Renault Duster (Facelift): Test Drive Review

The Renault Duster is a very popular car and has been giving a good competition in its segment ever since its launch in India. It’s a car which has gained its popularity due to its punchy motor, robust driving dynamics and a reliable car among the SUV’s in the market of today.

Since its launch in 2012, this car has dominated the compact SUV segment. Renault has solely aimed at the consumer who loves to drive off the road with his SUV. It’s not one of those typical cars which would look like it has been designed for the job but you think twice before pushing her off the tarmac.

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To bring the attention back to its small SUV, Renault has brought along the face lifted Duster, This is a new car with its styling revised, a revamped cabin, a longer equipment list and, for the first time, an automatic gearbox

Exterior:
By the look of it, Renault have kept the basic design of the car unchanged but smartly tweaked the car styling here and there to give it that fresher look. The details are increased in the headlights and the grill gets a twin-slat design. Silver has been added to the cladding at the front and rear scuff plates.

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The roof rails are thicker and the Duster name embossed on them and new rear view mirrors complete with turn indicators are other elements that help bring the Duster’s appearance up to a sprint.

The new car now gets black alloys which look plain and basic. The Terrano by Nissan has a much more attractive set of alloys. The door handles are not up to the mark and have a cheap build finish. The taillights get a distinctive S-shaped signature LED and the brake lights are newly designed and they look good. They have also added the cayenne orange color which surely spices up the look of this car.

Interiors:
The Duster has a built for utility cabin. The new interiors sport a black-brown combination of plastics with rougher edges as finishes. This looks better than the earlier model. Silver highlighting is in abundance and you are sure to notice the more amount of chrome detailing on the AC vents. The center console gets a glossy black plastic finish. The quality of this car has improved but still cannot match that of Hyundai.

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The Duster gets an embossed branding over the glove box. The positions of certain controls have been modified inside. The hazard light switches are raised at a more accessible level. The mirror switches which were below the handbrake have been moved back up to the door where it usually is. The cruise control switches are places between the dashboard and the steering and the audio controls mounted on the steering are not exactly in the field of view.

The driver’s seat height adjust is also something that should have been improved. The seats themselves are trimmed in richer fabrics and the front pair gets armrests for added comfort.
In terms of equipment only the top model RxZ would be getting new additions. Automatic climate control will be added here on the top line. The lower models get the manual version of this. The functionality of the touchscreen system on the RxZ versions has also been enhanced with voice recognition for paired iPhones.

There’s a new reverse camera too, as well as auto up-down for the driver’s side window. Curiously though, the Duster AMT doesn’t get a dedicated dead pedal even though the foot well is spacious enough to accommodate one.

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The front sears are pretty comfortable and despite having flat contours, the rear seats are supportive. There is a decent head, leg and shoulder room in the rear. The boot is really spacious and would surely suffice for anyone looking for out-of-town trips in this car.

Engine:
The Duster comes with a 1.6 liter petrol engine which produces 85 PS of power and a 1.5 liter diesel engine which produces 110 PS of power. A front wheel drive is standard although you could opt for the 110 PS diesel motor for the all when drive.

What is new is the option of an automated manual transmission or AMT for the 110PS front-wheel drive Duster. Renault calls the system Easy-R (to be read as ‘easier’) and, well, it does make driving in heavy traffic less of a chore.

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Go hard on the throttle the AMT does perform well but with a little bit of a delay in the downshifting of gears. It basically feels like a pause moment while shifting. This is not as expectant as the Creta which has a more sophisticated torque convertor. But otherwise, this is the best AMT in the market today.

The Easy-R gearbox does give drivers the option to shift manually too. In manual mode, gearshifts are nicer and what’s good is that the electronics don’t intervene with an upshift right till 5000rpm. This is an important point because it gives you better control especially through corners and on hilly roads.

The suspension is one of the highlights on the Duster. While it can come across as a tad stiff at low speeds, it absorbs just about everything at higher speeds. The AWD version gets independent rear suspension that is a touch more supple and sure-footed but, as mentioned, it doesn’t come with an AMT option, which is only reserved for the front-wheel-drive version.

The powertrain has been improved. The engine is responsive and utilizes all that power well. The new car has a much reduced turbo lag and more amount of torque than the earlier version. This makes it great to overtake in the manual mode but the AMT feels a lot better on the highway since it has that extra 6th gear and this is apt for a good cruising experience.

029-IMG_8932The Renault Duster AWD is definitely the most capable off-roader in its segment today. The 4×4 system with independent suspensions for all four wheels keeps you planted when on smooth tarmac, but as soon as you hit bad roads or no roads, the bumps and potholes are swallowed with ease.

AWD variant has three modes – 2WD, AUTO and LOCK (permanent 4×4) which you can shift via a circular knob placed below the center console.  The 2WD is best used for the daily city commute and performs superbly and at the same time, economically. AUTO mode is good when the roads are wet and covered in slush. The LOCK mode is best to be activated during off-roading. 2WD and AUTO can be activated on the fly, but to activate LOCK you will need to stop the car. The transmission will have to be shifted to Neutral, activate LOCK, place it in first gear and leave clutch lever. Now you only need to take care of steering the car as the throttle input and traction will be taken care by the AWD system.

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The ride quality on this car is brilliant and this does not have any problem in tackling bad roads. It handles pretty well in any condition. The AMT get the MRF tires on and the AWD gets the Apollo tires. The AWD overall is a better handling car since its gets an independent suspension. This has improvised on the dynamics of the car and made a huge difference. The brakes are good and at no point of time would you feel unsafe.

In terms of handling the Duster, I think it’s a certain win. This car will surely take you places and would not disappoint you.

006-IMG_8724With this update, Renault has surely rectified some of the earlier points on the Duster. The cabin is whole lot plush and better and you get a more loaded car in terms of equipment in the top models. The design is revised and newer fresh look is evident from this car and this is what Renault was looking for.

The AMT is not as smooth as a twin clutch unit and neither does it have the smoothness of a torque convertor. But it does the job, and that too well enough considering that it does not have a major impact on the fuel economy of the car. But the bigger plus is the substantial cost advantage. The Duster AMT RxL costs Rs. 11.66 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) while the fully loaded RxZ one costs Rs. 12.86 lakh. In comparison, the sole Creta automatic costs Rs. 13.96 lakh.

I would say that the Duster may not have the sophistication or finesse of the Creta, but Renault has broadened the Duster’s appeal to give a strong fight back.

Click here to check out the Renault Duster facelift photo gallery.

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Parichay Malvankar

Parichay Malvankar

Founder, owner and editor-in-chief of www.shifting-gears.com; a born gearhead, nothing apart from a set of wheels gets his pulse racing.