2016 Renault Duster Review
2016 Renault Duster – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

2016 Renault Duster Review

Car Tested: 2016 Renault Duster Facelift; Road Test No. 672

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 9.97 – 16.09 lakhs

The Renault Duster now looks better, comes with more features and blends in the convenience of an AMT automatic gearbox

It was the Renault Duster that had kicked off a storm in the affordable SUV segment in India. Before the Duster arrived, the Mahindra Scorpio and Tata Safari were ruling the roost but Renault clearly knew what the Indian buyer wanted. The Duster became quite a success story and it also established the Renault brand in India. However, it’s been almost 4 years since this SUV was launched and it started feeling very outdated, what with rivals coming up with far more polished vehicles. Renault has now given the Duster a new lease of life so let’s see what we’ve got here.

MotorQuest: The Renault Duster is sold in global markets under a lot of different names. In many countries, it is also known as the Dacia Duster while Nissan has also been selling the Terrano which is nothing but a rebadged Duster. Abroad it is known as an entry-level cheap SUV but here in India it is a bit on the costlier side of the market.

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The changes on the outside make the car look very fresh now

Exteriors – The Renault Duster has always boasted of butch and rugged looks. The exteriors don’t have any unnecessary creases or lines but a simple form and it really works well. The 2016 Duster that we have here comes with quite a lot of revisions to the outside which make the car feel a whole lot better. You get a new set of headlights and tail lamps and while the former comes in a smoked design, the latter gets attractive LED elements. The grille is now shared with the international version. The revised bumpers look good with their silver scuff plates while the new alloy wheels add a youthful touch to the car. In fact, the alloys look extremely stylish while the car is in motion. The ORVMs now get integrated turn indicators but they still have to be manually folded. Renault has also given the 2016 Duster a new key which looks and feels much better than the older one.

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The interiors still don’t feel as posh as the Hyundai Creta

Interiors – The Duster is nicely spacious and comes with comfortable seats. Visibility all around is also pretty good. The dashboard has always had a pretty simple layout and the number of features was also limited earlier. The 2016 Duster comes with a reworked dashboard that gets a shiny piano black finish on the centre console. You also get new controls for the AC along with automatic climate control. We found the AC to be a not-so-good performer, especially in the afternoons. The Duster gets a new MediaNAV touchscreen infotainment system that is also mated to a rearview camera. The touch feels satisfactorily responsive but the screen itself isn’t that crisp and under bright sunlight, it gets a bit difficult to read. The steering continues to come with similar controls for phone and music but this time around, the centre console gets a bunch of additional switches thanks to the addition of cruise control.

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You do get quite a few additional features, comfort is uncompromised

The updated Duster gets an improved cabin with better ergonomics & features

On the door pads, you get the usual silver trims just like the AC vent surrounds while Renault also offers red trims as optional. The red trims do nothing but make the interiors look absolutely gaudy. The front doors come with useful door pockets but the rear doors have no bottle holders. The driver now gets an armrest while there is also another silver trim near the handbrake area. The front has enough cubbyholes for your belongings and the rear seat too gets an armrest with dual cupholders. There is a 12V power socket behind the rear seat on the left side too. The area above the glovebox comes with DUSTER engraved on it while the entire colour scheme of the interiors has been changed to a combination of greyish brown and beige, though we think the older colour scheme looked better.

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The engines have good performance for city and highway use

Performance – The Renault Duster continues to come with the same mechanicals as before. It is offered with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 1.5-litre diesel engine in two states of tune – 85 PS and 110 PS. The 110 PS tune is the one that gets the AMT unit as well as the AWD option, both in separate variants of course. Fortunately, we got a chance to properly drive both the variants and here’s our take. The AWD option as we know is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The motor boasts of a very good low-end and turbo lag is extremely minimal which is a great thing.

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The clutch feels very light and the AWD variant is very capable

The 110 PS tune is better suited for highways, while the 85 PS tune is good for the city, mileage is decent

The AWD variant of the Duster accelerates from standstill to 100 km/hr in 12.54 seconds. The Duster has no grouses in touching speeds well above the ton with ease. NVH levels on the manual variant are decent and the motor gets a bit vocal only at high RPMs. Talking about the AMT gearbox, it is a 6-speed unit that is sourced from ZF. The gear lever is slick in its operations and the first thing you notice is that there is no park mode. You just get R, N and D modes. Apart from that, there is also a manual mode on offer.

