Ride, Handling and Braking – The Renault Duster may be a compact SUV but it has the driving dynamics of a sedan. Body roll is an inherent part of an SUV but the Duster has managed to shrug it off completely. The steering is decently heavy at low speeds and weighs up further at high speeds. Handling is brilliant and the Renault Duster will precisely head in the direction you point the steering wheel. Driving around the ghats in Munnar was good fun behind the wheel, the Duster would be precisely head in the direction you point the steering at. High speed stability is good but due to the high center of gravity, it feels as if its going faster than it actually is.
215/65/16 MRF Wanderer tires offer good drip and surprisingly do not squeal around when taking corners at high speeds. The Renault Duster gets front disc and rear drum brakes and braking performance is commendable with the Duster stopping from 100 km/h without any hassles.
Performance – Renault is offering three engine options for the Duster which include one petrol and two diesel motors. The 1.6-litre petrol engine produces 104 PS of peak power and has an ARAI certified mileage of 13.24 km/l. The Diesel variants are powered by the renowned K9K series of diesel engines with different power ratings. This 1.5-litre diesel is available in two trims offering 85 PS and 110 PS of peak power. The 85 PS version has a certified mileage of 20.46 km/l and also powers the Nissan Sunny. You can’t give double ignition as there is a lock to prevent that.
There was only one engine option available at the media drive and it was the top of the line 110 PS version. This engine produces a torque of 248 Nm at 2250 RPM (8 Nm more than Fluence). There is a considerable amount of turbo lag till 2000 RPM after which the engine pulls cleanly with a strong mid and high range. As long as you are in the turbo band, you will love this engine. Engine refinement is brilliant with hardly any engine sound creeping into the cabin even at high revs. A 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard in the 110 PS variant while the petrol and 85 PS diesel variant get a 5-speed manual gearbox. We would have loved if Renault had offered an automatic variant as well.
The gearbox is smooth with no notchy feeling whatsoever with gear ratios to match most driving situations. The clutch is a little on the heavier side and has a fair bit of play but one gets used to it quickly. The sixth gear comes handy on the highways and in-gear acceleration is good. However, you may need to go down a few gears for efficient overtaking on the highways. ARAI certified mileage for the 110 PS K9K engine is around 19 km/liter but once can expect around 15 km/l. The K9K engine is very fuel efficient and based on your driving style, will deliver good performance without compromising too much on the mileage of the Renault Duster.
NVH levels are good overall but there is a considerable amount of wind and tire noise at high speeds. The engine sounds is minimal in the cabin even at idle, thanks to good damping as shown in the picture. Even on irregular road surfaces, there was no vibration or rattling and Renault has done a good job with the built quality. The doors are heavy and shut with a loud thud.
The Duster impressed with its off-road capability as well. Though it is not a true SUV and has a front wheel drive configuration, it did pretty well in off-road conditions which included wet grass and muddy terrain with parts of slush. The 30-degree approach angle, 35-degree departure angle along with no overhangs ensured that it went over everything without kissing its underbelly anywhere. A healthy ground clearance of 205 mm played its part too.
Head over to the next page to read our conclusion on the Renault Duster.