So, what's new on the inside?
While the Duster AWD's interiors are nearly identical to the 2WD variant, there are a few notable changes. Namely, the different interior & dashboard colours, a new steering wheel & instrument cluster design, updated seat upholstery, reduced boot space and some changes to the switchgear. Renault has also introduced a "MediaNav" system which is standard on the top-end AWD variant (available as an option on the 2WD
Let's start with the dashboard. Instead of the 2WD's black dash & beige coloured inlay, the AWD gets a black dash with a light grey inlay. While the black plastic looks decent, and is slightly soft-touch too, the grey inlay is rock hard. The black-grey combination looks good in pictures, but in person, the grey colour tone looks faded and cheap. It has a wood-grain like texture on it that doesn't really suit the car, and the feel of the plastic isn't great either. The AWD's center console gets a silver trim surrounding it (2WD has a piano black trim). This helps liven up the dashboard a little.
The steering has been redesigned to look more contemporary, although the new cruise control buttons look like they are out of the '90s. Note that the Duster has always had audio controls mounted on a short stalk just behind the steering wheel...a trend that continues with the AWD. The steering is leather wrapped, with a textured rubber inset on the bottom half. The leather is firm and the surface is very grippy. Tejas felt that the rim of the steering wheel is on the thinner side, yet I found no reason to complain. The cruise control buttons have resulted in the horn pad getting a bit smaller; it's still extremely usable. A press anywhere on the pad gets the horn to oblige willingly. It's not a macho sounding horn, yet a fairly loud one. Due to the positioning of the buttons, drivers with larger hands might feel like their palms cover the steering controls when the wheel is held at the suggested 9 o'clock & 3 o'clock position. The steering wheel has a good range of rake adjust. Taller drivers who slide their seat all the way back will miss the adjustable reach feature.
The redesigned instrument cluster is an improvement in all respects. It's comprised of 3 chrome-lipped dials, one of which houses a large MID readout. The new MID display shows information such as liters of diesel consumed for the current trip, average & real-time fuel consumption, distance-to-empty, odometer, service interval, tripmeter, trip average speed and outside temperature. The speedometer and tachometer needles have a unique backlit yellow. This instrument cluster design looks a lot more 3-dimensional and modern in comparison to that of the 2WD Duster.
The light & wiper stalks have been redesigned, and a one-touch lane change function has been added too. While the stalks look nice and well put together, they do have a plasticky feel. The rotary switches work smoothly. However, a major downside is that moving the stalks up & down or back & forth isn't smooth or refined. For example, it takes too much force to activate the turn indicators at times. Even flashing the high-beam requires a firm tug to overcome what feels like jammed plastic joints. The quality and operation here is inconsistent.
Despite the Duster looking exceptionally wide from the outside, the interior doesn't follow suit. In the first 30 minutes, Tejas and I bumped our elbows and arms together several times. Having a usable center armrest would have been nice. Ergonomically too, there are a few issues. The 4WD dial is very out of the way; the driver has to lean forward and stretch just to reach it. It's the same with the ECO mode and ESP buttons which are located right beside it (just ahead of the gear lever
). On the flip side, the central locking button gets more user friendly, as it is now a single toggle button (vs. the earlier lock / unlock type).
What really jumps out as el cheapo
looking are those small rectangular plastic patches on the door pads, where the window switches should have been. We're not sure if these are caps for screws, or covers for an alternate window switch position - either way, they really look cheap. The padded black fabric with white stitching feels nice on the door pads. However, that's pretty much the only thing that stands out as high quality here. The ledge you rest your arm on is rock hard. One can easily spot exposed screws in other locations (e.g. cupholder behind the handbrake, interior door handle mounts etc.). Exposed seat rails are very visible at the front as well, especially if the seats are moved back.
One touch down still isn't offered for any of the windows. That said, speed-sensitive auto-locking doors have been added (extremely useful & practical safety feature
)! If you open one door from the inside, all of them unlock. Impact sensing 'auto unlocking doors' has been thrown in too. On our test car, the doors needed a truly hard push to shut completely.
The seat upholstery feels pretty rugged and should hold up well. The dark material shouldn't get too dirty, and it feels like the material is easy to clean. The seats provide adequate support and are on the firmer side. Lateral support remains marginal. Lumbar support adjustment of the driver's seat really helps fill the arch of your lower back.
The MediaNav system has merely 3 physical buttons above the screen, which makes it look extremely basic in its turned off state. Once switched on, the head-unit looks far more impressive. You'll notice that the on-screen buttons and interface are large. This is a boon for usability in automotive applications, especially on bumpy Indian roads. Despite being a resistive touchscreen, the touch control is very responsive. You don't need to press the screen hard at all. The touchscreen is mounted fairly low, and the driver has to turn his head away from the road to look down at it (the screen cannot be tilted up). Bright afternoon sunlight makes the display harder to view as it tends to wash out. A good thing is that fingerprints don't tend to show up on the screen. There's a 'Dark Mode' if the brightness of the display bothers you when driving (useful for night driving). Unlike some other systems which go completely blank in 'Dark Mode', this MediaNav system still shows the time and title of the currently playing track, without being overtly bright...a rather nice touch.