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AMT is laggy in performance, very convenient though

As expected from an AMT unit, it is quite laggy in its operations. Drive around with a light foot and it will keep you happy with the convenience that it provides. The car does jerk a bit when cogs are changing but its not too bad. Gear shifts happen at 2500 RPM under normal driving and at 4750 RPM if you’re going hard on the throttle. If you decide to stomp the pedal suddenly while the cruising, expect a delay of a few seconds before the transmission decides to downshift. The Duster AMT goes from 0-100 km/hr in 13.66 seconds (as per our VBOX tests) and 100 km/hr comes up at 2200 RPM in the AMT trim and 2500 RPM in the manual trim. There is also an ECO mode on offer which is tuned to produce that little bit of extra fuel efficiency but we did notice that it robs off some grunt from the motor.

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The Duster excels when we talk about ride and handling

Driving Dynamics – Ride quality on the Renault Duster is fantastic and the SUV has no qualms in tackling bad roads. It can counter whatever is thrown at it and with much ease. The AMT trim comes with MRF tyres while the AWD variant gets much better Apollo rubber. We found the ride quality on the Duster AWD much better because it comes with independent suspension. Handling is also fun and the steering provides good feedback too. The Duster feels very chuckable and is properly fun to drive. Brakes are pretty good too and they don’t disappoint at all. The AWD system itself is quite capable and the Duster can surely take you places!

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Renault still doesn’t provide airbags on all trims of the Duster

Safety and After Sales Service – Talking about safety, the 2016 Renault Duster comes with dual front airbags and ABS. The AMT transmission also gets features like Hill Hold and ESP. There is also a traction control system on offer which does its job pretty well should you decide to have some fun around the twisties. In terms of after-sales service, Renault does have a not-so-good network and it just doesn’t match the quality levels of Hyundai for that matter.

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The Duster makes for a good buy if you want something rugged

Verdict – The Renault Duster has now got a new lease of life with so many significant updates. It looks younger, gets more appeal and also comes with the convenience of an AMT gearbox. Sure, it lacks the finesse of its direct rival, the Hyundai Creta, but otherwise it is very fun to drive and power is in abundance too. The Renault Duster has positioned itself as a very strong product in the affordable SUV space and with all these enhancements, the vehicle has just improved its own standing in the market.

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The Renault Duster is a great contender in the compact SUV market

What’s Cool

* The exteriors look attractive now
* AMT gearbox adds a lot of convenience
* Gets a couple of useful additions to the equipment list

What’s Not So Cool

* Interiors still feel a bit lacking
* No AWD automatic

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This mid-life facelift should suffice until the next generation arrives

Testers’ Note:

“The Renault Duster has finally got a meaningful update which makes the car much more appealing now. The list of changes are extensive but that doesn’t alter the driving experience. The AMT gearbox makes driving stress-free but the jerkiness is there and that robs away a lot of time in outright acceleration. AWD with a dual-clutch automatic would have been wonderful on the Renault Duster.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“I am big fan of the Duster but when it came to buying one, I felt it was too expensive for very average quality all around. However, after this update, the Duster feels more complete, The addition of an AMT is a good step forward but I think Renault should have slotted in a DCT even though it’s more expensive to buy but considering that Renault has been selling the Duster for a large premium all this while, it would have been well worth it.” – Dr. Javeid Khan, Deputy Editor, MotorBeam.
“I grew a lot of respect for the Duster’s capabilities when I drove it for the first time last year. It is a very rugged car and very involving to drive too. The AWD trim also allows you to take the car anywhere. The AMT gearbox is a good addition but personally I’m not a big fan of AMTs and hence I would rather buy a manual Duster with the clutch being very light too.” – Parth Gohil, Road Tester, MotorBeam.

Further Reading –

Renault Duster 2WD Review
Renault Duster AWD Review
Renault Duster Long Term Review
Renault Duster vs Nissan Terrano
Renault Duster vs Ford EcoSport
Renault Duster vs Ford EcoSport Video
Renault Duster vs Nissan Terrano vs Ford EcoSport
Mega SUV Shootout
Renault Duster vs Hyundai Creta vs Mahindra XUV500
Renault Duster AWD vs Tata Safari Storme vs Mahindra Scorpio
Maruti S-Cross vs Ford EcoSport vs Renault Duster
Renault Duster vs Hyundai Creta vs Mahindra XUV500 – Video