The hot selling compact SUV from French Automaker Renault is the Duster. The Duster changed complete fortune for Renault in Indian car market. Soon after launch it became the highest selling SUV in the segment. Why not? It had all that practicalities and it was just perfect for a family car buyer who thought a full size SUV is really big and a sedan was not of his taste. Optimistically designed Duster had 3 engine variants right from the go. The diesel mill was offered in 85bhp and 110bhp tune and the petrol engine was there just to make the price is really low. The Duster not only made its mark in the Indian market but also it was one of the top selling SUV, till the launch of Ford EcoSport. With the launch of EcoSport, Duster got hit in the sales figures for few months but again due to long waiting periods of EcoSport, Duster became choice of the customers in the compact SUV market.
With the good numbers of Duster, Renault decided to bring facelift of the SUV and a few months back we witnessed the launch of Duster facelift. Taking Duster success to another level, Renault India introduced Duster AWD variant. AWD stands for All Wheel Drive, Yes, Duster AWD comes with 4 wheel drive layout and lots of goodies with a big price tag of Rs. 16.3 lakh (on road Bangalore). Team AutoColumn was eager to drive all new Duster AWD and here it goes our comprehensive review on it. Read on!
On the exterior, the Renault Duster AWD gets smoked headlamps, new bumper inserts at front that looks like faux skid plates. Apart from these two changes there is nothing really new in Duster AWD. Moving towards, side profile, AWD Duster gets a big decal just above side skirts that screams AWD and a new set of anthracite alloy wheels. At rear end Duster gets AWD badge and a new bumper insert that looks like skid plate. The Duster was never a compact SUV as it measures 4.3 meters. The length and width of the Duster has always made Duster in a class that is not a full size SUV and not even a compact SUV and this is the main reason people loved Duster over other compact SUVs.
On the inside Duster AWD gets new seat fabric and a soft touch dashboard in black and grey combination. The driving position is not too high and not too low but perfect to get a complete view of bonnet that gives SUV confidence when you are commandeer. The colour combination makes interiors look a bit dull, but you only feel it that its soft touch dashboard when you actually touch it. There is new leather wrapped steering wheel with cruise control buttons. There is a new instrument cluster and we moved toward center console, there are lots more new goodies consolidated in the center console. The new touchscreen infotainment system consists of satnav, bluetooth telephony and a music player. But the biggest change on Renault Duster AWD is the all wheel drive toggle switch, where a driver can switch from 4 wheel drive to 2 wheel drive in just a flick of a switch on the go. There is a ECO switch which is placed near AWD toggle switch that changes car power and torque delivery to the best possible fuel economy conditions.
On the rear side, the seats are flat bench like, but includes armrest in it and there is sufficient under thigh support and plenty headroom available. The interior of duster is quite airy, so there is ample amount of light coming in from large windows which makes it feel big from inside. Rear seat gets a well balanced legroom and even a 6 feet tall person can sit comfortably for long drives. There are small nits and bits are available in the interior which are really innovative like charging socket at the rear parcel shelf and bottle holder at the end of center console.
The Duster AWD may not be well differentiated from regular Duster by looks, but mechanically there is a lot more improvement under the body. The engine is same 1.5 liter k9k that churns 110bhp but the gearbox here is different as it does plenty of things on the go. The Duster AWD is the first vehicle in its segment to have cruise control with manual gearbox, on the fly driving mode options. Front suspensions are regular McPherson struts and rear gets a huge improvement with all independent suspension and not a twist beam type suspension. There is a small compromise due to new independent suspension system at rear is on the boot space. The boot space is now reduced to 410 liters from 475 liters. The overall ground clearance is not 210mm which is best for some Mars inspired roads in India. This offers Duster AWD a fantastic ride quality in all conditions. The 1.5 liter k9k engine is mated to 6 speed manual gearbox, the gear ratios are so well matched that even at a speed of 15 in 3rd gear you can easily move without engine lug. The first two gear ratios are short but the third gear torque range is well extended to ensure less gear changes in city traffic. This is the main reason for the fuel economy figure of 19.81kmpl (ARAI certified) even with AWD layout. The monocoque frame and the suspensions give confidence to the driver to flick the SUV like a car inside city as well as highways.
On the safety side, the Duster AWD gets traction control, anti-skid regulation and electronic stability program in addition to airbags, ABS+EBD. So next time when you plan to go offroad in Duster AWD you really dont need to worry about traction or even the stability of the vehicle at high speeds during those urgent maneuvers, because everything is working on back end actively to ensure that the car is planted on the road and aligned to driver commands.
On Rs. 15.05 lakhs on road, Pune Duster AWD doesn’t come cheap, but is there is any SUV in the market which offers the same features? The Safari Storme is priced at Rs. 15.4 lakhs and Mahindra Scorpio is priced at Rs. 14.56 lakhs (both on road, Pune). The Duster AWD looses in the third row when compared with Scorpio and Safari Storme, but the features offered by Duster are way ahead than other two. Duster is practical, compact and its car like handling, fantastic gearbox, fuel economy and low to the ground makes more sense for everyday commute. It weighs only 1300 kg and that makes it more nimble than other two and more refined than other two.