Renault Duster vs Mahindra Scorpio vs Tata Safari
Renault Duster AWD vs Mahindra Scorpio vs Tata Safari – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Shootout: Renault Duster vs Mahindra Scorpio vs Tata Safari Storme

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 13.20-15.77 lakhs (Renault Duster 110 PS), Rs. 12.46-15.36 (Mahindra Scorpio), Rs. 12.18-16.39 lakhs (Tata Safari Storme)

All these three vehicle have macho SUV appeal but are very different to each other

It’s no mystery that the SUV segment is booming in India and although this trend maybe recent, India’s very own manufacturers have been offering their own SUVs since a very long time. While the Tata Safari has huge fan following, the Mahindra Scorpio has proven its popularity by selling in very good numbers. Robbing away sheen from the desi SUVs is the Renault Duster, a compact SUV which has been doing extremely well for the French automaker. In fact, the Duster has done so well that it displaced the Scorpio from the top selling SUV spot last year. But does the updated Scorpio sting so bad that it leaves the Safari and Duster running for cover. We put these SUVs in a head to head comparison.

Motor Quest: The Tata Safari is a cult in India and also the oldest vehicle in terms of brand age. Launched in 1998, the Storme made its debut in 2012, the same year Renault launched the Duster in India. This year has seen Renault offer an AWD version of the Duster while Mahindra has updated the Scorpio, a car which was born in 2002.

The Tata Safari Storme stands out the most with its macho and iconic SUV body style

Exteriors – Mahindra has given the Scorpio its biggest cosmetic refresh till date and that does boost its appeal to quite an extent. Still, some elements appear overdone and the rear appears tacky in certain colours. In comparison, the other two cars appear less flamboyant but that is actually a good thing. The Duster has very little design elements which stand out, Dacia designers have kept it extremely simple and things like the wide grille, massively flared wheel arches and wide track do give it presence. The Duster is still small compared to the other two cars and doesn’t have the same level of street cred.

The Duster is the smallest here while the Scorpio has some controversial design elements

Talking about street presence, nothing intimidates as much as a Tata Safari. Elegant yet masculine, the Safari is a car which instantly makes people notice it. With its generous dimensions and typical SUV design, the Storme is a looker and the vehicle which we feel looks the best, more so in the company of the Scorpio and Duster. The lines flow smoothly and nothing appears out of place on the exterior, a tail gate mounted spare wheel would have been nice though. No doubt then, the Safari is the best looking SUV here.

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The Mahindra Scorpio’s dashboard is the most appealing in looks but quality on the Renault Duster is the best here

Interiors – While the Safari has the most appeal on the outside, it lacks the same when you step inside. The dashboard design feels old and not to current standards but then the Duster isn’t any different as its dashboard also doesn’t look striking. This is where the Scorpio impresses the most, the updated model gets a vastly more appealing interior and the dashboard feels eons better than the Safari and Duster in terms of design. Neither cars have quality which you can term impeccable but the Duster feels the best put-together of the three, the other two not being much behind but quality is better in the Safari than the Scorpio, we couldn’t find any exposed wires in the Tata but there are abundant such misgives in the Mahindra.

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The Tata Safari has the most interior room and the biggest boot too, all cars fare well when it comes to space

The amount of equipment in the Scoprio makes its rivals feel either under-equipped or overpriced

The Safari fares badly when it comes to equipment list too. It’s the least loaded car here and doesn’t even get Bluetooth audio streaming. Its audio system and instrument cluster appears very basic in front of the savvy touch screen and multi-information display units offered by Mahindra and Renault. The Duster does have more equipment than the Storme but the Renault can’t hold a candle in terms of features in front of the loaded Scorpio. Right from cruise control to LED lights, there is simply too much on offer in the Mahindra. Other features on the Scorpio which are not available on the other two cars are automatic headlights, static bending lights, automatic wipers, voice assist system, climate control, stop-start system, navigation, etc.

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The Safari and Scorpio give you the added flexibility of last row seats although they are best used by children

The Safari and Scorpio are bigger SUVs and can seat seven, the Duster being a 5-seater has an inherent disadvantage in the space department. However there is more than just seating configurations which matter here. The Safari only comes with side facing seats so the last row is best for short distances or kids, the Scorpio too gets this arrangement but you can opt for front facing seats, again the last row isn’t the best for adults. So as a 5-seater too which car impresses the most? It’s the Safari, it has the most space and the seats are the best in the Tata car. The Scorpio and Duster too have decent interior room but the Safari is hands down the most comfortable car of the three, it’s the widest with big windows and almost perfect seating position making it the most airy vehicle here while the Duster has almost car like driving position and the Scorpio has far from perfect ergonomics. The Safari also has the biggest boot while the Scorpio beats the Duster with its larger trunk.

All cars use 4-cylinder engines and in AWD avatars, all are available with diesel power

Performance – The Renault Duster is the only car here which comes with multiple engine options (including a petrol engine) but since we are putting the French car against the more powerful SUVs, we will only compare the 110 PS model which is the only engine offered on the AWD version. The Duster is the least powerful car here with the smallest engine, the 1.5-litre k9k diesel outputs 110 PS at 4000 RPM and 245 Nm at 1750 RPM. While the other two desi SUVs use a 5-speed gearbox, the Duster uses a 6-speed unit. Both the Safari and Scorpio use the same AVL sourced 2.2-litre motor, the Tata vehicle having higher output. The Storme produces 140 PS at 4000 RPM and 320 Nm between 1700-2700 RPM. Meanwhile, the Scorpio outputs 120 PS at 4000 RPM and 280 Nm between 1800-2800 RPM.

The Scorpio feels the most peppy to drive with a punchy powertrain helping it move fast

In spite of what the output figures suggest, there is a vast different in the performance of all these cars. The Duster might be the least powerful car here but being the only one with a monocoque construction and default front-wheel drive results in it being the quickest, we recorded a 0-100 km/hr time of just 12.54 seconds on the AWD Duster. Our test Safari was a 4×4 while the Scorpio was a 4×2, so the weight advantage gave the Mahindra the edge in 0-100 km/hr timing although we are sure that with the lower output, the heavier 4×4 Scorpio will lose out to the Safari when it comes to outright acceleration. The Duster being the fastest also has the highest top speed while the Safari runs it close although it takes much longer to achieve its top whack. The Scorpio has the least top speed of the three but in spite of that, it feels the most lively car here.

The Renault Duster is the fastest car here thanks to its light weight

Power to weight is the name of the game and the Duster sweeps the performance award here

Mahindra has done a stellar job with the tuning of the mHawk powerplant, this motor is eager right from the word go and turbolag is very well contained. Renault too has made changes to the Duster for the AWD model and the lag has reduced with the clutch being quite light too but the Mahindra has the lightest clutch while the Safari has the heaviest, the Storme simply not feeling even close to as peppy to drive as the other two cars. The Duster’s powerband is quite narrow as the engine revs quickly and one has to get into fourth gear to cross the ton. The Safari’s gearbox impresses the least while the Scorpio and Duster are almost on par offering slick shifts with the occasional notchy feel. For city duties though, the Scorpio is the car of choice while the Duster AWD has the best highway performance. The mileage on the Renault is the highest (14 km/l) while the Scorpio and Safari finish quite behind, the Mahindra being more economical to run (1 km/l more than the Safari by returning 11 km/l) thanks to its lighter weight and Micro Hybrid system. The big problem with the Safari is that it’s not only the least frugal car here but also has a small fuel tank, limiting its uninterrupted cruising range.

The Renault impresses the most when it comes to dynamics, it drives just like a car

Driving Dynamics – The Safari and Scorpio can be termed as old school SUVs, both these cars use a body on frame chassis and power is channelled to the rear wheels by default. The Duster uses a monocoque frame and is a front-wheel drive car by default, thus it weighs considerably less than the ladder frame equipped vehicles. The Indian SUVs also use a hydraulic steering while the Renault makes do with an electric one. With modern underpinnings, the Duster is the best vehicle to drive here, it drives like a car and is very easy to pilot be it high speed runs on the expressway or ambling around town on the most crowded road. The Duster also has the best body control and feels the most stable of the trio.

The Scorpio has improved drastically but still can’t match the Duster in handling

The Safari has a true-blue SUV feel when you drive it, the same is lacking in both the Duster and Scorpio

Neither the Safari, nor the Scorpio can match the Duster when it comes to stability or handling. In spite of using hydraulic steerings, neither cars are as good with steering feel or feedback as the Renault. The Scorpio handles better than the Safari, it drives almost car like and the updated chassis has improved its dynamics by leaps and bounds. While the Safari isn’t as good as the Duster, as it feels heavy, the Storme has a character of its own and it’s the only car here in which one feels like they are driving a proper genuine SUV. However, the heavy weight of the Safari gives it the most roll around corners and this car really needs to shed some weight.

The Safari Storme has the best off-road ability, it also has the best ride quality

The Duster sweeps away the best braking honours too while the Safari (only car to be equipped with all-wheel discs here) manages to outperform the Scorpio in the stopping department. Where the Tata car excels is ride quality. All cars ride quite well but the Safari is simply unmatched in the way it glides over the worst of roads with supreme composure. With AWD on all these cars, it’s the Safari which manages to fare the best off-road too. The Storme not only has a low ratio transfer case but also comes with a limited slip differential, helping it conquer any given obstacle at any given time. Overall though, the Duster impresses the most in this department.

Neither of these SUVs are equipped with a plethora of safety features

Safety and After Sales Service – In spite of all these cars costing more than a million rupees to procure, neither comes with side airbags. The Scorpio and Safari aren’t sold in major global markets so haven’t even got the Euro NCAP crash test treatment while the Duster scored a poor 3-stars. All these cars come with dual front airbags and ABS as standard on the top-end model. When it comes to service, Tata Motors is the least impressive followed by Mahindra which fares slightly better. Mostly positive things have been said about Renault’s service in our country.

The Scorpio manages to beat its key rivals with ease, it’s the best package here

Verdict – Three brilliant SUVs and all of them have quite a few shortcomings but which one is the winner? If you want to buy an SUV just to massage your ego while wanting to keep things simple, the Duster is the one to get. It’s easy to drive and requires no additional effort to drive or park over a regular sedan. However, the Duster feels overpriced for what it offers, just like the Safari which is the most expensive vehicle here. Where the Tata impresses the most is giving you the real SUV feel and when you drive one, you are bound to get addicted to it. The lack of equipment and the slightly dated dashboard do rob away crucial points away from the Storme. The vehicle which is the most bang for your buck, the one which treads right between the car like Duster and 100% SUV Safari is without doubt the one which triumphs in this shootout. In its new avatar, the Scorpio has improved so drastically that it wasn’t difficult for it to become the winner in this test.

What ever way you put it, the fact that the Mahindra Scorpio offers the best bang for the buck makes it evident that in this shootout, the winner makes it amply clear that “Nothing Else Will Do”.

Further Reading –

2015 Mahindra Scorpio Review
Renault Duster AWD Review
Tata Safari Storme Review
Renault Duster vs Maruti S-Cross vs Ford EcoSport
Renault Duster vs Hyundai Creta vs Mahindra XUV500
Renault Duster vs Tata Safari Storme vs Skoda Yeti vs Mahindra XUV500
Mahindra Scorpio vs Renault Duster vs Mahindra XUV500 vs Tata Safari
Renault Duster vs Mahindra XUV500 vs Hyundai Creta – Video

Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta