The Renault Duster has been the quintessential compact SUV, the one which started the trend of bulky-bodied soft-roaders in India. In its time-span, the Duster had undergone several upgrades, and the latest one, the one before the current generation makes way for an all all-new version that seems to promise the best this car has offered so far. We have been driving the diesel AMT version of the latest iteration of the Renault Duster and in this review, we'll share our feedback on how this vehicle has performed and what does it bring to the table. Read along!
First, let's talk about the aesthetics. One of the main reasons why the Renault Duster quickly shot to fame upon its initial market launch was its exterior design. Despite being a compact SUV with no all-wheel-drive capabilities (the all-wheel-drive was introduced in subsequent updates), the Duster was able to portray the aura of a brute SUV thanks to its massive wheel arches, high-set bonnet and an overall dominating stance. This formula was such a success in India that Renault has never really altered the exterior design of the Duster in a major way, despite the vehicle undergoing a couple of updates throughout its lifetime. Hence, even with this latest makeover, one will have to look at close quarters to pin-point the new bits and pieces.
Up-front, though the basic shape of the headlights remains the same the internal cluster has been changed and now features daytime running LED strip on the edges. Not only this but for the the first time, the Duster also gets projector headlamps. The grille too comes with a new design with extensive chrome treatment. Furthermore, the bumper has also been heavily revised featuring re-designed fog-lamp housing and skid-plates. The side profile of the Duster does not see any major change in this update.
That said, the new dual-tone, multi-spoke alloy wheels look the part and accentuate the aesthetic appeal of this compact SUV. The rear-fascia of the Duster remains identical to the previous model. The range-topping trim now offers a matte black tailgate embellisher, though the same was missing from our test unit. Nevertheless, the modifications done to the Renault Duster with this mid-life update gives this compact SUV a breather, a fresh design appeal. Though, we would love to see Renault bringing in a new generation model for the same soon.
Just like the exteriors, the interiors of the Renault Duster, continue to feature the same design layout. However, the steering wheel is a new unit and looks smart and modern while at the same time, feels nice to hold as well. Minor modifications have been done to the instrument cluster as well. The all-black cabin is complimented by silver highlights on the centre console along with chrome highlights around the instrument cluster and air-con-vents. There is also a new upholstery colour on offer which gives the cabin a premium aura.
Talking about premium, we felt that the material quality used inside the cabin of the Renault Duster could have been a notch-up. This is one area where we feel Renault has missed an opportunity. In terms of usability and storage spaces, the cabin scores high, though it lacks a dedicated place to keep your smartphone. However, you will need a place to keep the Smartphone as the touchscreen infotainment system in the Duster now comes with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Ingress and egress in the Renault Duster require no effort as the wide opening doors are a boon. The seats are nice and comfortable and continue to offer a good level of comfort.
The test unit that we had with us was equipped with the 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine which is capable of churning out 110 hp of power along with 245 Nm of peak torque and was paired to the 6-speed AMT transmission. This engine continues to retain its refinement levels and operated like a breeze in city traffic. There is a little bit of a turbo-lag, below 1,500 rpm, but once the turbo kicks in the engine pull cleanly and effortlessly while producing a distinct turbo-whistle sound. Credit also goes to the brilliant AMT gearbox which is so smooth in its operation, that it does not feel like an AMT, save for a few instances. If you are driving with a light foot, even in manual mode, the up-shifts, as well down-shift, do not produce a noticeable head-nod, something which has become synonymous with AMTs of today. Despite encountering peak city hour traffic, the Duster was able to give us a healthy fuel-efficiency figure of 16.4 kmpl.
In the automatic mode, the gearbox is a little bit slow to respond to kicking-down a gear when needed. It also holds on to a gear for a significantly longer duration than needed before it upshifts. These two factors can become a little bit irritating, however, these can be negated by simply using the manual mode for changing gears.
As far as the ride quality of the Renault Duster is concerned, it continues to remain impeccable. It is not the best that's out there but still didn't give us any reasons to complain. The suspension set-up is such that it absorbs bumps and pot-holes effortlessly, though smaller undulations are still felt inside the cabin thanks to a stiff suspension set-up. However, this results in good stability at higher speeds. Driving at high-speeds would have been even more enjoyable in the Renault Duster if the steering wheel was a bit more communicative, instilling more confidence. That said, navigating this SUV, through tight parking spaces, is quite an easy task, thanks to good overall visibility and a light steering. Though, at times, you do have to watch out for those protruding wheel arches in really tight traffic or parking situations.
Summing it up, we would say that with this update, the Renault Duster now gets a breath of fresh air as it looks more sophisticated and in sync with what the competition is offering. It continues to offer the same comfort levels and retain the refinement in the powertrain department with the highly-refined AMT being the star. However, we would have loved to see better quality levels inside the cabin. That said, with prices falling in the bracket of Rs 7.80 lakh to Rs 12.50 lakh, the Renault Duster is significantly more affordable than the competition and hence, is a great value for money proposition.