The Duster when first launched changed the game both for Renault as well the affordable SUV market in the country. Every SUV lover swore by the Duster. So much so that Terrano, a Duster clone from Renault’s alliance partner Nissan also met with considerable success. But cars do age and new age competition does keep getting better. So in tune with the changing times, first Renault launched an all-wheel drive version of the car and now has come with an automated manual transmission, of course with a host of other changes. This just means that the Duster probably is the only car in its category that is available in both petrol and diesel, both 2 wheel and all-wheel drive and of course in both manual and AMT. Such versatility speaks volumesabout the confidence French car maker has in a product like the Duster. A car that can take almost all kinds of terrains yet be pocket friendly, Renault has ticked the right boxes with the Duster. But the last few months have been a bit of a struggle with the arrival of cars like the Hyundai Creta as well as the Vitara Brezza. So what did Renault do? Well now they’ve come with a facelift of the duster which has got a whole lot of changes and of course a new AMT variant as well.
The basic of the Duster hasn’t really changed from what it was earlier but there are enough changes that will help you in differentiating this facelift from the predecessor.On the outside the Duster sees quote a few changes to make the Duster look more appealing. That’s what competition demands now. The front grille and the headlamp cluster are both new. The grille has a lot of chrome now. The headlamp cluster is small in size but have whole lot of functions inside them. On the profile the wheels have a gun metal colour instead of grey and even the roof rails are bigger with Duster branding on them. So overall the idea is to make the product look more macho and rugged. The new side view mirrors with integrated turn indicators also add a bit of freshness to the car. The tail lamps are designed in a unique way to make it look like the alphabet ‘S’ when lit. The fact that they’re not integrated into the hatch is a bit of a disappointment but it also means when the time comes to replace them, it won’t burn a big hole in your pocket. The LED tail lamps aside, from the rear the facelift does not drastically different from the car it replaces. A bit more of plastic cladding on the profile would’ve been nice but the silver cladding on the front somewhat makes up for it.
There are quite a few changes inside as well, starting with the seats which are new. And even on the dash and the doors the dark brown theme now replaces the beige which was there in the predecessor. The quality of plastics used is impressive and you feel like you’re sitting in a premium car. There’s a piano black finish on the dash and a touch screen system which comes with rear parking camera and navigation. There are a lot of storage options inside the car all around. Overall the cabin is considerably better than what it was. The revised layout will appeal to most more so because the buttons for side view mirror controls and for locking/unlocking the car are much better placed. As was the case earlier space is hardly a problem and 3 occupants can easily take to the second row with ample knee and headroom. The boot space also is pretty impressive as that is always the advantage 5-seater SUVs come with.
If the Duster All-wheel drive was made for punishing terrains this one is made for the urban jungle. It offers a great driving position and owing to a good ground clearance the speed breakers or the potholes are never a concern. There are three different engine options on the car,one petrol and twodiesels. The AMT just like the AWD comes with the more powerful 108 bhp Diesel motor. The good thing is that in spite of a powerful engine the mileage is the same as that on manual which is of 19 kmpl. The AMT system has been christened by Renault as Easy-R to communicate across its ability of being an easy car to drive. The gearbox is really impressive especially when you’re upshifting. It definitely has to be one of the better performing AMTs we’ve seen in the segment. Also it’s got a hill start, a creeping function for traction control and ESP and these factors make it a very potent weapon when it comes to city traffic or for bad road conditions. The new CMO10 architecture on the engines means the turbo lag is reduced to a minimum. We can’t wait to see an AMT variant of the Kwid for this reason. Of course the car can be driven in manual as well.
Ride and Handling
Renault says the CMO 10 theme also has ensured better ride and handling characteristics. Even though the suspension setup is the same as the outgoing car, a much better steering system ensures that now the drive is smoother even if the road surface isn’t very favorable. In any case ride and handling characteristics were never in doubt even on the predecessor. On the safety front the new Duster features ABS, Airbags and EBD though none of them come as standard across all variants.
The new Duster is a now a more potent weapon to take on the new boys like the Creta and the Vitara Brezza. The base variant of the SUV now starts at fewer thanRs. 9 lakh and that’s agood number looking at the competition all around. The base AMT variant is priced at around Rs. 12 lakh which is a couple of lakhs cheaper than Creta AT. This only means it’s a very good option if you want convenience at a reasonable price.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars