The Duster was the first success story for Renault in the Indian market. In fact, it would be fair to say that it was the Duster that established the French manufacturer as a brand to be reckoned with in India. When it went on sale, the SUV segment was still in a nascent stage – and the arrival of the Duster really sparked a boom in its segment. However, the increasing demands of the customer means that, unlike in its heyday, the Duster now faces intense competition from newer products. On the whole, the Duster is still a great product – and, in its AWD form, it offers off-road ability that none of its rivals do. Ultimately, it feels like a simple, back-to-basics product – which doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t
However, with the newer products focusing on luxury and creature comforts, the Duster doesn’t seem quite as attractive anymore. This makes me think that the time is ripe for the manufacturer to bring out an updated, face-lifted version that needs to focus on three core areas – interior material quality, standard equipment count, and NVH. These are the basic areas where the Duster needs attention today, as the game has clearly moved on compared to when it was launched a few years ago. If done well, these changes could easily be enough to entice customers back to what is still the most rugged SUV in its segment.
As for the car I’m driving, it is chugging along effortlessly. And after my rant about the missing windscreen washer nozzles, the folks at Renault were kind enough to have the car brought in for a look – and have the nozzles fitted, which helps me in keeping the windscreen clean. The rest of the car behaves impeccably, as always. I might sound like a broken record, but the ride and handling of the Duster are still the best in its segment – and this makes long journeys a real pleasure. Now, if only Renault could sort out the last major bugbear of the Duster – the steering kickback – then I’d have almost nothing to complain about!