Renault Duster turbo review: Rugged, fun-to-drive but misses out on features

The Duster is the most powerful petrol car in its class but does sheer power does it all for what is essentially an old SUV underneath?

By:Updated: Oct 16, 2020 6:06 PM

Back when Renault India decided to discontinue diesel engines, there was a collective gasp from the auto fraternity. It included not only journalists but also you, the ones buying cars fitted with this engine. For a few months, Renault soldiered on with a pure petrol portfolio for the Duster, however it was clear that the SUV was indeed showing its age. To bring in a newness, a turbo petrol engine was shown at the expo. Due to the ongoing pandemic, it did take a while for Renault India to get the model in showrooms and now that it’s here, we have had a go at the model. The Renault Duster turbo petrol review encompasses a look at why should you buy one or stay away. Especially given that the competition is filled with modern options.

Renault Duster turbo engine, transmission, drive experience

The Renault Duster turbo petrol uses an engine that borrows tech from the mighty GT-R. It has been co-developed by Nissan-Renault, Mitsubishi and Mercedes-Benz. This is one reason why this engine has been used in many Mercedes cars as well as other brands mentioned here. The engine uses direct injection and displaces 1.3 litres. In the Duster turbo, with a variable geometry turbocharger, it makes 156hp of power and 254Nm of torque. This engine is paired to either 6-speed manual or CVT. We had the 7-step CVT with us.

When you start (you don’t need to press the brake) this 4-cylinder motor, there are next to no vibrations. However, when the engine idles, you do experience next-to-negligible vibrations on the steering wheel as well as door pads. In the CVT form, the engine feels responsive enough and darting in and out of traffic is quite easy. It is when you come to a halt, the CVT rowing through its steps can be felt. Put the pedal to the metal and you do realise that this engine is special. It gives you the feeling that you are driving a specially tuned Duster.

In fact, the very reason why there is a Renault Duster turbo petrol is thanks to the BS6 norms. Renault believes that updating its diesel engine to meet the emission standards will require a huge amount of investment. Buyer interest in diesel is decreasing by the day and at the same time, the price gap between petrol-diesel is just Rs 2. So the idea was to give a petrol engine that has more torque than the outgoing diesel and the highest power output in its class. It indeed works and buyers of the diesel will not miss it anymore as the Duster turbo does a very good job.

Where it lags behind is the fuel economy. While the diesel was known to give around 15-16kmpl on a daily basis, the turbo manages 9kmpl and 15kmpl on the city/highway cycle. The claimed mileage is 16.5kmpl for the manual and 16.42kmpl for the CVT.

Renault Duster turbo ride, handling, steering feel

The Duster Turbo with 17-inch wheels is still as pliant as the 16-inch alloys that the lesser variants get. It is apparent that the Duster can take to the rough like a fish to water and at the same time not work anything loose even if it is subjected to continuous hammering on our pothole-riddled roads. In one word, it is rugged. The ground clearance of 205mm is also the highest amongst its peers. The handling too is easy and while initially, the beefy haunches on the wheel arches will want you to tread cautiously in traffic, you get used to it easily. Around corners, the Duster Turbo displays a firm poise and stays planted at triple-digit speeds on the highway. It is quick to change directions as well.

Visibility all around is good too. However, a bugbear or rather two for the Duster happens to be the steering wheel. It feels a tad hard at city speeds. When you go over a pothole or sharp rut, you feel the steering wheel fighting you. At the same time when you brake hard, the driver’s seat slightly rocks. Speaking of brakes, they are decently sharp but rear disc brakes on this turbo version could have added a tad more confidence. NVH is on the lower side with this turbo petrol but as the revs climb and you get beyond 100kmph, the cabin becomes a bit noisy predominantly with the tyre noise.

If there was the AWD from the erstwhile diesel, it might have given Renault another USP than just plain power. I also wish the exhaust note was tuned to be sporty. Right now it sounds just like one of the naturally aspirated engines around.

What features do I get?

Unfortunately, nothing more than what you will get in the regular Duster or in the 2019 facelift. Talking points include cruise control, start-stop function, 7.0-inch touchscreen system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a remote cabin pre-cooling function. The latter is a hit and miss affair and unlike few rivals that use a smartphone-based premise to activate this function, the Duster resorts to its key fob. It definitely has scope to be refined as during the test, I could never get it to work. The cabin of the Duster turbo gets blue stitching for the upholstery irrespective of the body colour you choose. The boot is a large 475 litres and can hold quite a bit of luggage.

As for the exterior, you get these red inserts in the grille, roof rails, 17-inch alloys, and projector headlights with LED DRLs. There is also a turbo badge at the rear. What I feel is that Renault could have added more drama to the turbo rather than making it look like an aftermarket (subtle) job.

Have other Duster niggles been ironed out?

Not really. As discussed before, the steering wheel has a strong kickback, and the driver seat rocks slightly during hard braking. There is no newness in the cabin. This is almost essentially the same instrument console that we have seen in the Duster from 2015. There are no rear AC vents, or enough storage spaces too. Modern bits like wireless charging, cooled seats, auto IRVM, auto-closing mirrors, connected car tech, or even auto headlights/wipers are still absent. I will say it is a missed opportunity. Even the driver seat height adjust has only two positions – down and up. There is no middle ground and for one to adjust the seat in those two positions, you need to get up and do it. Even the reverse camera doesn’t have grid lines that move according to the way the steering does. Its resolution too could have been better.

The infotainment is not placed at the eye level of the driver. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay get disconnected quite often too.

Verdict

The Duster turbo is split into five variants – three are manual while two are automatic. Between the manual and CVT, there is a price gap of Rs 1.60 lakh with the automatic offering only ESP and hill-hold assist as additional features. There is literally no other change in the feature list. If you were to ask me, there are two ways of looking at it. One is where you are old-school and want a proper SUV in this price bracket, then the Duster is the one. This is a car with lesser electronics to deal with, tried and tested parts and chances of a huge repair bill should anything fail is also lower. The long-term reliability of the HR13DDT engine though is unknown at the moment. If you are more inclined towards showing off and having a healthy set of useful creature comforts in your car, look in the direction of a Kia or Hyundai showroom. The Kia Seltos and Hyundai Creta will spoil you for choices.

Renault Duster turbo specifications

Engine name: HR13DDT

Cubic capacity: 1330cc

Engine type: 4-cylinder, direct injection, turbocharged

Power: 156hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 254Nm @ 1,600rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual/ CVT (tested)

Mileage: City (9kmpl), Highway (15kmpl)

Price: Rs 10.49 lakh – Rs 13.59 lakh, ex-Mumbai

 

Images by Ali Asgar Bharmal

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