Renault has a spectacular lineup of cars in its Indian portfolio. Nissan Micra based Pulse is doing fairly well in the hatchback segment and Fluence has a strong hold in the luxury sedan segment. With the success of Fluence in the Indian market, Renault recently launched the Fluence E4 Diesel. However, in the French automaker lacks grip in the SUV segment. Although the Renault Koleos has everything you could demand from a luxury SUV, it carries a very steep price tag.
To set things square, Renault plans to launch the Renault-Dacia Duster SUV. Just like the current running Koleos, the new French SUV will be a strong on-road, off-road SUV. However, it is regarded as one of the cheapest SUVs in the world. Renault has a Romanian subsidiary by the name Dacia, which already has the Duster SUV running successfully in the international markets. Due to drop in productivity at the European plant, India could be the hub for the French-Romanian SUV. The Nissan facility at Oragadam near Chennai could be the platform for the French SUV.
Its all-wheel-drive feature and robust appeal make it a competent SUV in the Indian lineup. The Renault Duster is one of the most anticipated SUVs in the 2012 calendar, since its debut at the 2012 Auto Expo in Delhi. There is no word on the exact date of launch, but we are certain that it is not far away.
In India, SUVs are deemed as humongous, all-wheel-drive, expensive and thirsty machines. The French automaker intends to revolutionize this idea with the launch of the Duster SUV. Boasting a sub Rs 10 lacs price tag, housing a 1.5-litre engine and running on all fours, the Duster is what Indian SUV market needs.
Renault launched the Logan in collaboration with the Indian automaker Mahindra. The Duster SUV is based on the same vehicle and has tough off-road appearance. Not just in terms of appearance, but also in practicality, the French SUV can tackle through some terrains. Beefed up body and high stance cannot go unnoticed. Standing on 16-inch alloys and 4.315 m of wheelbase, the Renault Duster begs you to take it off-road.
Renault Duster has a monocoque chassis, which is a preferred build for modern day SUVs. Just like the Logan, the new French SUV gets pseudo Mac Pherson strut on the front. While on the rear multi-arm arrangement there is programmed-deflection H-beam. This combination adds weight to the vehicle, but improves the off-road performance of the humongous SUV. Renault will offer all disc with ventilated front discs for the Duster SUV.
Going along with the sports-ute appeal are the roof rails, chrome wide grille, the skid plate, antenna, high ground clearance and the alloy wheels. On the front, Duster carries a three-slat grille, which graces the large Renault badge in the centre. Other features include the exterior cladding, which make the French SUV a very capable machine. Sitting at just 4.315 m, the Duster is smaller than its elder brother, the Koleos. However, it does not get the advantage on sub-4 meter excise levy. A glossy body-color bumper in the front gives contours with black plastic cladding, which now encorporate round fog lamps on either side. While the hood is all flat to give a tough off-road appeal, the tinted windshield gives way to the high roof. Its roof antenna has been designed aerodynamically to reduce drag.
On the side, the Duster features contour design with aggressively beltline. Body color door handles, wing mirrors, fuel lid can be seen. Though the Duster comes as a five-seater, it is provided with a third quarter window panel. Moreover, the Duster features very pronounced wheel arches.
On the rear, the Duster features boot lid with acute curvature, skid plate, vertically mounted tail lamps with D-Shaped curve alongside and body colored rear bumper. The SUV appeal is also complemented by high mount stop lamp, hexagonal windshield with a rear viper, Renault badge and reflectors. On the boot lid is a Duster badge with a number plate just below it. The alloy wheels nut-cover will come with anti-theft key. A spare wheel will either go below the chassis or will hand on the boot lid.
Interior and features:
Coming as a five-seater, the Renault uses the design cues from Logan. With an all-black theme interior, the SUV has elegant and sporty appeal. When you get into the car, the marvelous 3-spoke steering coming right at you cannot be overlooked. The dashboard is neat and incorporates the AC vents with brown central console sitting right in front. It features a grand dial and red themed going along with the sports-ute attitude In addition, the rear passengers can enjoy the climate control with individual AC vents according to their comforts. The cushioned seats and surplus legroom and headroom are added benefits for the passengers.
Though the Duster has over 4 meters of wheelbase, it offers only two rows of seats, leaving ample of space for the luggage. It offers 475 litres of boot space, which is adequate for a long journey. However, with the seats folded up, the SUV gives 1,636 litres of boot space.
