2019 Renault Duster facelift road test review
If familiarity breeds comfort, you're going to be very comfortable indeed in the facelifted Renault Duster. And before you ask, yes, there is a new generation of Duster (the second) available internationally (with new interiors) but we've been told that Renault India will instead launch the third-gen here post 2022, with its development being focused for India. In the meanwhile, you can have a Duster which essentially is a facelift of a facelift but with better standard equipment than before. As before, nothing under the hood has been changed.
What has changed, then?
What you'll notice first is the new grille with the chrome teeth, which looks borrowed from the second-gen Duster, specifically, the one sold in South Africa. Also borrowed is the hood with power bulges on the sides, instead of the central raised portion on the current gen. So, if that's any consolation, at least bits of the facelifted Duster look like the new-gen one that we won't get. Further on, the headlights are now projector halogens, and the entire fog lamp cutout has been redesigned. Nothing changes in profile, well, except for a new wheel design. It's a similar story at the rear, and the LED tail lamps from the last facelift still look good and, most importantly, distinctive.
Plastic cladding on tailgate an optional extra
Inside, the cabin layout itself has changed, with the most apparent being the new steering wheel and addition of a cooled upper storage compartment on the passenger side, which is more useful than the open storage area before. Circular central AC vents make way for squarish ones, while the infotainment screen appears to be shifted slightly lower. While that makes reading Android Auto navigation directions (or the new driving behavior scores) from it, a little awkward, it does mean you can operate the screen with your hand resting on the gear lever. Win some, lose some, I guess.
Quality of plastics would still rack up as a loss, since they haven't improved but the new steering feel does help the perception of better quality. As does the blue indices for the callouts in the dials which freshens up the look of the instrumentation.
The small digital readout offers up range, average/real time efficiency and more but still feels almost painfully basic. Ergonomics and comfort remain as we remember, which is to say that it can be frustrating at times, and the seats can feel a little lacking in under thigh support but otherwise good for long stints behind the wheel.
How does it drive?
The Duster continues to be offered with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, and a 1.5-litre diesel in two states of tune. We had the 110PS 2WD variant on test, and it's always a pleasure to get behind the wheel of a Duster, especially if you're going to be hitting the highway. I say highway, since the clutch is heavy to use and not the easiest to modulate in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the city. I found myself shifting between first and second to keep the engine in a comfortable spot. While out on an open road, the Duster will pull from 70kmph onwards in top gear, which means you can essentially stay in sixth and pull off overtakes, only needing to shift to fifth to make a gap. This reflects in the fuel efficiency figures as well, with the Duster returning 17.6kmpl on the highway, with that figure dropping to 13.1kmpl in the city and rain-soaked traffic jams.
The way the Duster delivers its 245Nm of torque is entertaining and grin-inducing, though I suspect most would prefer the more linear delivery of the competition. Peak torque comes in at 1,750rpm, and feels like it stays flat till almost 4,000rpm and the motor revs out till its redline just above 5,000rpm quite willingly in the lower gears. The Duster doesn't just feel quick either, its 0-100kmph dash of 12.7s in the wet is quite respectable. Braking on a wet surface, the Duster took 53.6m and 3.9s to come to a halt from 100kmph but felt utterly composed while at it. This really highlights the strength of the Duster - its suspension setup.
While ride is on the firm side at low speeds, it steamrolls over bad roads with a noiseless confidence which means you don't feel guilty putting all wheels on a dirt shoulder to pass a traffic jam. Unfortunately, the steering while direct, also transmits kickback over poorly surfaced roads and while we wish that had changed, it hasn't.
Driving the Duster remains a physical experience that most drivers probably won't appreciate but it still has an old-school charm and confidence to it. In addition, all variants get two airbags, ABS with EBD and rear parking sensors now. If you choose to believe the 'true SUV' marketing, only do so because it's the only SUV in its class to offer a AWD diesel variant.
Starts Rs 8.49 Lakhs