                                                                                                         8/10

Not an enthusiast’s car but meets the requirement of average users.


BUILD & QUALITY                                                                                                              8/10

Well put together but cabin plastics not upto the mark.

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