Compact SUV of the year: Renault Duster
We should have called the Duster Soft-Roader of the Year. But then, there’s nothing soft about this little Renault SUV
If you were flying in a plane, this would rate as level-two turbulence. But trust us, you don’t have to be a few thousand feet up in the air to experience such unrest. Drive on one of our classic Mumbai roads and you’re guaranteed to get the same feeling. Which is why we’ve been praying for auto manufacturers to give us a small, affordable SUV.
Renault kick-started the affordable soft-roader segment in India with the Duster. But the name can be misleading – it may be called a soft-roader, but it can gobble up most of the potholes our municipal contractors can throw at it. Just the other day, we were driving through Mahul Road, aka Port Trust road, which goes to south Mumbai. Mostly used by trucks carrying marine containers to Mumbai dockyard, Mahul Road is also one of the less congested roads in the city if you need to get to town in a hurry. But all that truck traffic going back and forth has left potholes the size of craters.
This particular day, while the small car in front of us darted from one corner to another trying to avoid those house-sized holes, we just drove the Duster over them. Its high ground clearance, commanding seating position and superb suspension all contribute to a relaxed, smooth ride, isolating us nicely from the rough world outside.
The Duster won’t win any beauty contests, but we don’t really care. That block-sided design and those muscular wheel arches give the Duster that go-anywhere look that we like. Plus, it looks much better covered in, well, dust and mud like a proper SUV. The interior is nice and comfy, including regular bells-and-whistles such as Bluetooth audio, parking sensors and steering-mounted audio controls.
We are fans of Renault’s 1.5-litre diesel that’s gone into the Duster too – it strikes the perfect balance between power and efficiency. The Duster’s near- SUV capability and the fact that the competition is still struggling to get proper affordable alternatives, makes it our obvious choice for soft-roader...no, Compact SUV of the Year!