Renault Duster Review: The Harpoon
Renault didn’t have the most remarkable entry into the Indian automobile sector. Renault entered India with Mahindra and brought in the Logan. Although the vehicle failed and so did the alliance, customers of the Logan still vouch for it positively.
After making a Solo re-entry, Renault began discreetly in its next avataar. The car maker has introduced products which competitors do not need to worry about, be it the super expensive SUV Koleos, the Micra twin Pulse or the laid back last runner D+ segment car the Fluence.
It was beginning to be a brand that just existed and not a brand that people considered high on their purchase list. However, Renault decided to go for the kill and create a wave of excitement in the Indian market. They decided to get the Dacia Duster and harpoon it in the now favorable SUV segment in India and mark its own territory in it.
The Duster is a compact SUV and is the first in the segment which will also see a certain Ford Ecosport later. They have rightly taken care to not repeat their earlier mistake of over pricing this one. It has decided to target a lot of important players of sedan segment with a very aggressive pricing. Since the time it has been launched, dealers have been flooded with enquiries and so were we. Here is our take on the Renault Duster RxZ 110 PS version as we wrestle it across the streets off Munnar.
Renault Duster Exteriors
The review location for the Renault Duster was Munnar which is a 4 hour drive from Kochi airport. The never ending green luscious trees around and the always turning roads are very soothing. It has acres of tea plantations all over and essence of it is spread in the air.
We decided to make great use of the picturesque locales and the canvas painting looking trees by going on clicking tons of shots. When I first saw the Duster, I was mighty impressed. Here is an SUV which does not scream about its own self but then is very confident.
The Renault Duster looks like a very well balanced and proportionate SUV, without any extra over hang. The Duster will definitely not just lure the SUV buyers but will also attract a lot of sedan and premium hatch buyers too as the price point in which it is offered is very lucrative.
The front hood sits tall with a characteristic line running on it. Front headlamps are the twin barrel type and the lighting provided is very adequate. The radiator grille is garnished well with chrome. The lower lip of the front bumper reminds of the Koleos and also has a high point starting splash guard, which is effective while taking it on off terrain.
It has got a very prominent shoulder line and what gives it a real SUV feel are the flared wheel arches. The 5 spoke 16 inch alloys fit really well. A ground clearance of 205mm along with the 30 degree approach angle and 35 degree departure angle make the Duster stand really tall. However, the Duster is not as tall to other SUVs which work to its own benefit.
I describe the design as an extended sedan design. Some dashes of sportiness are the roof rails running along. The rear wheel arch is very prominent and on top of it lies the rear quarter class, which creases its way up.
One would lots of flares and muscle throughout the design. The muscular styling helps it attain a car of definite character and not of a vehicle confused of which segment it belongs to.
Coming to the rear quarter view, the rear end of the vehicle is again as stylish as the front and the side profiles. Generally rear profile of SUVs look to boxy and boring but then that of the Duster will not let you complain at all. It starts with a broad rear windshield and then the well placed tail lamps on the extension of D pillars. Corresponding to the tail lamps are small muscular flares on the tail gate.
Instead of putting the name in some corner, Renault Duster sports the name right on the centre panel of the tail door with a backdrop of chrome. This entire arrangement looks super smart. The only small turn down is the chrome exhaust pipe that jets out through the rear splash guard; it does not match with the overall design and should have been the integrated type.
Thus the exteriors of the Renault Duster are truly impressive and will prove to be the biggest asset of the vehicle. It is big and muscular but not to the extent to make one feel lazy to pull it out of a crowded parking. Though it’s a compact SUV, the approach and the stance of it will not make you mistake its identity.
The Renault Duster is not a blink it and miss it transformation of the Dacia Duster. The Mumbai design studio has really put in great efforts to make the Duster take on the Indian challenges.
Since the Duster has no competition presently, comparing it with any other segment will be unfair. The seating of the Duster can be described as that of a tall sedan. The large doors and the tall seating together make it very easy to get access in and move out of the cabin, unlike in some SUVs where you have to climb up or like sedans in which you crawl into.
The steering wheel comes with a tilt only adjustment. The only flaw of the steering wheel can be seen as an absence of a proper grip as it tends to get very slippery though later you get a hang of it, this can be rectified with a better bolster support. The audio and phone controls come just after the steering wheel something that you won’t have an issue with after getting accustomed to the Renault range else would take some time to juggle with.
