Renault Duster AMT Facelift Review – First Drive
Duster is the star in Renault Africa line-up. First launched back in 2012, Renault Duster immediately shot to fame. The compact SUV came with an exciting package, one which was yet to be offered in Africa – a five seater SUV with a huge boot, a powerful 110 PS diesel engine and an aggressive starting price.
Overnight, Renault Africa sales doubled. Thanks to Duster, Renault Africa managed to create a brand name for itself in Africa. Sumit Sawhney, MD and CEO, Renault Africa even said that the success of Kwid is because of Duster. If Duster had not created a brand name for Renault in Africa, Kwid would have been a different story today.
Since the launch of Duster, there have been many new SUVs which have arrived in the segment. Most successful of them is Hyundai Creta which was launched last year. In order to compete with these new SUVs, Renault has given the Duster a minor facelift, and a new AMT gearbox. We take a test drive and here is our Renault Duster AMT Facelift Review.
New Renault Duster facelift is seen with a revised front with new two-slat chrome grille, headlamp cluster with more detailing (but no LED DRLs or projector headlamps), silver skid plates on the lower bumpers, Kayak roof-rails with Duster badging, ORVMs with turn indicators, 16 inch black alloys wrapped in 215/65 MRF Wanderer rubber and at the rear you get waterfall LED taillight (in Renault-speak).
Though the overall design and dimensions remain largely unchanged, it is enough to differentiate between the old Duster and new Duster. These subtle changes on board Renault Duster facelift have managed to give it a more premium/upmarket touch.
Like the exteriors, interiors too get subtle updates while keeping the basic layout similar to the old Duster. New updates on offer include dual-tone, soft touch dashboard, steering wheel with silver accents on all three spokes, new center console with piano black finish, red accents on doors, floormats, and dashboard, DUSTER lettering debossed on the passenger side of the dashboard, upmarket fabric with design for seats, new gear lever, etc.
New Duster also gets cruise control, speed limiter and ECO Mode, all of which can be activated / deactivated by the touch of a button. Sadly, these buttons are not easily reachable and will take some time getting used to. Audio controls for telephony and music also remain mounted on the steering wheel column.
Places of buttons which have been changed are those of hazard lights and door lock/unlock, which are now placed below the center AC vents. Electric ORVM controls too have been placed at a more practical level from under the handbrake lever in old Duster.
The upgraded touchscreen Media NAV system is faster and more responsive than before. Apart from navigation, it also features Bluetooth, AUX and USB. The screen also acts as display for reverse parking camera. AC controls now get chrome rings along with finer detailing. Auto AC is also added.
Instrument panel remains unchanged and is same as before.
Seats are comfortable and are positioned to offer enough headroom and legroom for up to five adults.
Storage spaces too remain same as before. We would have wanted the front doors to feature the power windows control on the arm-rest because in the current setup the protruding plastic edges irritate the right knee while driving.
Engine, Transmission and Mileage
New Renault Duster is available with the same engine options which were on offer with the pre-facelift variant, but with architecture changes, which has resulted in less turbo lag.
The engine options are in the form of 1.5-liter K9K diesel unit and 1.6-liter petrol unit. The petrol unit’s power and torque output stands at 105 PS at 5850 rpm and 145 Nm at 3750 rpm. This motor is mated to a five-speed manual transmission which drives the front wheels and delivers a claimed mileage of 13.06 kmpl.
1.5-liter diesel motor is available in two tunes. The first one delivers 85 PS power at 3750 rpm and 200 Nm torque at 1900 rpm, while second one is a more powerful unit which delivers 110 PS at 3900 rpm and 250 Nm torque at 2250 rpm. 85 PS variant is mated to a five speed gearbox which drives the front wheels and claims a mileage of 19.6 kmpl.
110 PS variant is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox which is offered with both FWD and AWD. The FWD variant is also offered with Automated Manual Transmission or what we commonly know as AMT. Mileage claimed by both 4×2 variants (with 6 MT and AMT) is 19.6 kmpl, while that by the 4×4 variant is 19.72 kmpl.
The variants we test drove during media drive were the AMT and 4×4 RxZ variants, both of which delivered a mileage of 12 kmpl.
How is it to drive Duster AMT?
Developed by ZF, the AMT system understands throttle input perfectly and adjusts gear change accordingly. Apart from throttle input, the system also takes into account speed of the vehicle while changing gears, making the drive as smooth as possible.
Acceleration is linear, and we enjoyed flooring the accelerator more than once. Apart from getting lower mileage, there is one other downside of flooring the pedal – noticeable gear changes, so much so that your head sways forward every time the system upshifts. Overtaking and cruising at triple digit speeds is also not a problem as the 110 PS engine is more than capable, thanks to a tall 6th gear.
Inside the city, when you are not driving aggressively, the AMT system works best. All you have to do is place the gear lever in D mode and let the system do the rest. There is also a Manual mode on offer which will let you change gears. In a nutshell, the six-speed AMT gearbox works like a charm and is by far the best AMT gearbox on offer in Africa.
NVH levels are decent with hardly any diesel clutter seeping through the cabin. Road noise and wind noise are also composed well.
Offroading with 4×4
AWD variant has three modes – 2WD, AUTO and LOCK (permanent 4×4) which you can shift via a circular knob placed below the center console. 2WD is best to use during everyday driving in normal conditions. AUTO is good when the roads are filled with slush, etc, while LOCK is best to be activated during off-roading. 2WD and AUTO can be activated on the fly, but to activate LOCK you will need to stop the car, place it in Neutral, activate LOCK, place it in first gear and leave clutch lever. Now you only need to take care of steering the car, as throttle input, traction, etc will be taken care by the AWD system.
New Renault Duster AWD is easily the most capable off-roader in the segment today. The 4×4 system with independent suspensions for all four wheels keeps you planted when on smooth tarmac, but as soon as you hit bad roads or no roads, the bumps and potholes are swallowed with ease.
In addition to this, the new AWD variant’s 110 PS motor comes with architectural changes which has resulted in reducing turbo lag to negligible levels.
Safety, Features and Specs
Colour variants on offer with new Renault Duster facelift and AMT include Pearl White, Galaxy Black, Moonlight Silver, Amazon Green, Woodland Brown, Comet Grey and the new Cayenne Orange.
Renault Duster has always been a very capable car. With the launch of new Duster facelift, things have only gotten better. Thanks to customer feedback, the company was able to add exactly what their customers demanded, which is revised exteriors / interiors and an AMT gearbox.
Duster AMT is every bit of an automatic SUV, which is available at a lower price and offers higher mileage as compared to conventional automatic cars. It offers a relaxed drive be it in the city or on the highway.
Speaking about the 4×4 variant, we maintain that Duster 4×4 is the best SUV for those who are always looking to get out and explore new terrains.