The compact SUV space has definitely been one of the most keenly contested car segments in our country in recent times. There are some very appealing cars present here and it isn't easy to choose one. But much before the likes of the Hyundai Creta, Tata Harrier, MG Hector and the Kia Seltos came along, there was a car that started it all. It was the Renault Duster. And it was introduced as an affordable, compact SUV which had it all - space, great ride quaity and of course a frugal diesel engine that promised impressive fuel efficiency.
The Duster was first launched in 2012 and has since then undergone many changes.
But, as we said earlier, a lot has changed. Regulations, buyer sentiments, buyer needs and much more. Renault India, therefore, had to take the decision of pulling the plug on the diesel engine. It was our exclusive story, remember! So in it's petrol-only avatar now, Renault had to push the boundaries with the Duster and hence a turbo unit was the need of the hour. This powertrain of course, makes it one of the most powerful compact SUVs in the segment and we drive it to find out if it remains a value for money offering as it was before.
Higher variants of the Duster Turbo get 17 inch alloy wheels.
How does it drive?
We said, 'one of the most powerful compact SUVs' right? and that's because the Nissan Kicks to gets this same 1.3-litre 4 cylinder mill. It belts out a good 154 bhp at 5,500 rpm but iwhat brings a smile to your face is the torque of 254 Nm generated at 1600 rpm. In comparison, the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine the car also comes with, develops 142 Nm @ 4000 rpm and the power is also down by a good 50 bhp at 104 bhp. But we know what comes with great power. No. I am not quoting Spiderman here, but it's more to do with the fun that can be had.
A 7-step CVT does the Automatic gearbox duties on the Duster Turbo.
Renault is offering the 1.3-litre turbo petrol with both manual and CVT options. And all that power and torque means this is a car which lets you have a lot of fun right from the word go. And you're not even driving a torque converter or a dual clutch. This is actually a 7 step CVT which performs beautifully with this engine. You actually look forward to those overtaking maneuvers or that traffic light turning green to just put your foot down just to see how quickly it responds. And it does. However, we do miss the paddle shifters on this one. It would have certainly been a welcome addition.
Renault is claiming a fuel efficiency of 16.5 kmpl on both Manual and CVT options on Duster Turbo.
But does pushing the car lower its fuel efficiency? Of course, we have to compare it with the famed 1.5-litre K9K Diesel engine. Claimed mileage is 16.5 kmpl, but in traffic that went to 10 kmpl, a worst of 7. Yes, it's lesser than the diesel and even the 1.5-litre petrol but remember there's a lot more power on offer. The start/stop function on the car also helps to a certain extent. An EcoGuide system is there too which Renault says provides the driver driving statistics that help in achieving a more fuel efficient drive.
Ground clearance of 205 mm helps in the Duster taking on the bad roads and bumps with ease.
Ride & Handling
While, competition has soared in the past few years and upstaged the Duster owing to higher sales, one thing that has kept the SUV right on top in the segment is its fantastic ride quality. Now, during the rainy season when the roads we drive on are probably in the worst possible condition, the comfort during the drive was far from disappointing. And I'm sure no one will mind a ground clearance of 205 mm specially on broken roads. The 2 higher variants come with 17 inch alloys which also mean the the drive becomes a little more reassuring and you can take to the roads with higher confidence.
The Renault Duster does not get all-wheel drive or AMT options anymore.
The sound of the turbo mill also doesn't infiltrate into the cabin, well at least till you cross the 4,000 rpm mark. The Grip levels are impressive and the steering response also keeps you engaged. Pick up and throttle response is also befitting of a turbo engine. Sadly though, the all-wheel drive option seen earlier on the Duster does not find a place in the portfolio anymore. In terms of safety, while dual airbags are standard, the car also gets ESP and hill start assist.
Red accents have been used at many places on the exterior signifying the use of Turbo engine.
It's easy to differentiate this Turbo variant from the the regular Duster. The red accents have now almost become synonymous with turbo variants of various cars and that's the case here too. Renault, however, calls it crimson red accents. The front grille, the tail gate, the roof rails & the fog lamp cover all get them. Otherwise the full chrome grille, dual tone body coloured front bumper with skid plates, projector headlamps with LED DRLs, LED tail lamps and the diamond cut alloys are the same as the facelifted version. There are 7 colour options on offer. The car with us is the Mahogany Brown.
The cabin feels inferior to many cars in the segment with respect to quality and features.
Inside, the black interiors give this cabin some bit of uniqueness. The familiar 7-inch touch screen is here too and comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity and voice recognition as well. You get steering mounted controls and an Arkamys tuned sound system with 4 speakers and 2 front tweeters. As always the cabin is spacious and the interiors feel a tad bit better than the pre-2019 facelift car.
Some elements like climate control switches feel a bit dated on the Renault Duster.
But despite this improvement in terms of quality and features the cabin of the Duster is a far cry from some the other cars in the segment. While most of its rivals feature wireless chargers and sunroofs, the Duster doesn't even get rear AC vents or telescopic adjustement for the steering wheel. It is also not a connected car but one feature that comes in handy is the pre-cooling function which switches on the engine and AC even before you enter the car, just by pressing a button on the key fob. You'll find this feature on both the manual or CVT variants and it works as long as the car can detect the key, which is just about a few metres. The boot space of 475 litres also offers some consolation.
The Renault Duster gets a boot space of 475 litres.
So finally then, to the prices. There are 5 variants on offer, while the base RXE trim comes with just a manual gearbox, the RXS and the top of the line RXZ get both manual and CVT. Prices start from ₹ 10.49 lakh and go all the way up to ₹ 13.59 lakh (ex-showroom). As a reference, the Creta turbo starts at ₹ 16.16 lakh and the Seltos too is similarly priced. Even the Nissan Kicks which shares the same engine is priced between ₹ 11.84 and ₹ 14.14 lakh for the Turbo variants, which means a significant gap at least on lower variants. And that just means the Duster has become even more fun to drive while being the most value for money option in the segment. If you can live with a cabin that isn't in the same league as many other cars in the segment, the Duster emphatically checks all the other boxes.
As carandbike told you more than a year ago, Renault will now launch the third generation of the Duster in India, after skipping the second generation altogether. And the good news is that this new new generation will be designed and engineered primarily in India. But that car is at least 3 years away from us.