Renault Duster RxZ 110 dCi: First Drive Review

  • Jul 16, 2012
It's a product that most of the new SUV buyers and enthusiasts have been waiting for ever since it was showcased at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi. Infact, it won’t be wrong to say that the Duster is indeed the most awaited launch of the year. This is the French car maker's fourth offering for India and easily fills the gap between the Pulse small car and the Fluence sedan. The introduction of the Duster has also opened up a brand new segment in the Indian market, that too of compact SUVs. This segment is sure to boom in the months and years to come and Renault it seems already has an upper hand by launching it first. Infact, it Duster is priced so well, it seems all set to eat away into sales of similar priced sedans too. Will it? Read on…

Renault's move to introduce the Duster in India is seen as a landmark step for the brand after splitting with their old partners. I won't go into the history, for Renault themselves have left the past behind and have already chalked out bold plans for the future. The Duster is among those new products that could change the game for Renault in India. That said, the Duster was launched in July at a very competitive price tag.
The starting price of Rs 7.19 lakh ex-showroom for the base petrol variant came as surprise to everyone. Although, Renault has clarified that this is only an introductory price, it should attract buyers to Renault showrooms for a long time to come. It offers two diesel engine options – one with 85 PS of power and a top-end with 110 PS of power. We got the chance to drive the RxZ 110 dCi at the media drive organized at Munnar, Kerala. A fleet of over a dozen Dusters greeted us with the majestic Western Ghats in the backdrop.

The first night was all about catching up with folks from Renault India and my old friends from the automobile press and ofcourse getting to learn more about the Duster during the presentation. The next day, our plan was to explore the countryside in the Renault Duster. The car allocated to us was the top-of-the-line RxZ variant with leather seats and rear air-con. The RxZ comes with a host of features including very unconventional steering mounted audio/phone controls. The center console and the instruments are pretty basic yet cleanly laid out.
For a SUV in its price range, the Renault Duster offers decent space. Ofcourse comparisons will be made with the Scorpio and the Safari but it will be safe to say that the Duster does manage to hold its own against the former. The build quality of the interior including the plastics and trims is the best part here – a huge step forward as compared to what Indians have been used to in similar priced vehicles. What's important to note though is a quite cabin which insulates the passenger from the engine noise. Further, the Duster does offer the best of both worlds. It has got the proportions of a compact SUV and the comfort and handing of a sedan and much credit for this goes to the SUVs underpinnings.

The Renault Duster was built specifically with this point in mind which could work well with the Indian buyer as well. Coming to the engine now, the 1.5 litre dCi K9K generation engine churns out 110 PS of maximum power @ 3900 rpm and 248 Nm @ 2250 rpm. Even though all the punch is at the lower end of the rev range, you do need to slightly work on the 6-speed manual gearbox to extract every bit of the power and get the grinning moments on your face. That said, for daily traffic grinds, the Duster is a big revelation as compared to other big SUVs – ponder in traffic at 40km/h in 4th gear and the Duster wont complaint at all! We would advise you to be a bit careful on tight, twisty roads as the car has tendency to torque-steer in lower gear. For non auto-geeks, this means spinning of the wheels due to the extra torque and thus resulting in pulling of the car to one side.

But then, if you love driving, you won't mind fiddling around with the gear lever every now and then. At this point of time, I would like to report about the awesome ride quality. We were driving on some of the most terrible roads and at one point during our drive we realized that the Duster was able to cope with the potholes way better than we'd expected. The suspension manages to be comfortable without being too soft to spoil the handling dynamics. The electro-hydraulic steering does feel a bit heavy at times and the stitching on the wheel can become reason for injury.

The 2673 mm wheelbase means there is ample legroom at the back. The top-end models also get a rear mounted air-con with separate controls. The boot has a volume of 475 litres which increases to 1064 litres with the rear seats folded. That said, the seats don't fold flat. The spare wheel is stored under the car and can be easily accessed via the cleverly positioned release bolt. Renault also offers some unique options list including two rear jump-seats. Apart from this, Renault also offers some exterior upgrades like a front bull-bar with integrated fog lights etc.

All said, the Renault Duster seems like a really good overall package. The extremely aggressive pricing further complements the SUVs capabilities. It is certainly a car that you should consider if you want a fuel-efficient SUV for under Rs 10 lakh – how does getting 15-16kmpl from a diesel SUV sound? We did miss out on testing the 85 PS version though, which is rated at over 20+kmpl. The Duster can prove to be game-change for Renault if they manage to keep the introductory pricing unchanged for a while. The SUV does have a lot to offer, is definitely a value-for-money proposition and surely a game changer with its performance-economy combination and fresh looks. Yes – it can surely kick up a serious storm to blind the rivals!


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