Renault India Limited started out confidently in India but then their low cost car, the Mahindra Renault Logan didn’t fare too well due to its taxi image and the other factor being the car been pricier than everybody thought it would be. Well, to change that image, Renault is embarking on a sole journey in India and they plan to start that with the Renault Duster. While the Renault Logan manufacturing rights have been given to Mahindra and Mahindra, the Renault Duster, which is touted as the world’s cheapest SUV, would be an independent venture. So here is a preview of the Renault Duster in India, ahead of its 2012 launch.
The Renault Duster in India would have that very SUV stance and would do away with the boxy styling of the Logan. Well anyways, the Logan is a sedan. Anyone remembering the Hyundai Tucson would be instantly reminded of the similarities in appearance between the two SUVs. The front end looks a bit truck like with that bifocal head lamps and the not so longish hood. The grille is split with the lower end carrying a chunk of the bulk whereas the upper end makes do with only Renault badge. The lines around the shoulder of this car are more like rounded but they have a muscular stance to them. The bumper area is covered by black plastic and cutting across the mass of black plastic is an aluminium skid plate. The 16 inch wheels with fat rubber on them hold the SUV stance very well. The wing mirrors have the half black half body colored look. Like any other SUV, the wheel arches are also pronounced. The rear is the most interesting part of any SUV found in India and it has more of the hatchback type tail lamps. All in one small cluster. The rear end also gets black bumpers with an aluminium skid plate. The tail pipe is also a small unit. The rear visibility would be a problem since the rear glass area is very small.
Cut to the interiors and the familiar Logan’s interiors come to mind. The fully closable AC vents, the meter console and the position of the power window switches. Heck, even the stalks and wipers seem to be lifted off from its sedan sibling. The same semi hooded instrument binnacle with its chrome outlining and the red gauges with a digital display in the center are all Logan material. The steering wheel however is different and is a 3 spoke flat unit. The gear lever is also a stubby unit like the Logan’s. But then the similarities in the interiors ends there. The Renault Duster uses high quality materials unlike the cheap surfaces found on the Logan. Everything has a premium touch to it including the door sills and the entire packaging. The music system was fantastic and highly modern with its Bluetooth and aux input functions. Front seats are two electrically programmable but without memory functions. Though the seats feel a bit flat to sit on, they aren’t uncomfortable. Moving onto the rear seat, the rear seat passengers can boast of having individual AC vents for their comfort plus good head room, leg room and shoulder room are added benefits. The Renault Duster is a 5 seater SUV and has ample space at the rear for luggage. Unfortunately there is no third row of seats available but then it stands its ground as a genuine 5 seater SUV.
The ride ad handling package is almost the same as the Renault Logan since this SUV is built on an extended Logan platform. It uses a monocoque chassis and one which gets Machphersons in the front with double wishbones and there is a deflected H torsion beam at the rear. This setup is similar to most hatchbacks and the advantage of the same is its simple construction and significant cost savings. But then weights have been added on to handle the more hefty SUV body. In the ride front, the Renault Duster rides very well. It is softly sprung but surprisingly doesn’t pitch and bob over every undulation that comes its way. The handling is also excellent with the Duster doing one’s bidding at the turn of the steering wheel. The only gripe is that the steering sometimes turns lifeless. It has a heavy feel to it and doesn’t always inspire confidence. To keep the SUV in a straight line, one has to labor more than with regular SUVs. The Renault Duster in India would most probably be available with 4×4 version or 4×2 version.
The engine options in the Renault Duster in India would most likely be limited to two diesel options. Renault, as of now, isn’t looking to bring in any petrol engines to the equation. To cut down on costs, Renault would be using the same 1.5 liter engine as in the Renault Logan and the Nissan Micra diesel in India. This engine would be in two different states of tune for this SUV. One would be a 90 Ps version whereas the other would be in 110 Ps. Both these versions are said to provide for high torque figures and would be very sprightly to drive. Moreover, the refinement would be on another level and going by how damped the engine is in both the Logan and Micra, one can expect the same levels of NVH factoring in the Renault Duster in India. It is driveability where the engine would score most on and this is what Renault is looking at for its Indian customers. There would be a 6 speed gearbox for starters and later on, a 5 speed auto would also be offered. The gearshift feels similar to the Logan’s, a bit rubbery but easygoing. The Renault Duster would have a top speed of approximately 155 kmph.
The Duster would have 4 airbags, ABS, EBD, traction control and also parking sensors on its topmost variant, when it reaches the Indian shores. Fuel efficiency would also be on the higher side since the Renault Duster is lighter than most of its rivals here in India. The rivals list would include the likes of the Mahindra Scorpio and the Tata Safari. Does the tag of the world’s cheapest SUV suit this SUV? We don’t think so since in India, for jokes, we have the Premier Rio. But jokes apart, the Renault Duster price in India most likely would start from Rs 7 lakhs for the 4×2 variant whereas the fully blown 4×4 variant would clock in below Rs 10 lakhs. That seems pretty much value for money. Expect the Renault Duster here by early 2012. It would follow the Renault Fluence and the Renault Koleos. The competition in the meanwhile would be fully geared up for welcoming this SUV. Mahindra with their band of Ssangyong SUVs and their global W201 whereas Tata is already testing its 2011 Safari and would be out with it very soon.