All-new Duster 1.3L has the same heart as Mercedes A-Class!

At the heart of the Duster 1.3 Turbo X-Tronic is a turbocharged engine paired to a 7-speed CVT, the same engine that also powers the Mercedes A-Class, CLA and GLA-Class entry-level models!

Now if only Renault had put some thought into the all-new Duster’s interiors and driver comfort as they did in the engine…

Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com test-drives the old beast with a new heart. 

The introduction of BS 6 norms for automobiles in India has made Renault discontinue the popular Duster 1.5 diesel variants.

But in its new BS 6 avatar, the Duster gets an all-new 1.3 litre Turbo Direct Injection petrol engine (TGDI), the same one which also powers the Mercedes A-class, the GLA and the entry level cars of the GLC class.

So how does this popular vehicle which created the compact SUV segment on its debut eight years back, fare today even while still keeping its same old looks with just one cosmetic facelift?

Let’s find out!

The Exterior

The Duster has still the same beefy, chunky characteristic it came with in 2012, and it’s hard to make out whether it’s the new one or the old from the outside. 

The exterior design is the same butch muscled look which made the Duster a very popular driver’s car in India.

Look closely and you will see red accents on the front grille, above the fog lamps and on the roof rails. This shows that it’s the new top-end variant, the 1.3L turbo petrol. 

The front gets Led DRLs and projector headlamps and high-beam halogen reflectors. The side indicators are halogens and the fog lamps too are halogen based. 

With the introduction of BS 6 norms, Renault discontinued its diesel versions and now comes with two engine options.

The older 1.5 litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine, with a 5-speed manual transmission, offering a power of 106 PS and maximum torque of 142 Nm.

And, the all-new 1.3 litre turbo petrol engine which gives out a whopping power of 156 PS and maximum torque of 254 Nm. So that’s a difference of 50 HP and 112Nm torque more!

The new 2020 RXZ version seen above comes with much needed 17-inch wheels which now makes the Duster even more invincible on bad roads.

And the RXZ gets red inserts in the centre of the diamond cut wheels as well.

The muscular rear and side profiles are the same as in the previous version, with ‘Duster’ written in red. And the tail lamps too are old-world halogens. 

Flip the hood and even before it opens up you will instantly sport a smile on your face, as a hydraulic strut takes the effort off your arm and pushes the hood all the way up. 

And behold the heart of this vehicle. A 1.3 litre turbocharged engine paired to a 7-speed CVT. The same engine that also powers the Mercedes A-Class, CLA and GLA-Class entry-level models also powers the Duster in its most powerful avatar.

The Interior

The interior is where the Duster fails miserably. 

In this day and age where the ergonomics of driving is coupled with comforts being within reach of the driver, we find that even keeping a cell phone on the non-existent centre console is a problem.

And if you are someone who sits at ease on the driver’s seat, let’s say it’s not all that comfortable for a long-distance drive. Your left leg just might keep engaging the manual mode of the CVT(see picture above). 

Materials used in the interiors are mostly hard plastic with some fabric in the centre of the door panels. Compare this to the Triber’s, and the latter seems ages ahead.

The front doors get bottle holders, But strangely there are no bottle holders or magazine storage for the rear passengers!

The ORVM and window controls are on the driver’s side and flimsy to touch. 

The media controls are on a stalk behind the steering wheel — you could mistake it for the indicator and even manage to break it! Getting used to this positioning will take a bit of effort.

The cruise control buttons, which should normally be within reach of the driver on the steering wheel in one area, are placed in three different extremely weird slots. Confusing!

One, on the centre console you have a switch which you can use to chose between Cruise Control or Limiter.

Two, in the steering wheel on the right side are the Resume / Set buttons.

Three, on the left side is the Speed increaser and decreaser.

The Multi Information Display does give you a range of features like trip meter, speed average and fuel efficiency, outside temperature, total fuel consumed, etc.

And coming to the touch screen on the centre console, the placement itself is not very accessible to the driver on the go. You will end up ignoring the happenings in front of the windscreen.

The USB and the aux inputs are placed very weirdly on the top right of the screen, which will surely act as a hindrance to the driver when in use. So the infotainment panel is basically more for the use of the passengers and not the driver  — which is strange considering that this is a driver’s car.

You do get automatic climate controls, and a 12V charging socket and an automatic start-stop button which helps save fuel in traffic by switching off the engine and it comes alive as soon as you press the brake or the accelerator.

You do get two small cup holders, which are not practical, and this space could have been utilised better for cell phone storage.

And only the driver gets an armrest, not the front passenger. 

While the rear seat is for three people, a comfortable combination would be two adults and a child as the floor centre has a hump and there isn’t enough shoulder room for three adults.

There is a 12V charger for the rear passengers next to the parcel shelf.   

The Drive

Now, this is where the Renault Duster shines!

Although the driver side lacks ergonomics the visibility of the road ahead is pretty good.

We did think that the CVT would lack power, giving more marks to the manual transmission in terms of drivability, but surprisingly the CVT rarely lacks in power.

The Duster 1.3 Turbo X-Tronic, as they call the CVT variant, does what it’s supposed to do and more in terms of the power you feel while driving.

Excellent ride quality and handling, which have always been the forte of the Duster, is now even better with the bigger wheels which make you forget the potholes as you glide over them.

Go flat out over the speed breakers, and the suspension takes care of it.   

Watch the video to see how the New Duster Turbo Petrol handles.

On-road in Mumbai, the Renault Duster 2020 is available in eight variants of which three are the older 1.5 litre versions.

Now if only Renault had got the AMT back into the Turbo Petrol avatar… That would make this compact SUV irresistible!

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