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First drive: Renault Duster
Renault’s all-new affordable SUV is set to storm the Indian market. After a mixed review at the Auto Expo, the French major, keen to find a firm foothold in the sub-continent, has pulled out this ace from its stable of cars.
The Duster will be one of the first major small SUVs from a foreign manufacturer to slot somewhere between the Scorpio and Safari at the lower end, and the XUV at the higher.
Renault has localised the car a bit, starting with that impressive-looking front bumper with prominent chrome slats. The protruding wheel arches and high waistline give the car a proper SUV stance – sporty yet butch.
Inside, things take a slight beating. Standard fare here, with a rather bland looking fascia. The two-DIN music system works well but looks like it’s been borrowed from the past decade. Instrument cluster is a simple speedo-tacho combo with bare essential driver information in the centre. The plastics hover between good and bad when it comes to texture. Fit is good but finishing on the edges isn’t up to the mark. The interior, unlike the exterior, doesn’t feel like a seamless flow – it looks like it’s made of many bits and pieces.
On the move, however, the Duster does better. Power from the 1.5-litre engine comes in nice and quick. And this goes for both tune levels – 85bhp and 110bhp. In the latter, the engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission that is as refined and effective as the engine. Shifts are smooth and there are no jarring vibrations travelling up the gearshift.
Steering is light but fairly effective. There is a bit of body roll but that’s a given in an SUV, and you won’t sweat even if you throw this car around. Suspension feels rock solid and absorbs bumps quite well without rattling your bones. It feels well put-together.
Renault is tight-lipped about the price but it’ll aim to start the range at around Rs 9 lakh. There will be a 1.6 petrol engine as well but we feel the 85bhp diesel should appeal the most, considering it’ll be more affordable.
The Duster is a budget SUV around the world. Obviously, it won’t be very different here. India is the only country where the car is sold with a Renault badge, which means it’s done its bit to add some jazz to the SUV to make it more in sync with the Renault badge. The world over, the Duster is a success thanks largely to its pricing. Hopefully, despite the add-ons, Renault will retain that character. We’ll find out next month.