While the next generation Duster may have begun its journey in Europe, in India the last generation Duster soldiers on. New to the Duster in India for 2018 is the addition of a new petrol engine mated to a CVT auto transmission, and an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) on the diesel version.
While the AMT on the diesel version is available only in the top, RxZ trim, the CVT is available only in the RxS trim, which is one level below the top-spec Duster petrol. Missing out on the bells and whistles of the top-spec Duster petrol like auto AC and a reverse camera, the Duster CVT does feature a touchscreen that is not the best in the business perhaps, but functions efficiently. Other features include safety kit like ABS, ESP, EBD, dual airbags and hill start assist.
Apart from the Xtronic lettering at the rear, the CVT auto transmission Duster does look different on the outside to differentiate itself from the rest of the line-up. The front is brought up to speed by the twin beam large square head lamps, the twin-slat grille, a tough-looking bumper with cladding and a scuff plate.
The sides are marked by claddings along the lower portion and thicker roof rails with Duster written on it at the top. Dominating the rear are large ‘S’-shaped LED tail lamps.
Conveying a definitive SUV stance, the design of the Duster, though quite familiar by now, still comes across as modern and interesting.
There is a certain robustness that reflects along with a penchant for style. Somewhere in between, the design also seems to hunt for simplicity.
Fit and finish not good
The hunt for simplicity is also found inside, which again is quite a familiar place. From the rest of the line-up, the CVT version does not look any different. Starting to look aged, the hard plastics and the levels of fit and finish let the vehicle down. Add to it the dated looking infotainment system and it’s non-ergonomic placement, which requires the driver to look away from the road, and it does not take long to understand why the new Duster is out in Europe.
The strengths of the existing vehicle’s cabin that has found place on the next generation model include a sense of space and comfort in this five-seater. Like in the front, there’s good leg and headroom at the rear. The large side windows make the cabin feel open and airy.
Engine feels more refined
The new 106bhp, 1.5-litre petrol engine is a Nissan sourced unit. It has the Duster feeling more refined than the earlier model. The engine provides an impression of delivering power in a linear manner, however, the throw seems a little slow and sedate. The power gap also makes quick overtaking or closing the gap in traffic difficult. Part throttle responses are well appreciated as compared to sudden and considerable throttle inputs.
Engage manual mode that effectively presents six-speeds, and the Duster CVT performs a bit more enthusiastically. The good part is, this CVT does not feel so much like other CVTs with their rubber band effect.
The shifts take place smoothly.
Offering performance that suits relaxed driving styles with part throttle inputs, the Duster petrol CVT delivers a ride that is very pliant if not plush. If the high ground clearance helps, the SUV handles predictably and is fairly car-like. The steering kick-back on the early Dusters has been taken care of in the new one. Available in India since 2012, and quite a familiar sight on Indian roads, the Duster does have its strengths even though it may not be a segment leader or offer the most kit. Though starting to look a little dated, with a distinct SUV appeal and a spacious cabin, it is comfortable. With car-like handling and a ride that will put to shame vehicles up to a few segments up, the vehicle with a petrol engine and CVT auto transmission makes for good city driving. On the highway it may not excite. Priced at Rs 10 lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, and cheaper than the Creta automatic by approx Rs 3.5 lakhs, the Duster petrol CVT is great value for money.
Pros: SUV stance, space and comfort, ride and handling
Cons: Unimpressive interior, lacking in kit