Renault Duster Turbo 2020 Review
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Should you spend the extra money on the Turbo variant? Or is the 1.5-litre petrol engine more than enough to meet your everyday needs?
The Duster has achieved a lot in its lifespan. It was the car that started the compact SUV revolution in India and became an unprecedented success in the market. But over time newer rivals have taken away its thunder and the fact that Renault hasn’t come out with the new generation car hasn’t helped its cause either. Save for a minor midlife facelift not much has changed in the eight years of its existence. As a matter of fact, the biggest update the Duster has got was just this year, in form of the powerful turbo petrol engine replacing the fuel efficient 1.5 DCi diesel.
In the BS6 avatar, the Duster is available with two petrol engine options - a 1.5 litre petrol and the new 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine which produces 50 more horses. But the biggest hurdle for this new engine is the price. It costs a whopping two lakh rupees more than the 1.5-litre petrol version. So do the turbo variants have something special worth spending your hard earned money on? Or should you just stick with the 1.5 version of the car?
How does it drive?
The Duster Turbo is powered by a 1330cc four cylinder turbocharged engine that makes a healthy 156PS of power and 254Nm of torque, a huge jump over the 1.5-litre motor (106PS/142Nm). In fact, it is more powerful than even the turbo petrol engines in the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos.
The first thing that you notice as soon as you start driving the Duster Turbo is just how refined this motor is. You barely hear it at idle and save for some vibrations through the steering and pedals, it is a soothing place to be in. Being turbocharged you do get some throttle lag below 1600rpm but even here this engine doesn’t feel dead and has enough grunt to pull forward without much hesitation. However this motor does tend to stall easily if you release the clutch a bit too quickly, something you have to keep in mind in stop-go traffic. Thankfully, because the Turbo version comes with a start-stop system this issue is somewhat negated. If you end up stalling the car with the system activated, the engine comes back to life as soon as you press the clutch again. Thanks to the slick gearshift and a light clutch the Duster Turbo is quite easy to drive in traffic. And what helps your cause further is the great outward visibility. Even overtaking fast moving traffic is fun thanks to this engine's punch.
Where in the city this engine performs quite well, out on the highway it has the capability of putting a wide smile on your face. Above 2000rpm the engine response is phenomenal and the Duster feels properly quick and exciting. Even visits to the redline are satisfying thanks to the free revving nature of this engine. Long distance traveling is relaxing too, with the tall 6th gear where at 100kmph the engine is spinning at a comfortable 2000rpm. Overtaking too is just a dab of the throttle away because of this engine's punch.
We tested the Duster Turbo and as expected the figures are really impressive. The 0-100kmph sprint just takes 10.2 seconds and even the in-gear acceleration test numbers are quick. Compared to the Seltos turbo petrol manual, the Duster is slightly slower to 100kmph which was expected considering the Renault here is a lot heavier. But out on the road you will hardly notice any performance difference between the two.
Now that we have spoken about the only significant change in the Duster that is the engine, we will sum up the rest of the car in simple pros and cons format.
High driving position: Thanks to a high driving position you get a commanding view up front and the Duster feels like a proper SUV from behind the wheel. The large glass area and the low window line ensures great visibility, which makes driving it in the city an easy affair.
Quiet cabin: Apart from the refined engine even the cabin sound insulation is really good. There is little road or tyre noise and except for some wind noise seeping through the A-pillar at high speeds the Duster’s cabin is a soothing place to spend time in.
Comfortable for five people: Thanks to the wide body and flat rear bench three people can sit in good comfort in the rear seat. There is a good amount of head and knee room and it also feels airy at the back thanks to the large glass area. This makes the Duster a genuine 5-seater.
Big boot: The boot at 475-litres is huge. To put things into perspective the Duster’s boot is much larger than the 433-litre capacity of the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos. The square-shaped bay helps you pack luggage with ease and the low loading lip makes loading heavy items easy.
Comfortable ride quality: The Renault Duster always had a fabulous ride quality and the Turbo version is no different. The Duster absolutely glides over the worst of our road surfaces and the suspension works silently too. You also have loads of wheel travel which results in the car taking even deep, hard-edged potholes with ease without ever bottoming out.
Dated cabin: The Duster has really started to show its age when you step inside the cabin. The dash design is flat and looks ordinary. Even in terms of quality, it feels lacking. Wherever you touch or feel, the plastics are hard and shiny and you will find a lot of panel gaps around the glove box area. Even the infotainment screen seems generations older than the modern units you will find on cars from Hyundai and Kia.
Poor ergonomics: The cabin not only looks old, even the ergonomics feel dated. The infotainment screen is placed low down on the dash, which makes operating it on the move a bit dangerous. You get cruise control buttons on the steering but the activation button for the system is placed on the dashboard. Then there is the weird seat height adjuster which lets you lower the seat easily -- but to put it back up you have to step out of the car.
Practicality: Apart from the twin glove boxes the rest of the storage inside the Duster is mediocre. There isn’t much storage around the gear lever apart from small cup holders and even the front door pockets are tiny. At the rear it's even worse as you don't get door pockets altogether.
Lack of Features: Apart from the normal features like automatic climate control, cruise control, touchscreen infotainment system there is not much on offer in the Duster. You don’t get stuff like automatic headlamps and wipers, leather upholstery, auto dimming rear view mirror and connected car tech. Even when it comes to safety you only get two airbags as compared to six offered by its rivals.
No diesel: With the Duster Turbo you will feel the lack of a diesel engine option mainly because of the fuel efficiency. The turbo version returned 12.02kmpl in the city and 15.51kmpl out on the highway, which is way down on the diesel version of the car. On the brighter side, compared to the Seltos turbo petrol the efficiency numbers are comparable. But unlike the Duster, Kia does offer a diesel engine option with its car.
Overall, the Duster has started to feel old when it comes to interior design and fit and finish, and it also lacks the wow features. But even now the Duster does feel appealing thanks to its rugged styling and phenomenal ride quality. If you want to buy the Duster for daily office commutes and occasional highway driving then we would suggest going for the 1.5-litre engine variants of the car as it has enough power and is a much better proposition.
If you love driving then you should definitely consider buying the turbo version. The powerful and refined petrol motor makes the Duster fast and exciting to drive and it also adds a layer of sophistication in an otherwise simple SUV. If you want convenience then it comes with a CVT transmission option.