2013 Renault Duster (Review): “DUST(ER) Storm”
Renault India has been trying hard to make wonders in the Indian market, in the back-drop of middling Logan (which is now someone else!), with the launch of the Fluence, the Koleos and the Pulse hatch. But none of these really changed the game so far. And now the company wants something ‘Big’, so brings in the Duster SUV with much hope and surprises. So, it is really a game-changer??
The Duster is no new to us (the auto-enthusiasts), in fact this compact SUV was born to the Romanian brand Dacia in 2009 and got a facelift in 2011. At our very first glance, the Duster was clearly a 4×4 and exuded its ruggedness. The interiors were quite simple yet blameless. But a major challenge were that the European version has to be fashioned in such a way that it endears the he Indian customers and is priced competitively. Well, Renault have succeeded in doing that with few hitches. The Dacia logo is replaced by glaring Renault logo with a more prominent 3-line chrome grille. The dashboard design is reworked to make it smart and more practical, with deep glovebox, cupholders and the storage recesses on the top of the center console. The power window switches, which were awkwardly placed earlier (same menace in Logan as well), have moved to the door. The electric mirror adjustment and the steering mounted audio controls as oddly placed, and takes a bit of getting used to them. The rear seats are reworked for India, offering fairly good position and better support. The rear parcel shelf is also different from the other country versions. Other than these, there are hardly any changes to the Dacia model.
The Duster does surprises us with its proportions – the sense of ruggedness from the front-end, with its imposing chrome grille and sump guard, huge tyres and high ground clearence – all pointing to its clear off-road credentials. The flared wheel arches rising all the way upto the shoulder line, the roof rails, the running boards on either side and the big bonnet slab makes the car muscular and adventurous in design, not quirkily French though. From the side, the car looks much bigger to its 4.3m length. The roofline gradually tapers down to meet the C-pillar, with enough height at the rear. Just like a hatchback, the wheels have been pushed out to the extremities. The rear looks a bit bulbous, but nicely sculptured tailgate with the chrome strip (boasting its name proudly) and the tail lamps add to the overall styling. The Duster is attractively SUV-ish and has all the credentials of a good-looking SUV for sensible Indians.
The cabin looks much like a sedan, combining to the high seating and airy ambience. The plastics feel hard and the quality could have been better but dual colour themes are agreeable. The dashboard layout is simple and functional. The audio system gets essentials like the USB, Aux-in, etc. The chunky steering wheel is nice to hold offers great feel. The independent second row air-conditioning is a cool touch. But the AC vent stands like a pillar and eats into middle passenger legroom, which is not that smart.There is generous amounts of legroom and headroom (905mm at the second row) both at the front two and the rear seats. The compact Duster is a five seater and accommodating them in good comfort should not be a problem. Although the company offers extra jump seats as a dealer level accessory, it can seat only kids and not adults. The boot space is plenty and the accessibility is also enormous.
The Duster comes with two engine options. The petrol motor on offer is the Renault’s 1.6 K4M engine producing 104 PS and 145 Nm of peak torque at 3,750 rpm. The diesel engine is the familiar 1.5-liter dCI, that finds place notably in the Verito, the Fluence, Micra or Pulse and other few cars. But the same engine has been tuned to 110 PS for the top trim, while the other trims gets 85 PS of peak torque. The car I drove was the 110 PS, where in a traffic road I could not enjoy much but did experience its thrill. Renault has made serious efforts to improve its refinement levels, and is quite evident. This version also comes with a 6-speed gearbox, which is simply awesome! The petrol and the 85 PS version are paired with a 5-speed gearbox. Though there is an initial turbo lag, the power surge is inspiring.
The Duster is essentially built on the Logan platform. The monocoque construction, the rigid chassis and a good match in the 215/65 R16 tyres give it confident handling on the highway and bad roads. The suspension is quite stiffer, as does the ride quality. I would expect a very minimal body roll and overall, it should be fine. The engine with more lower end torque is more suited for urban driving and must be fuel efficient too. The mileage is rated as 20kmpl (85PS diesel) which is a boon, considering its size and power. Unfortunately, there is no four-wheel drive option offered which is a bit of disappointment.
The Duster is aggressive in styling, compact in size, comfortable is ride and frugal on gas. Priced between Rs. 7-11 lakhs, it enters to compete with the Scorpio – Safari class, even though they are seven seaters. Though the compact SUV class does exist, it is not that hot in competition nor flooded with cars. The Premier Rio is way smaller and cheaper and the Skoda Yeti is far more premium and costly. Duster has to wait for few more months to meet its real contenders. In a nutshell, Duster is capable of attracting masses in the segment and can revive the brand image of the company.