Renault Duster review by a Skoda Yeti Owner

CarToq member Subhashish Sarkar, is a proud Skoda Yeti owner. But his curiosity was aroused when he saw the Renault Duster. Here’s his first-hand, first-look report from Kolkata, with parallels drawn to the Skoda Yeti and Mahindra Scorpio.

“So I walked into this Renault showroom in Chowringhee, Kolkata this morning, and decided to see the Duster for myself. In a large and obviously new showroom, a mato brown (in Skoda-speak, that’s what this current rage of a shade is called) Duster stood way behind at the back of a Koleos (ugly! ugly!) and a Fluence. Almost daring the casual visitor to come and discover it.

It is more handsome than it looks in photos. No two ways about it. It’s got the butch and squared front end of the now commonly seen Land Rover family and the the three-slat chrome grill and a small silver accent on the front chin makes it look the business without being over the top. I like that.

The bulge-swirls to the side, with an over-sized fuel-lid topped by a port-hole sized third window, thick roof-rails, chunky alloys, minimalistic rear with the large chrome strip with DUSTER emblazoned on it – these are to me, extremely clever design cues to make the vehicle look larger than it actually is. And it all works superbly I have to say. Mahindra really needs to learn some useful lessons in underplaying their “artistic flair”.

If you passed two show-windows, with a Duster and a Yeti kept in each, the Duster would look “immense” compared to the “meeker” snowman. It actually may be only marginally larger in external dimensions.

Climb inside and you’re in for a surprise. First, the good things. The Duster is a very, very pleasant office to work out of. Love the elliptical meters, neat digital displays, the in-car entertainment system looks and sounds a little underwhelming. But c’mon, look at what you are paying for it?

renault duster interior photo

Climate control also is absent, but the HVAC system is good looking, easy to reach and the rear unit (apparently) has a cooler and not just a blower. The seats are not wide enough for homo sapiens the size of King Kong and they don’t hug you like the Skoda Yeti’s seats.

One more thing – seated on the height-adjustable command throne, your view of the road has a substantial portion of the bonnet taking up the lower horizon. This will please some and piss off a few. I didn’t mind it, but then I didn’t drive it either.

Now here comes the BANGER – the Duster, incredibly for all it hulk outside is PALPABLY smaller than the Yeti inside! Sitting in the driver’s seat, I could almost reach for the imaginary mirror-adjust toggle (it has electric controls, relax!) on the passenger side. I can’t do that in the Yeti. The Duster’s cabin is visibly narrower.

At the rear too, with the driver’s seat sent back to my normal position, my (imaginary) twin would be knee-ing me in the back constantly. My imaginary twin’s wife and kid would find it very snug, with the kid having to take the center, staring at the alien-looking AC pod at the rear, which rises a fair distance from the floor. It won’t freeze your privates, but it could botox your eyebrows on a cool day if you’re not careful.

duster rear

The mystery of the disappearing legroom was solved with a peek into the boot. The Duster can practically swallow my Yeti and keep it inside for a long trip! It’s humongous! So I scratched my head at the logic – Renault/Dacia threw out the legroom for more luggage portability? It was obviously built as a small-car for the family with loads of transporting to do in some small European town. In India, the passenger space may irk the typical Bunty-Bubbly + 3.

Oh, and the diesel is quite, er.. quiet inside the cabin and the bonnet has a hydraulic lift! Cool. That’s it. My visual impressions of the Renault Duster. I’m waiting for Roshun to drive one for the dynamic pronouncements.

I still maintain it’s a winner. In my acquaintance circles, young couples on a budget want the excitement of owning a SUV. But most wives baulk at the Scorpio (and the hubbies at the Safari) because of negative associations I best not rake up. The Scorpio frankly, has had its day in the sun among urban DINKS (double-income no kids couples) and their like. And about time too. These same families would lap up the Duster for it’s affordability and the semblance of sophistication a ‘phoren’ SUV would rub on them.

And besides, most international reviews peg it as an extremely capable work-horse. So what’s not to like? It’s got way more kit than the homegrown equivalents, it’s a looker and a go-er, it feels premium and er.. its from Renault. The last bit apart, this baby is SOLD OUT! Cheerios.”

– Subhashish Sarkar