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The Renault Duster gets a minor facelift to keep it fresh, with a few cosmetic tweaks
The Renault Duster is one of the more affordable midsize-SUVs on offer in our market. But its been largely unchanged since its launch back in 2012. While international markets get the second generation Duster, we receive a facelift for 2019 which gets a few tweaks to the exterior as well as small changes to the equipment and trims on the inside to keep it fresh! But is it enough to keep the Duster ship sailing?
The facelifted Duster gets the same overall shape on the outside as the older car, however on closer inspection the new details do become noticeable. The front end now gets projector headlights with LED DRL elements in them. There is a new grille that makes it look blingier than before too. The bumper gets an update with a larger fog-lamp housing and silver faux scuff plates at the bottom. There is a redesigned hood with some bulges around the sides to make it look more muscular. The side profile is largely the same, apart from the new 16-inch diamond cut alloys. The rear of the car gets a dose of plastic cladding flanking the tail-lights and the tailgate handle is in black plastic too.
The car may look the same to the untrained eye, but the Duster’s design has aged surprisingly well it looks butch and purposeful with the new elements on the front giving it a fresh appearance. The projector headlamp units are a welcome change but the plastic cladding on the back seems a bit excessive.
The new Duster gets a host of small changes in the interior that add up and make the cabin feel refreshed. A good steering wheel adds to the driving experience like very few changes can and the new Duster gets a great one in fact. It's the right size, feels good to the touch and is well weighted, but in classic Renault fashion the cruise control buttons are placed where the media controls should be and the media and telephone controls are behind the steering wheel. It does feel a bit unintuitive to operate if you are accustomed to controls on the wheels. The cabin also gets a second cooled glove box on top of the dashboard separated from the lower one with a blue element that breaks up the monotone dash nicely. There is a new seven-inch infotainment screen with an updated interface that now supports Android Auto and Apple Carplay. However, the screen is placed far too low and is almost impossible to see while in your driving position. This brings me nicely onto the driving position which is actually great, you get a great view of the road and can adjust the seat nice and high up to get a commanding position over other cars on the road.The Duster’s interior is a nice place to be but not a new one, it is barely a departure from before but it does get some much needed features to keep it relevant in 2019. The changes on the interior are similar to the exterior then — few, but much needed.
We drove the top-spec RXZ diesel variant of the Duster, in two-wheel-drive guise, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine is familiar, a 1461cc motor that makes 108bhp and a healthy 245Nm of torque coming in at a super low 1750rpm. This engine is also available with a lower output making 84bhp mated to a five-speed manual.
The Duster facelift is mechanically identical to the earlier car and that is not necessarily a bad thing. At low speeds the car is effortless to drive with minimal input required in stop-go traffic and the engine is perfectly happy to trod along just above idle. Once you get going though, the engine has a meaty mid-range and pulls along nicely, there is some turbo lag as is to be expected in diesels but once the turbo kicks in the car properly goes, it really has a little sting to it. This engine does have some audible diesel clatter to it though. Something that has always been a highlight of the Duster is its ride and handling. The ride quality was sublime, it absorbed the bumps on the road really well and felt sure footed over some small rocks we drove on during our shoot. I didn’t get a chance to put the car through its paces but I felt that the steering was great, had loads of feedback making it good fun to drive. It retain the hydraulic power assisted steering and that means it isn't dull and lifeless. The chassis or the tyres didn’t complain on corners either and felt very planted, inspiring confidence. In terms of driving dynamics the Duster can almost do it all, it is super comfortable and maneuverable when you need it to be and can also be a highway mile muncher at triple digit speeds while being sure footed on the road.
The Duster facelift starts at Rs 7.99 lakh and goes up to Rs 12.50 lakh for the top-spec RXZ AMT variant. The four-wheel-drive variant is now only available in the RXS(O) trim which misses out on some kit compared to the top end like a height adjustable driver seat and automatic climate control. This particular variant on test, the RXZ diesel manual, is priced at Rs 12.10 lakh. (all prices are ex-showroom)
The Duster bridges the gap between the sub-four meter SUVs and the flourishing mid-size SUVs. Sort of carving a niche for itself in the segment by offering a rugged SUV that's large and if you get the all-wheel-drive variant you can go properly off-road.
Overall, the new Duster carries on from where the old one left off. As a driving package, not much has changed and that's a good thing — it drives great and has supreme ride comfort. There is nothing radically different about its looks either but it is definitely handsome, and has a well put together interior with some much needed features.