In terms of audio sources, the MediaNav system supports USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth. There's no CD player (the older system had one, good riddance I say!). We'd rate the sound quality at a 7 / 10. It's adequate for the casual listener. The audio does get too bass-heavy at higher volumes though. Anything above volume level 23 (of a maximum of 30) and the bass starts to get disproportionately overpowering.
A great addition to the MediaNav system is the Nav
component. GPS Navigation is built right in, rather than a 'Tomtom' stuck on as an afterthought. This is especially useful given the 'go anywhere' nature of the Duster AWD. The navigation interface is straightforward to use and you can edit your route, or tell it to avoid certain things (e.g. highways). What I liked was how one can just tap to select a location on the map - and then navigate to it (rather than having to type an address). There's no need to keep looking at the screen for directions, as voice guidance does a fair job of talking you through the turns. The system will remember your destination even after you switch the car off and back on again. When you turn the headlamps on, the screen dims a little and the map inverts its colours to darker ones. It's worth noting that, despite this large display being present, the rear parking sensors are audio-only. There's no reversing camera or any visual indicator of the distance left behind the car.
The Duster AWD's 410 liter trunk has lost some storage space on paper, compared to the 475 liters of the 2WD. This is due to the different rear suspension setup down below, and the resultant move of the spare tyre to the boot (2WD has it placed under the vehicle
). I'm convinced this is actually a beneficial change. The floor-area of the trunk stays the same, it's just the height of the floor that has risen by about 2 inches (remember, the spare tyre is now under there). So why do I think this is better? For one, removing the spare wheel from the boot is a simpler exercise than from underneath the car. Then, things can be slid into and out of the boot a lot more easily, as the floor is now at exactly the same level as the boot lip. There's no need to lift a heavy bag up and over the boot-lip anymore; just slide it out. In terms of the capacity decrease, it's extremely rare that anyone stacks things roof-high anyway, so it isn't a noticeable loss in storage space. All other things staying the same, a rough calculation would put the storage area with the rear seats folded down at 999 liters (2WD = 1064 liters). Just like the 2WD, there's no 60:40 split on the AWD. Similarly, it still has the 12v socket near the rear parcel shelf, which we'd imagine might be more useful for owners with an 'AWD' lifestyle.
Light grey plastic (instead of beige on the 2WD
) and silver trim around the center console (2WD gets piano black):
Wood-grain like texture of the grey plastic isn't anything special. Feels cheap:
Updated steering gets a leather wrap and integrated buttons:
Buttons look like they are from the '90s. This one sets the speed for the 'Cruise Control' and 'speed-limit' function:
The cruise control's 'resume' and 'off' buttons are on the right:
Audio controls get their own stalk (redesigned) behind the steering wheel. It's actually quite convenient to use. Volume up/down buttons are pull-type. Pull them together to mute:
Updated 3-dial instrument cluster looks premium. A big improvement over the 2WD's cluster! Redline isn't marked on the tachometer. Why? Cost cutting, it's shared with the petrol:
MID throws out ample data, including liters of fuel used for the current trip, average fuel consumption, real-time fuel consumption, distance to empty, odometer, service interval, tripmeter, trip average speed and outside temperature:
Stalks have virtually the same functionality...
...the only addition being this button on the right stalk. It's used for cycling through display items on the MID:
The stalks sure have a rudimentary movement. Feels like the joints are jammed at times:
Still no dead pedal. Despite how it looks in the picture, there isn't enough place next to the clutch to slide your foot through:
Leather-wrapped gear knob is new. Feels nice to hold. Collar needs to be lifted to engage reverse: MediaNav
system includes radio, media (USB & Aux), Bluetooth hands-free telephony, GPS navigation and a 'Dark mode' to dim the screen:
The interface is basic, yet the buttons are conveniently large and easy to use in a moving car:
Inbuilt GPS works well. Useful for keeping your bearings if you go off the beaten path:
When the system is off, or the screen is in 'Dark Mode', a classy looking clock is shown:
The hazard lights button has been made smaller, while the central locking button is now a more convenient toggle with an inbuilt LED:
This 3-way switch lets you choose between activating Cruise Control (left), setting the max speed-limiter (right) and switching both of them off (center):
Air-conditioning controls are identical, though the rear defogger button has been moved down here. Shockingly, no climate control offered in a car that can cost Rs. 15 lakh on the road!
Seat upholstery has been revamped to a grey & burnt-red colour scheme:
The fabric seems very durable. Parts of the seat have a raised honeycomb pattern:
Seat height adjustment is via the same ol' exposed piece of metal. You don't crank it, but instead hold it while you manually raise / lower the seat
Door pads get a padded fabric area. Looks and feels nice. Unfortunately, the ledge where you rest your arm is rock hard:
Tacky plastic cap where the window switches should have been (on all 4 doors) is a major downer:
Rear door pads look nice. No storage. Window switch is poorly located where you'd rest your elbow, instead of the patched-up location ahead:
Mediocre legroom for rear passengers. Seat offers superb support and the backrest is nicely reclined for comfort:
At a reduced 410 liters, the boot still has tons of space. Main difference is that the flooring has been moved up by 2 inches to the height of the lip. This actually makes the boot easier to load / unload. Note that the spare wheel is now housed within the boot (2WD has it mounted below the car