RENAULT DUSTER RXZ 110
Okay, I have to confess that I’ve run out of things to say about the Duster, but I am helpless – when The Great Nagrani says you have to write about something, you write about precisely that something. I may as well begin by saying that Renault has made noises about wanting the Duster back; needless to say, we are going to make counter noises about holding on to it.
The Duster has, of course, swept every major automotive award in the country recently, and there are several very good reasons for this windfall. It looks… interesting, to begin with – ‘good looking’ may be a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. It has a definite presence on the road, and its compact dimensions make it stand out from other, bulkier SUVs. It scores well on the practicality front, with impressive room in the cabin and plenty of storage space in the hatch as well – airport runs and road trips are easily accomplished with the Duster.
You can’t seat seven people, of course, but that’s not a bad thing, because the optional dealer-fitted jump seats aren’t very comfortable, nor do they have seat belts fitted. The engine is very fuel efficient (its strongest point), but suffers from considerable lag (its weakest attribute), which can make quick getaways a frustrating experience. This car is happiest when it gets to stretch its legs in an uninterrupted manner, and highway performance is very pleasing indeed. Crawling about in city traffic can be a literal pain, because the stiff clutch pedal gives your left leg a proper workout. Ride quality is excellent all-round, however, and the Duster acquits itself well off-road, even though it lacks 4WD. Best of all, its handling characteristics are car-like, so you can throw it around bends enthusiastically and it’ll play along. In general, the ergonomics are acceptable, but the famous French design quirks are very much in evidence – the ORVM adjusters placed under the handbrake, the awkwardlypositioned audio control unit behind the steering wheel, the volume controller on the stereo faceplate that isn’t, after all, the volume controller (it scans for radio stations) and so on.
Our test car has some unique quirks besides the ‘standard’ ones – the audio system switches off after exactly ten minutes, which is deeply annoying, especially if your phone is hooked up via Bluetooth and you’re in the middle of a conversation, and the cigarette lighting socket has left the world of the living.
All told, though, the Duster is a very enjoyable vehicle – it’s honest and makes no pretentious claims, it’s solidly put together, is fun to drive and is very easy on the wallet in terms of its drinking habits. Like I said, Renault, consider these the noises of someone wanting to drive it for a while longer.