Sadly, the Duster carries some of the flaws of the Logan like the stiff gearbox lever. Complementing the understatement appeal of the Duster are the flat seats and fabrics, which are simple yet practical. The music entertainment is incorporated with the central console and appears to be trendy with its Bluetooth and aux input functions. Front seats have adjustments but do not carry memory storage system. The rear seat passengers get glistening brown door handles to support themselves in sudden maneuvers.
Performance and Handling:
Renault Duster illustrates a blend of French engineering and innovative technology. The French automaker offers six variants for the SUV in India – Renault Duster 1.6-litre petrol, Renault Duster petrol AWD, Renault Duster 1.5-litre 85 PS diesel, Renault Duster 1.5-litre 110 PS diesel and Renault Duster diesel AWD.
For the diesel trim, Renault will borrow the 1.5-litre CRDi diesel engine from Nissan Micra. While the European Duster has option of six-speed manual and five-speed manual, the Indian version will be available in six-speed manual mode only. With minor tweak, the diesel engine will give two bands of power output – 85 bhp/ 250 Nm and 110 bhp/ 275 Nm. Renault is likely to give the option of all-wheel-drive system for the higher variant. While the 85 bhp variant does a 0-100 kmph in 13.9 seconds, the 110 bhp version does comes a little short at 12.5 seconds. There is no significant difference in the top speeds either, with the 85 bhp version doing 156 kmph, while the 110 bhp version pusher further to 168 bhp.
The Duster running in international market offers transmission control option between Auto, Lock and 4×2 modes. The Auto mode gets dynamics when the SUV starts and the car automatically calculates the right torque output required to launch the car. When shifted to ‘Lock’ mode, the transfer-case clings to the 4×4 mode and 50 percent of the torque flows to the rear wheels. In the 4×2 mode, the SUV runs on only front wheels giving best fuel-economy.
Renault offers a 1.6-litre of petrol option for the Duster SUV. The petrol driven French SUV will house a 1598 cc inline-four cylinder DOHC engine, capable of pumping out 105 bhp peak power at 5,750 rpm and of 145 Nm peak torque at 3,750 rpm. It does a dead to 100 kmph in 11.5 seconds and has a top speed of 168 kmph.
We expect Renault to offer improved levels of NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) in the Duster SUV in India. Micra and Logan were disappointing when it comes to engine refinement, and we hope the Duster is more French. Experts predict the diesel version of Duster will give a fuel-economy figure of 17-19 kmpl.
Though the car is one of the cheapest SUVs in the world, it is not unsafe by any means. Renault offers a series of advanced and reliable active & passive safety features. The Active safety features comprise of Bosch 8.1 ABS system, EBA (emergency brake assist) and EBV electronic brakeforce. The Bosch 8.1 ABS system is the superior edition of the ABS, which is comparatively 20 percent smaller & lighter than the previous version.
EBA-emergency brake assist is an optimized braking system that aims at reducing road accidents and injuries by 10 percent. While the EBA provides braking distance of 5-9 meters, the EBV-electronic brakeforce, controls vehicle speed depending on road conditions.
The advanced parking sensors assist parking the car in intricate areas. These alarm the driver with three different sounds incase any object comes within the vicinity between 5fts & 0m. The three-point seat belts with load limiters for the front seats, two front airbags, parking sensor, pyrotechnic pre-tensioners along with optional two lateral head/ thorax airbags add for the passive safety features.
The SUV based on the much-prized Logan will definitely delight the Indian SUV fans. With robust SUV build quality, modest interiors and an aggressive price tag, the Renault Duster offers the best of an SUV.
Though its styling makes an understatement on the first look, the SUV is truly built for off-road with dominating on-road qualities. It fulfills the dream of person desiring a cheap and powerful SUV, and the Duster is a great one at it.
When launched, it will go up against the Tata Safari, Mahindra Scorpio, Maruti Suzuki Ertiga and upcoming Ford EcoSport. We expect an official launch in a few weeks.
- Engine: 1598 cc inline-four cylinder
- Power: 105 bhp @ 5,750rpm
- Torque: 148 Nm @ 3,750rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual
- Tyres: 215/65 R16
- Engine: 1461cc inline-four cylinder
- Power: 110 bhp @ 4,000rpm
- Torque: 240 Nm @ 1,750rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual
- Tyres: 215/65 R16
- Length: 4315mm
- Width: 1822mm
- Height: 1625mm
- Wheelbase: 2673mm
- Kerb Weight: 1235.00 kgs.
- Colors: Cashew Brown, Basalt Grey, Platinum, Mineral Blue, Pearl Black, Glacier While, Navy Blue.
Also watch: Renault Duster video review
Also watch: Renault Duster image gallery