Renault has really struggled in the Indian auto market. Their joint venture with M&M and the Logan did not quite create the right image for them. The vehicles they launched on their own like the Koleos, the Fluence and the Pulse did not create quite the ripples either. Renault came up with a compact SUV Duster with butch looks, good ride, handling, and good fuel efficiency of Renault Duster.
The Duster does look like an SUV. The big chunky look, broad squarish head lamps, wide arches on the wheels and metal roof rails add to the aggressive look. The dual colour on the front bumper, the wide slated chrome grill, and the strong chin with the plastic cladding give the Duster quite a brawny front. The rear stance is pretty impressive and the tall look and chrome garnish on the tail gate put a lot of meat to the styling. The 205 mm of ground clearance and the shorter wheelbase ensures that the underbelly does not scrape on the unpredictable Indian roads.
The interiors may not have a premium look; the plastics are shiny and hard. The music controls are mounted beneath the steering and the outside mirror adjustment knob is beneath the hand brake, making it hard to access. The seats are flat and hard but do offer enough support. But the interiors do make up in practicality. There is enough storage, side pockets and cubby holes. The rotary air vents are very functional. Luggage space is good for its size.
On offer are three options of engines – the 102.5 bhp petrol and two variants of diesel, the 84 bhp one and the 110 bhp one. The Duster’s light weight means that real world performance is pretty good. With the 6th gear, the Duster cruises very comfortably. The beauty of the Duster really lies in the underpinning. Based on the Renault Hardy B platform, the Duster is built tough. This enables the SUV to tackle even the pot holed roads with ease and gives it dynamics as well.
The petrol variant is the best for city driving while the diesel ones are popular with those who are highway riders. Absence of a third row seat, unlike its 7 seater competitors and the lack of a 4 wheel drive, may not go down well with the customers. Recently, news has been doing the rounds that Renault India will launch 4X4 variant by the second half of 2014.
The Duster is now seen as the game changer for Renault, with the potential to multiply the company’s market share. The sales figures itself lends credibility to its appeal across India. Renault Duster has to fight off challenges from the likes of the EcoSport and the Terrano.