Dacia Duster road test – motoring on a budget


Dacia Duster
Dacia Duster road test: It looks presentable, drives reasonably well and is very cheap to buy.

With budget prices and no haggle pricing, Dacia has arrived in the UK. Motoring journalist MARTYN COLLINS has a first drive of the Duster SUV.

THIS Romanian Renault is set to shake up the SUV market with its no-haggle pricing. The Dacia Duster is a tough, no-nonsense off-roader. New to the British market and on sale for supermini money, the Dacia Duster is designed to attract buyers from some of the more mainstream rivals.
The fact that the Dacia Duster’s chunky bodywork looks like any off-roader is a good thing, even with the black bumpers of the Access trim and steel wheels it looks purposeful, neat and modern. At the front, the Duster’s styling is dominated by the large grille and headlights which are in one unit.
At the side, there are large windows, wide arches and distinctive roof bars. There’s also a sharp design line along the flanks that pinches the sides.
The distinctive stacked light clusters and curved glass characterise the rear styling. There’s also a chunky rear diffuser, to underline the Duster’s off-road credentials.
Inside, the driving position is quite upright but the seats lack support, but at least the switchgear is logically placed. General fit and finish of the Ambiance and Laureate test cars we drove was exceptional, considering the sub £15,000 prices.
TDacia Duster interiorhe tall dashboard design looks modern and I especially like the textured panels in a contrasting colour scheme. The chromed highlights lifted the cabin too. These take your eyes away from the some of the scratchy, hard plastics the Duster’s dashboard is finished in.
There’s enough room for four six-footers inside, with up to 475-litres of boot space for two-wheel-drive models and even 400-litres for the four-wheel-drive version. This is better than many  rivals, although the one piece folding rear seat on Access models limits practicality.
Access, Ambiance and Laureate trims are available now, with prices starting at £8,995. I drove two and four-wheel-drive versions in Ambiance and Laureate trims, powered by 107 and 109bhp versions of the 1.5-litre dCi diesel. The other engine available, is the 105bhp 1.6-litre 16-valve petrol. Both are proven, having seen service in previous-generation Meganes.
The diesel engine appeals because it is probably the best all rounder. Highlights include the 56.5mpg average fuel figure (53.3mpg with four-wheel-drive) and the 130g/km C02 emissions figure (131g/km four-wheel-drive).
The four-wheel-drive version of the Duster might be more capable in the rough stuff, but it feels slower off the mark, although admittedly the ride is more resolved than the two-wheel-drive version. The top speed is 104mph (106mph two-wheel drive) and it has a 0-60mph time of 12.5 seconds (11.5 seconds for the two-wheel-drive Duster).
Considering the dated, last-generation Clio underpinnings, the Duster is surprisingly fun to drive. It rides very well and there’s plenty of grip in corners. Sadly, there is also lots of body roll and the steering could be more responsive.
In my view, the Dacia Duster looks modern, has a spacious interior and big boot. I admire the honesty of this car, the no-nonsense pricing which is sure to appeal to buyers and if you need to do some light off-roading, the Dacia is reasonably capable even in two-wheel-drive form.

Dacia Duster
Dacia Duster – rugged enough to cope in Romania, so it should be fine in the UK, too.

Rating: ★★★★★

Model: Dacia Duster
Body styles: 5-door SUV
Engines: 105bhp 1.6-litre, 107bhp 1.5-litre dCi, 109bhp 1.5-litre dCi
Trim grades: Access, Ambiance and Laureate
Prices: from £8,995
In the showroom: Now
Website: www.dacia.co.uk

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Words and pictures: Martyn Collins