The design and the digits of the speedometer and the tachometer may not be very exciting but then they do manage to do the job with a small MID display showing the quintessential. It has a very simple appeal and is very well distributed all throughout the display unlike a big mess in the XUV500. A small point that was observed during the drive was the turn indicators on the speedometer were not too bright to make one realize which side turn light he was showing.
Colors used in the interiors are very interesting and have a high market sedan feel to it. The plastics used may not be a very strong point but then they are not mood spoilers either. The front dashboard has gone through a complete makeover from the one offered in the International version more to suit the Indian needs.
The beige dual tone interiors of the Renault Duster make it feel very roomy inside. The central console has an integrated music system with Bluetooth and USB plug in option. Touch and feel of the buttons are very nice. The Central Lock/Unlock button takes little time as it is a tiny button situated on the left bottom of the console. The display of the entertainment system has been kept very basic and intentionally so as to have a simple approach for all. There are not too many options crowding it which is good.
It has got a 4 speed Air-Conditioner with the vents affixed on the front dashboard, the rear passengers of the top end RxZ variant too get their own AC with a 2 speed Air-Conditioner with condenser. The Air-Conditioner units worked just fine and cooled the cabin very quickly but then the surrounding climate of Munnar as it is was not grilling at all, so we didn’t get to check it under hot sun and the time it would have taken to cool then.
The Duster has 8 way manually adjustable seats with adjustable lumbar support. Even though it feels like a sedan but then the seating position is very tall. They are very comfortable with adequate bolstering and support for under thighs. After driving the Duster on all sorts of terrain, we are not even little bit tired so the fatigue levels are very low. The headroom is generous throughout the cabin, the legroom is great for the front row of passengers but then taller people (6 feet and above) may find it a little cramped in the rear.
Door trims are decent with high positioned power windows buttons. The fake and gloss wooden finished door handles are nice but then I still prefer the one in Aluminum finish as it is more scratch resistant in case you are someone who likes fiddling a lot. There are individual reading lamps for the front and the rear row of passengers respectively.
The front dashboard has as smart storage option on top, which can also double up as a space for keeping your tickets. The glove box is illuminated and though it is a small touch but it is very useful in pitch conditions. On the central zone, there are two cup holders. The rear passengers again get 2 cup holders which comes attached with the central armrest. Because of the armrest, the number of people sitting in the rear are 2+1 i.e. 2 comfortably and 1 is if you want to pack in more.
The door pockets are not too generous and can manage to squeeze in small beverage containers and some other miscellaneous articles. There is a parcel shelf in the rear with storage pockets, this parcel shelf is really long and it does manage to hold lots of articles. Renault is also considering fixing jumper seats as an optional accessory, so the size of the shelf can be imagined.
It has got a 475 litres luggage space, which can be extended to 1064 litres by collapsing the rear row seats. The space provided is huge and can pack in luggage for a month long trip. It has got storage hooks as well.
The interiors of the Renault Duster managed to impress us. The fit and finish is excellent. At this price point, the other options available will find it difficult to compete with the Duster.
The Renault Duster comes in one petrol and two diesel engine options; we were driving the 110 PS diesel engine as that was the most appropriate for climbing the hilly terrains of Munnar and its surrounding areas. It has a Common rail direct injection 4 cylinder 1461cc K9K diesel engine. The K9K diesel engine was also seen on the Logan as well as many present day Renault vehicles.
This diesel unit produces a power of 110 PS at 3900 RPM and a torque of 248 Nm at 2250 RPM. It comes with a 6 speed manual gearbox and Renault has no plans for an automatic variant in the very near future.
When we first landed in Kochi and travelled to Munnar, the roads and the terrain made me wonder how the Duster would perform on it. I only knew that it is a compact SUV and is a front wheel drive so both the points meant I had to be very nimble with it and not torture it with some aggressive moves.
The very first sight of the Duster impressed me and so it scored superbly on my records. The muscles and flares on the body were not put of proportion and yes it is very much an SUV. Renault India however thinks that the Duster cannot be type casted in any particular segment and instead they prefer calling it a new segment.
Impressive and big looks are good but what about its performance, would it perform like a half baked sedan-SUV? As soon as we got the keys I jumped inside and the vibe was very positive from the cabin. We instantly rolled down hill from where we were.
