Ok folks, I finally took the plunge, or the jump, from the 170mm to 200mm+ territory! Prologue:
I was very comfortable driving my Fiat Linea T-Jet on a regular basis, and then also added an automatic (Nissan Micra CVT) to my stable to handle the daily urban crawl. The Linea was relegated to occasional out-of-city and long distance drives.
So why move into the high GC crossover/SUV regime ?
This, for me, is akin to asking, why do men climb mountains ? There is simply no good answer to that question.
I always had a plan to move up from the Linea. Did I truly exploit the T-Jet's potential ? Not quite, to be honest. I always felt the car was in its best elements on fast, smooth highways, aka not-so-indian conditions. My mom always felt the Linea feels sturdy, but a bit too stiff for high speed driving. It IS more of a drivers car, no doubt. Another thing I realised after a few recent trips, that sitting slightly higher up while doing long distance driving, to me atleast, was a bit more advantageous as compared to sitting low down. The view and comfort is much better. Now began the search for an alternative.
And there werent too many in the 12-15 lac regime. Choices
I test drove:
Positives- space, 7 seat flex (albeit at the cost of bootspace), high view, gizmos.
Negatives : (After multiple test drives) - ride quality, handling, a certain cumbersome feeling about the dimensions in terms of manueverability . Also, the gearshift didnt seem to be too intuitive, nor was the clutch operation very smooth.
2) Duster AWD:
Positives- Ride, Ride & Ride
! Man, it just feels something else on bad roads. Additional positive was the available 4x4 option.
Negatives- Price, and some doubts about ability to handle the servicing of this shift-on-fly transmission, given that AWD forms a miniscule % of Duster sales. And then the usability proposition on a real-world basis. I wasnt about to scramble over rocks and cross river beds as such. So why the fuss?
There are other positives/negative which are common to the FWD Duster which I have mentioned further below.
3) FWD Duster:
Positives: Ride , compact outside-spacious inside feeling, useable boot space, decent city manueverability, excellent pickup and fuel economy, Media Nav system (shared with AWD).
Negatives: Manual Aircon
, seat height adjust.
I had a bit of a toss up between the XUV W6 and the Duster 110 RXZ for some time. The XUV does score on space and features (minus the NAV system). In the end, I settled for the 110 RXZ Plus (woodland Brown), without Rear AC. I did test drive the 85 PS version, but I felt the 110 would be just that much better in terms of performance. Besides, on a lighter note, I didnt want to harbour guilt feelings of "downgrading " from the T-Jet engine specs
So, Duster FWD it was, finally.
Nissan Terrano: My feeling is that with the 2015 Duster, the Terrano price premium is not worth it. There is a visible difference to the 2015 Duster and the 2014 one, and couldnt justify spending even 50000 extra for the Nissan grille. Besides, i would have to contend with that Rear AC contraption in the Terrano 110, which is plain uncomfortable for the 5th passenger. What I also get is the fact that the 2015 Duster has the same engine tune as the Duster AWD, so not much of a turbo lag, and the clutch is lighter too! So driving comfort is definitely better than the Terrano.
Storme: Too bulky for my liking. I would have to keep a retractable step-ladder for my mom to even climb onboard, inspite of the side ladder ! And then it suffers from lack of economy too. And no music system or even a basic MID ! Am not impressed with the facelift Storme either.
Not interested in the Avventura or Ecosport as they are one size smaller than the class of vehicles I have tested above. Buying Experience:
In a word: "disappointing". I did not like the fact that there was lack of internal coordination amongst the staff at Renault Baner, resulting in too many interventions by their Lead/Manager . They were all a bit engrossed in the Lodgy, although almost every day that I visited the showroom there was atleast 1 Duster in "delivery " mode. Initial Impressions
Anyway, it has been a couple of days since I took the delivery, and I am really enjoying the drive. The engine is quite smooth (after an initial 2-3 minute clatter). I took her out on the old NH4 ,to stir up her 110 horses and boy does she perform ! Am a bit conservative right now, keeping it below the 2500 rpm regime as stipulated in the manual.
But yes, my parents are delighted that they no longer feel bumps and potholes at all. And it is geniunely wider inside than the Linea.
Do I miss the Linea T-Jet ? Yes- I do miss the lovely climate control, but, strangely, little else. As long as I keep the Duster below the 120 KPH zone, I suppose I wont be missing many things.
Since it is all too common a colour, I have not taken too many snaps. Will give better pictures from my DSLR once I get a chance. Here goes a couple for starters. Other Attributes
Build Quality: Coming off the Fiat stable, I have to be honest. It doesnt have the Fiat "thud" on the sheet metal, however, it feels sufficiently ok. But not Fiat like, I must admit. However, I take it that the underpinnings are expected to be quite robust.
NVH Levels: It has that typical diesel clatter, but settles down quickly enough. I have owned the Dzire DDIS before, and this one is perhaps slightly more refined , especially at high speeds.
AC Controls: I had accepted the manual Aircon while making the choice of Duster, but the fan speed is quite noisy, and also has a hum of its own in speeds 3 & 4 (like a pedestal fan), while I was expecting more of a "hiss"".
Media Nav: It is quite intuitive, but the placement means taking your eyes off the road for making some of the selections. Better to do make minimum changes on the move. But the OE sound is "ok" if slightly bass oriented. No plans to upgrade, although I am a bit of an audiophile. First Fortnight of Driving
: Most important observation is regarding the usage of the ECO mode. This helps in extending fuel efficiency in city and "flat terrain highway runs. But there is a discernable difference when operating the car with ECO mode in ghat sections. If you dont downshift early, you can be caught out while on sharp, steep winding sections. Best to switch ECO mode OFF before entering ghat sections. So far, in mixed city/highway runs, the car is giving around 16.2 kmpl , which is quite ok I feel.