Friday, 22 July 2011

Renault Duster : Will it be a force to reckon with ?

Bigger has always been better, and this especially holds true when it comes to SUVs in India. The Indian SUV market at the moment is pretty choc-a-bloc with entries from almost all manufacturers. The range varies from the little Premiere Rio (if one can call it an SUV) starting at about five lakh rupees, to the big daddies which include the Range Rovers and the Landcruisers that retail in crore plus rupees. But between all these, there is one market which is relatively quite nascent and that is the entry level SUV segment.

For years it has been a fight between the ubiquitous Tata Safari and the current best-seller, the Mahindra Scorpio, which are both pretty good vehicles in their own right. But not any more.

Coming to take the fight to them soon is the Dacia Duster. If the brand doesn't ring a bell yet, it's the same company that also makes the Dacia Logan, aka the Renault Logan, aka the Mahindra Verito.

The Duster is all set to be the third offering from Renault, after the Logan and the recently launched Fluence.

Powering the Duster is the same 1.5-litre diesel mill that powered the Logan, that also powers the Fluence, albeit in a more powerful state of tune.

The Duster is expected to push out about 108PS and close to 240Nm of torque. Now that is not much considering its rivals have a considerable horsepower advantage.

But the ace up the Duster's sleeve is its kerb weight. At close to 1205kg, its bulk is closer to a sedan rather than a SUV and as a result, expect the Duster to pretty much match the competition as far as performance is concerned.

The Duster then looks to be an extremely capable vehicle and promises to usher in a dose of freshness into this otherwise pretty staid segment.

What remains to be seen is how Renault prices the Duster. Anything in the range of Rs 7-8 lakh will ensure that this Renault dusts off the competition. Keep watching this space for more.

A first look at the vehicle tells you Renault has definitely got the styling right. The proportions are just right and with a length of 4.31 metres and width of 1.82 metres, the Duster feels neither too cumbersome around town, while at the same time it is big enough to make its presence felt.

The Duster is unmistakably 4x4 from the front, thanks to the imposing lines of the chrome grille and the sump guard. Seen from the side, the high ground clearance, clearly defined wheelarches and protective mouldings are all factors that encourage the driver to tackle even the toughest roads and tracks.
Although built on the Logan platform, ground clearance has been increased to a purposeful 210mm and wheelbase has been stretched too by 43mm, while it is also longer overall (25mm).

On the inside, one is greeted by the typical high seating position typical of all SUVs. Sit for a while longer and one can see the similarities between the Duster and its sedan sibling.

As expected, a lot of things have been carried over from the Logan/Verito and that makes it a good thing and bad as well. Sharing parts saves costs but quality could have been better.

The Duster however scores well with its spacious interiors. The driver's seat offers support in all the right areas.

The backseat is also very good, if not better than the Logan. Excellent kneeroom just makes it all the more comfortable to be in, even for the long haul.


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