On the ghat sections of Munnar, the roads are very narrow and there are some patches where only either of the vehicles can pass. The scenery surrounding all over is supreme. The best parts that I loved about the roads in Munnar are the turns, they are steep, have amazing banking angles and hairpin turns.
Crank the key and the engine has a raw but tamed feel. The steering has a little gripping issue but then overlooking that the feedback from it is superb. The torque distribution is very balanced throughout all the ranges. It has a very sedan like short throw gearbox.
The initial kick in the 110PS model is truly amazing and it just pulls out very efficiently. One doesn’t feel any sort of turbo lag in it. Specially after crossing 2,000 RPM, the engine gets alive and starts performing brilliantly. I have always been a fan of K9K diesel engines as it is a performer on the Sunny Diesel too. Having a short throw gear box, it got little notchy when we were playing with it too much.
Renault vehicles have always had handling as their forte and this one too is no different from the range. The Renault Duster is tall but then not that tall as compared to the XUV500 as a result there is no body roll of any sort. It also has ABS along with Electronic Brake distribution whose combined efforts make it a super toy on any type of terrain.
My initial skeptical approach of it being a naive SUV was shattered completely when I threw it in a mud puddle; the way the Duster bounced back from it was very impressive. It has a ground clearance of 205mm so it took on off roads with great ease. The suspensions offered in the Duster took every challenge we threw at it and left us smiling and praising it continuously.
The Duster has also been sound proofed very well from inside so one can barely hear any redundant noise coming from outside. We got completely carried away with the performance of the Duster and believed that this car has all the ingredients for Renault to be a brand that many would like to sit up and take notice of. The Duster has lot of good things in it but then it has its lows too, there is no handrest for the driver and the rear AC blower keeps hitting the elbow, the rear passenger doors feel very light to open and close compared to the front doors and lastly the door handles which feel too tacky to operate.
We got an optimum fuel efficiency of 13.5 kmpl; this figure came about as a result of us testing the Duster a bit too rigorously. I am sure once we get the Renault Duster for a longer time at a later period; we would be able to achieve a better figure.
|Variant||RXz 110 PS|
|Ex Showroom Price Mumbai||1146072|
|Engine type||1.5 dCi K9K THP|
|Power in PS/RPM||110/3900|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||248/2250|
|Boot space in Litres||475|
|Gross weight (kgs)||1781|
|Fuel Tank capacity in Liters||50|
|Dual Front Airbags||NO||Optional||Yes|
|Rear Wiper and washer||No||Yes||Yes|
|Front Fog lamps||No||Yes||Yes|
|Seat Fabric Upholstery||Classic Black||Trendy beige||Premium Beige|
|AC with Heater||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Rear AC independent control||NO||No||Yes|
|Tilt steering column||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Electrically adjustable ORVM||NO||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated 2DIN Audio||NO||Yes||Yes|
|Steering mounted audio control||NO||Yes||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||RXZ 110 PS||W8 AWD||VX|
|Ex showroom price Bangalore (Rs.)||1146072||1403205||1255812|
|Cubic capacity (cc)||1461||2179||2179|
|Power in PS/RPM||110/3900||140/3750||140/4000|
|Torque in NM/RPM||248/2250||330/2800||320/2700|
|Turning circle radius||5.2||5.6M||5.6|
|Fuel Tank in Liters||50||70||65|
|Seating||7 Seater||8 Seater||7 Seater|
|Mileage in KMPL||19||12||12|
|Rear Wash and wiper||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Digital Drive Assist system||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile charging point||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Flat bed seat||Yes||Yes||No|
|Arm rest for driver and co driver||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Height adjustable driver seat||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intellipark reverse assist||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Surround cool dual AC||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2-DIN Audio system||Yes||Yes||Yes|
With the Duster, Renault has done all the homework and has decided not to repeat the mistakes that it is famous for. They have managed to price it very aggressively due to the amount of localization in it.
The Duster is the first of its kind and will be joined by the Ford Ecosport. Ford is also making sure the Ecosport is as aggressively priced by cutting down on all the extra costs. A trusted source tells us that Tata Motors delayed the launch of Safari Storme due to Renault Duster.
The price at which it is offered, its muscular styling, decent interiors and a very impressive engine makes sure that Renault Dealers won’t be having an easy time for some time now. Renault has also ensured that it penetrates deeper with a very well distributed dealership network which is supposed to be close to 90 by end 2012.
We hope Renault maintains the momentum by launching such exciting products in the future as well.