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RENAULT DUSTER: KICKING UP THE DUST

The Renault Duster has been one of the most anticipated products to enter Nepal. The agonizing wait worsened as our neighbors down south enjoyed it while we kept our fingers crossed and hoped it would one come into our market. The Renault Duster seemed like the compact SUV we always wanted, one that didn’t look like a compact SUV and leaned more towards the real deal. In fact, it pioneered the segment altogether.

We were finally put out of our misery when the Renault brand name finally entered Nepal under their distributors Advance Automobiles Pvt. Ltd. and brought along with it the KWID and Duster. Now the KWID was fun and we had a blast, but it was the Duster we were most excited about.

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By the looks of it, the consumers were pretty amped too. By our observation, it was one of the most sought after entries at this year’s NADA Auto Show which had people flocking to their stall. But we won’t dilly dally for too long. We were excited to get our hands on the Duster and we’re pretty sure you want to know how it fared on our test drive. We had the keys to the 1.5L diesel engine, so let’s dive right into it.

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EXTERIOR

The Renault Duster shuns the image of the puny compact SUV and commands a burly SUV stance.With its flared wheel arches, short front and rear overhangs and impressive 205mm ground clearance the Duster successfully looks bigger than it actually is. There is very little messing about with the styling and that is just how we like our SUV like compact SUVs to look like.

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Stare it down and you’re confronted with the squarish double-barrel headlights and a heavy chrome-rich grille. DRLs would have been a nice addition though. To boast of its offroad capabilities the Renault Duster has the scuff plate and plastic cladding on the lower portion of the bumper where the fog lamps round out the entire image. The bonnet gets subtle contours which run onto the edges of the windscreen.

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Its monocoque construction also allows it to sit lower than conventional body-on-ladder SUVs and that is prominent when you look at it from the sides. The Duster runs on simple but beautiful black alloy wheels with a red Renault badge in the center.

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The rear upholds the ruggedness and refrains from adding too many frills to the design. The vertically inclined tail-lamps get a very distinctive S-shaped LED signature which does give the brake lights a unique look. A block of chrome brandishes the Duster name on the rear.

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(Scroll below for more exterior highlights)

INTERIOR AND FEATURES

Inside, the Renault Duster has refrained from integrating over the top niceties and have kept things simple. The dark dash is spruced with generous dabs of chrome on the air con vents and steering wheel. Ingress and egress is easy and there is plenty of room to fit in three large adults in the rear seat. The driving position is well suited for a comfortable drive and you even get an armrest.

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The Duster name is embossed onto the glovebox. The center console gets central air con vents under which a touchscreen display is placed. You also get controls for the AC along with automatic climate control. The Duster gets a MediaNAV touchscreen infotainment system that is also mated to a rearview camera.

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The touch feels satisfactorily responsive but the screen itself isn’t that crisp and under bright sunlight, it gets a bit difficult to read.With no third row of seats to eat into boot space as with seven-seat SUVs, the Renault Duster has plenty of space for your luggage.

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(Scroll below for more interior highlights)

PERFORMANCE

With a lot of options to choose from, we got our hands on the Duster that came with Renault’s popular 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine with manual transmission and AWD option.

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Although it doesn’t have the biggest of engines the 108 BHP that it churns out is plenty to put a smile on your face. The motor lugs along with ease and it pulls well on steep inclines even with a packed cabin. To get the most out of this engine, you need to stay within the 2000-4000 RPM band.

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We pushed the Duster to the limits and it did not flinch once. The 210mm ground clearance inspires confidence on rougher terrains which is great and further helps it maintain a strong position amongst compact SUVs. The suspension makes easy work of road undulations in a calm manner and you won’t be deterred by minor craters on the road.

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Thanks to its wide stance and low center of gravity it boasts immense stability providing great body control that contains the body roll well. Steering is responsive and is easy at lower speeds. It isn’t the most agile of beasts but it does a good job nonetheless. A tight turning circle further aids the Duster’s ease of use.

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While it may lack four-wheel-drive hardware, even this front-wheel-drive Duster is quite adept off-road. The short gearing and the 30-degree approach and 35-degree departure angles allow the small SUV to clamber uphill with ease. The AWD version gets independent rear suspension that is a touch more supple and sure-footed but, as mentioned, it doesn’t come with an AMT option, which is only reserved for the front-wheel-drive version.

VERDICT

The lingering wait was distressing but it is finally over and the Renault Duster managed to kick up the ante. There is a considerable manliness to the Duster that doesn’t come from the frills and fancies but because of its rugged simplicity. It is definitely a looker and it performs well.

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We had a lot of fun ripping it across different terrains. We gave it hell and it took it with a smile. It is a great proposition for those who love driving and can do with fewer bells and whistles. Just make sure that you don’t bore it in your garage and around the cities.

For specifications, pricing and variants, click here

EXTERIOR & INTERIOR HIGHLIGHTS

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