The Renault Duster is first of the compact SUVs launched in India. It opened up a new segment of five-seater utility vehicles with a price tag close to that of the C-segment sedans. The Duster offers a mix of a butch appearance, comfortable interiors, decent space, efficient diesel engine and all-wheel-drive (on select variants) to rival both entry-level sedans and UVs.
The Duster looks like a proper SUV. It has a slightly quirky face but the overall appearance is formidable thanks to bulging wheel arches, high clearance between tyres and wheel-well, roof rails and running boards. The facelifted version, which is not more aesthetically appealing, is already on sale in the international market and is expected to be launched in India soon.
The interiors are roomy with ample amount of boot space. The plastic quality could have been better; the dashboard is basic with faux wood inserts and leather seats are available only with the option pack of top-end variants. The features list is also limited – there is no climate control, only one-step driver height adjustment, no cooled glove box or any of the jazzy features available with the Hyundais of today’s world. It seems Renault has compromised a bit on features to keep the price tag in check.
However what it misses out on the interior, the Duster makes up with the ride and handling. With the monocoque chassis, the Duster is easy to drive and feels like a car. Despite the high ground clearance, it handles the undulations well. It suppresses bumps and potholes almost completely with very little noise or vibrations seeping inside the cabin. There is no body roll and the Duster is a very good option for people who need to travel on bad roads.
The Duster is available in both petrol and diesel guise. The petrol unit is the 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit producing 103bhp and 145Nm of torque. The diesel mill is the renowned K9K and is available in two states of tune – 85bhp with five-speed manual transmission,( exactly the same as the Sunny and Scala diesel) and the 110bhp with six-speed manual gearbox that propels the Renault Fluence. While the petrol and 85bhp diesel variants are available only with two-wheel-drive option, the 110bhp diesel RxL and RxZ variants can also be availed with all-wheel-drive. The AWD system comes with three options – 2W lock, auto and AWD lock, which can be switched on the fly.
The Duster has direct competition from its cousin, the Nissan Terrano, although it does not get the AWD option. The Ford EcoSport is the only other crossover in the segment, while the facelifted Mahindra Scorpio is still a bit crude but offers seven seats. The top-end AWD also competes with the Mahindra XUV500 W8 variant.