Renault Duster has been around for years now and all of us have been impressed by the complete package it offers. It is a strong rough SUV that can easily negotiate busy city streets, long highway journeys and still be taken to that gala ball. The company just recently showcased the new duster at the Auto Expo 2016 and an air of excitement flew around its facelift. Renault India took a lot customer feedback before making changes to the new one and incorporated as much insight as it could. One big change the new one had to carry is the addition of an automatic variant with Renault’s easy-R AMT transmission. Other than that with more cosmetic updates across all variants duster is ready to take on its challengers.
The Duster has always been appreciated for its big bulky appearance and those muscular proportions. With competition gearing up with younger models Renault quickly freshened up the design without changing its original butch appeal. The fascia gets new twin slat grille along with a smarter looking headlight. Silver cladding at the front and rear adds some more strength to its character. The new taillight design is classy and the pattern is distinctive. We sincerely hoped Daytime running lights would have made it to the new one. These new 16-inch black alloy wheels are interesting and have been kept less dramatic in line the car’s appeal. Rear view mirror with indicators was a much needed update and the AWD version gets this carbon finish on it.
The inside of the Duster has been more functional that form, and not much changes with the new one either. You now get shades of black and grey, and the central console gets piano black finish. Even better, plastic quality has improved a lot than what was on the earlier version. Air conditioning vents have been tweaked slightly and they come with contrasting shades on some variants. Air conditioning control panel now has new buttons and dials that are soft to touch but still feel well made. Seat fabrics are new and add a touch drama to the otherwise subtle looking cabin. The AMT gear selector is finished in chrome and feels classy to touch, especially when you take manual control of the gearbox.
Mirror controls have been repositioned to the driver’s door which was annoyingly placed right below the handbrake lever. Infotainment system plays your songs, navigates you through wilderness and acts as the rear view camera as well. The infotainment touch-screen is simple to use while stationery, but is fidgety to use on the move by the driver.
Engine and Transmission
Engine options remain same as before with 103bhp 1.6 litre petrol, 84bhp 1.5 litre diesel and the range topping 108bhp 1.5 litre diesel. Both the lower power petrol and diesel models get a 5-speed manual transmission. The 108bhp version gets 6-speed manual and the new 6-speed easy-r AMT automatic gearbox. This new AMT automatic makes driving through congestion a simple task for this otherwise substantial car. Shifts are smooth at decent speeds as the engine is backed up by loads of torque.
The AMT also comes with a hill start assist which is helpful while negotiating inclines. For most of the drive the gearbox performs well, but only gets jerky while downshifting while pressing down on the accelerator hard. You may take charge of gearshifts by slotting the gear selector in manual which is an advantage when you fancy a spirited drive.
Ride and Handling
Ride quality has always been a strong point for the duster and it irons out uneven surfaces keeping you and your passengers comfortable. Ground clearance of 205mm, which goes up by 5mm on the AWD version, means duster is ideal for our road conditions. It stays planted on highways and excellent sound proofing means the cabin remains quiet. Steering has been well weighed for slow as well as triple digit speeds. Take a test drive and you will be amazed on how good the AWD version handles through corners. The well setup suspension setup keeps you disconnected from bumpy roads and glides through potholes with ease.
The new Duster has loads of safety features like Anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Dristribution (EBD) with Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Stability Program on the AMT and AWD variants. ABS and EBD should have been considered as standard but sadly the base variants are devoid of those. The AWD is a capable handler and stays planted at fast corner speeds, with the safekeeping of four wheel drive hardware and Traction Control System keeping you in check.
The new Duster comes out with flying colours with this sober update. The air of strength and toughness has not been altered around it, yet it gains some finesse. All little updates have combined to make a significant difference. It is a robust package with functional interior and capable road manners. Adding the new AMT automatic transmission only sweetens the deal further by adding convenience through congested city streets.
Images by Mohd. Nasir