Our Car of the Year, the Duster, has been with us for seven months now, and though I’d driven it I’d never really had the chance to take it for a long drive.
There’s really nothing like a long drive in a car to really get to know just where its strengths and weaknesses lie. So when the chance came to take my parents up to Lavasa for their anniversary in the Duster, I jumped at it. It was perfect; my mom has a very weak back and the Duster has a really comfortable ride.
So, keys in hand, I set out on the long 200km drive. As expected, mom was really comfortable and even commented on the lovely ride of the Renault. Of course, she didn’t care that it handled really well too. Every time I’d get into something of a rhythm and build up some speed, I’d hear a firm "slow down" from the back.
Above : Awkwardly placed wing mirror control (found under the hand brake). YOu hvae to keep the handbrake up to use it.
I did have to work the gears a fair bit on the slopes to keep the engine in the meat of its powerband – 2000rpm to 4000rpm. There is a bit of a lag and steep slopes only make it worse.
A grouse my parents did have was with the space at the rear. Maybe Renault could have sacrificed a bit of the boot to increase space in the cabin. But then, this is a small niggle in an otherwise comfortable cabin. Also, most people prefer steering-mounted controls, but I really liked the audio controls on the stalks. Once you get used to them, you realise they are quite ergonomic. You never have to worry about pushing them accidentally. Finally, after a five-hour drive, I couldn’t believe I still had almost half a tank left. On a full 50-litre tank of diesel, the Duster’s capable of covering 720km, perfect for long stints.
Back at home base, however, our experience with the Duster – or rather, Renault’s service centre – has not been as rosy. A little over a month ago, the air-con compressor packed up, out of the blue. We duly marched the car to the Renault workshop for repairs. However, we didn’t see it again for another 25 days – a part had to be sourced from Delhi, which caused the delay. Still, 25 days seems like awful long. What’s more, the dashboard had to be dismantled to carry out the repairs, and when we got the car back, it didn’t appear to have been screwed back together properly – there were creaks and rattles coming from every corner. There was even a rattle from the engine bay that wasn’t there before, the source of which we still haven’t quite been able to pin-point.
Above: Audio controls; once you get used to the stalks, you realise just how ergonomic they are.
The good news is that our Duster has just been for a service, and we’re happy to report that it has come back as good as new, without delay and free of all rattles. It’s also been given fresh brake pads for the front discs, as the old ones had worn to the bracket.
It’s disheartening when a great car is pulled down by poor after-sales service (just look at any Skoda), but that’s just what has happened here. The huge success of the Duster may have been a little overwhelming for Renault, but that’s hardly justification for the car going away for close to a month. Better service and more smiles, we’ll tell you if we get them. Watch this space.
Above: Superb ride; Cruises over all the rough stuff with poise. Kept my mom's back intact.
Price: Rs. 14.25 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 14.4kpl (overall)
Maintenance costs: Rs. 4,100
Faults: Rattle from the engine bay