Launched in 2012, the Renault Duster quickly became one of the most popular SUVs in India. In fact, the Duster is the car that really kicked off the compact SUV segment that has since dominated to be one of the most popular segments in India. And not only was the Duster popular with the masses, it was also popular with us automotive journalists winning high accolades and the coveted Car of the Year title. So four years down the line, have Renault made it even better with an updated look and of course, an automatic gearbox?
Exterior Design : 3.5/5
For starters, the Duster facelift isn’t much different to begin with from the original Duster. You do get blacked out and upgraded headlights that look quite futuristic with it's distinct cuts and details and a set of new tail lights with a very unique LED lighting pattern. What you also get is a new grille that is better styled than the older one. And then there are the new wheels. Now although some like this blacked out design, we think Renault could have given us a far sportier and slightly larger set of wheels on this new Duster.
You also get a set of silver skid plates on the front and the rear bumper and a chrome exhaust tip that adds to the look. The overall SUV look of the Duster combined with the wide stance are still very much as they are and all these smaller updates actually help accentuate it. Although a little late to the party, the upgrades on the Duster make it look quite nice and modern and personally I prefer the simplistic lines on this car as compared to the over the top design of some other SUVs in its segment. As a final note on the design, we personally love this new and bold orange shade that the Duster now comes in.
Interior, Space and Features : 3.5/5
The interior too is familiar but the upgrades and changes made do go a long way in making it a lot more user friendly. For starters the ridiculous ORVM adjustment switch is no longer below the handbrake and has now found a new position on the driver’s side. There are also a set of new AC vents which get a lovely contrast surround option on a few select variants. The new centre console is smart and not overdone in any way.
The Duster also gets climate control now but the touchscreen infotainment system is pretty much similar to what we got earlier. That said, the screen position has been moved slightly lower than before making it difficult to read the map at a quick glance or do simple acts like playing a new song or choosing another radio station. The quality of the plastics too have improved over the early cars but there are still niggles on certain panels that continue to persist. Other features include cruise control, a reversing camera with parking sensors and GPS navigation which comes as standard on the top of the line variant.
Although Renault has skipped on the leather seat option, the fabric seats do offer a sense of richness with its dual textured. Again, as with the accents on the dashboard, certain variants like the AWD get unique fabrics and colors that do look a lot better. That said, the issue with the driver’s side seat, which tends to rock back and forth when put on its lowest setting still exists as it did on the original Duster and that, in our opinion is frankly unacceptable.
Rear seats are comfortable but do not have a 60/40 folding split. Legspace seems to have improved over the earlier car due to a scooped out front seat and the omission of the rear AC vents. That said, in a market like India, we would have much rather preferred a rear AC system instead of extra few centimeters of legspace.
|Engine, gearbox & performance : 4/5|
The Duster always needed an automatic to get a whole new range of customers into its fold and now, it finally has one. The 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo diesel engine making 110PS of peak power and 248Nm of peak torque is mated to a six speed gearbox that then gets an AMT unit making it India’s first and only 6-speed AMT box. So does it work on a car like the Duster? Surprisingly, yes. And rather well. We first drove the compact SUV in it's standard mode in both a sedated and an aggressive manner and came out impressed on both occasions. The gearbox does have a slight lag between gears, but on the whole, depending on how much throttle input you give it, it does seem to respond well.
Like the standard car, the new Duster also gets an ECO mode. Although it might not have made sense in the manual, in auto mode, it does. The gearbox switches through gears at lower revs (3000rpm) and thus gives a much smoother drive in urban areas or in traffic jams. Most importantly, the AMT gearbox eliminates one of the biggest gripes that most Indian buyers had with the Duster, the heavy clutch. All in all, the AMT box really works well in the Duster and is possibly one of the best AMT-diesel combinations we have ever driven.
Ride, Handling and Braking : 4/5
The Duster has always been the best handling compact SUV in India and nothing has changed in this new version. The steering feedback on the chunky steering wheel is great and the Duster sometimes feels more like a sedan or hatchback rather than a compact SUV. Ride quality too has not been compromised and continues to be one of the best in the segment. The brakes though, just like on the previous Duster, lack enthusiasm after few heavy braking scenarios and could affect confidence levels of the driver. Renault should have seriously considered a rear disc brake option especially on the top of the line models.
Price and Fuel Economy : 3/5
The variants that get a manual gearbox are priced between Rs 8.47-9.27 lakh for the petrol, between Rs 9.27-11.47 lakh for the less powerful 85PS diesel and between Rs 11.07-13.57 lakh for the more power 110PS diesel engine option. The automatic that only comes on the 110PS option comes with a price tag of Rs 11.67-12.87 lakh for the two variants available. This means that it still undercuts the likes of the Creta but has falls into the claws of the newly launched Vitara Brezza from Maruti Suzuki which could genuinely put a big dent in sales.
The Duster AMT fuel economy figures are 19.6kmpl according to ARAI test results and honestly, that is quite commendable for an AMT equipped compact SUV. And although we did not really get a chance to test these claims ourselves, considering the fact that the fuel gauge barely moved on our 160km drive from Mumbai to Pune is commendable.
Verdict : 3.5/5
The new Renault Duster is certainly an improvement over what was already a great car and the new automatic gearbox makes a lot more sense, especially with traffic getting worse in the cities. With sharp new looks, an updated interior along with a very robust mechanical package, the Duster ticks a lot of our boxes. So then, is it really ready to go up against the likes of the mighty Hyundau Creta that also gets an automatic diesel option? Stay tuned to ZigWheels.com as we find the answer this ever important question.
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