Not many people realise this, but it was the Renault Duster that set the ball rolling for the mid-size SUV segment in India back in 2012. Today, the segment is thriving, but the Duster isn’t the one leading the charge anymore. Not by a long shot! And the reason is simple – the times changed but the Duster didn’t, at least not significantly. In other words, Renault didn’t bother to update the car and thus failed to keep up with the changing times. The Duster on sale today has the same underpinnings as the one that was launched 8 years ago.
The question, however, is – does that make it a bad product? If you think about it, well, not really. You’ll find that people swear by the Duster, even today, which is perhaps why the French automaker is still rolling them out from its production line in Chennai. To Renault’s credit, they have given the Duster some minor but timely updates – the latest being, perhaps, the most significant one in recent memory, for the Duster has been blessed with a madly powerful 1.3-litre turbo engine.
The engine is the same as the one in the Nissan Kicks Turbo – in fact, you’ll soon find this very engine under the hood of the new Mercedes A-Class and GLA. Like the Kicks, it delivers a crisp 154bhp and 254Nm of torque. And, like the Kicks, it’s available with either a CVT or a 6-speed manual. For the purposes of our track test, we had the manual version of the Duster, and what a blast it was!
The turbo motor is simply excellent – a relentless source of torque, almost diesel-like, really! Plus, the slick-shifting manual transmission complements it better than the Kicks’ CVT. Incidentally, the Kicks shares the same basic platform too. The transmission is why the Duster trumped the Kicks on the track. The handling is still very sweet, but the traction control can’t be switched off – and so it barges in like an over-attentive nanny every time you want to have fun. Despite that, the Duster Turbo has a tendency to torque steer when you step on the gas aggressively. Plus, the infamous steering kick-back is still really disconcerting.
We’ve said it multiple times, and we’ll say this again – there’s nothing this side of the ₹25 lakh mark that offers a ride quality even similar to that of the Duster! However, as much as we loved the Duster Turbo for its engine performance and dynamic abilities, there’s no denying that it now feels glaringly crude, which hurts its overall score.