What is it?
The Duster is Dacia’s basement budget entry into the compact crossover SUV market. With prices starting at just £13,995, it’s the cheapest new SUV in Britain. At that price, drivers are offered a huge amount of car for their cash. The new model benefits from a facelifted exterior, updated technology and a spacious and comfortable interior. The outgoing model proved to be a hit for Renault’s low-cost brand so the new car has a lot to live up to.
To find out whether it has got what it takes, we spent a week living with the new Duster.
Dacia has pulled out all the stops to make this new car even better than its predecessor. It has been given a fuel tank that is 16.2-litres larger than the old car – increasing range by more than 155 miles. On the outside, fresh design elements include new Y-shaped LED lights, an updated grille design and new rear spoiler as well as restyled alloy wheels which are aimed to aero-optimised. Inside, drivers benefit from a new high-positioned centre console and a brand-new 8-inch touchscreen.
Tweaks have also been made to the spec trim levels and the engine line up in order to make the range more streamlined.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Duster is available with a range of different engines but the model we tested – the TCe 100 – was fitted with a 1.0 litre turbocharged bi-fuel unit, meaning it’s able to run on both petrol and LPG gas. The engine is smooth and relatively quiet and offers a very impressive 800 miles of range. ‘Our’ car had a six-speed manual gearbox which was also incredibly smooth.
Elsewhere there is a new automatic model, with a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox purely available on the range-topping ‘TCe 150’ model linked to a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol putting out 148bhp and 250Nm of torque.
All engines are available in both two-wheel- and four wheel-drive versions of the Duster.
What’s it like to drive?
The Duster has a very soft and comfortable ride and is great around a busy city. Despite its small engine it certainly is not slow pulling away – although it does start to feel slightly more sluggish at high speeds on the motorway. On the whole, the Duster is very capable on most surfaces and feels stable even on tight, winding roads. On long journeys, the Duster eats up the miles with ease and you get out feeling just as comfortable as you were when you got in.
From a driver’s point of view, the driving position is nice and high – offering good visibility all around the car – and the steering is light and responsive which makes for a pleasant driving experience.
How does it look?
Let’s get this out of the way early – the red Duster we had with its black plastic bumpers is never going to win any beauty prizes. Its chunky looks might not be for everyone, but then again appearances are down to the individual.
Having said that, while the Duster may not be the best looking car in the world to our eyes, it certainly has some nice touches. The chrome grille at the front end adds a classier look to the car and the sleek Y-shaped LED headlamps are also a nice touch.
What’s it like inside?
Inside, the Duster has a basic but charmingly unpretentious interior. There aren’t too many luxuries but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like there is anything major missing. There is an easy to use 18-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash and everything feels solidly built and well-put-together – if maybe slightly lacking in flair. The only real issue we experienced with the interior was a bizarrely positioned audio stalk which is completely blocked by the steering wheel and also gets in the way of the ignition when switching the car off.
In terms of room, there is plenty of leg and head space for three passengers in the back as well as 478-litres of boot space. During our week with the Duster, it was also easily able to swallow up an eight-foot Christmas tree with the rear seats folded down.
What’s the spec like?
With this new Duster, Dacia has worked hard to improve the level of spec on offer. The Essential model that we drove (costing £13,995) includes the 8-inch touchscreen seen across the range but moving up to Comfort (£15,496) and Prestige (£16,695) models adds features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and built-in navigation. Despite being one of the cheapest new cars on the market, drivers are also treated to automatic lights, a rear camera, rear parking sensors and blind-spot warnings. All models have DAB radio as standard and two USB sockets to charge your smartphone.
While some of its rivals may offer slightly better spec and technology, none can match the Duster when it comes to value for money.
Overall we really grew to love the Duster. Yes, it may not be the best looking, quickest or most glamorous car on the road but it more than makes up for that with charm and value for money. Dacia offers a smooth, comfortable and spacious SUV in the Duster and it’s one that does all of that at a fraction of the price of its rivals. As an everyday family car, it really is fantastic. The bi-fuel versions also have the extra feather in their cap of offering over 800 miles of range.
The car is easy to drive, has a soft ride and the level of standard equipment is really impressive for a car of its size. It all adds up to really positive news for Dacia and it looks like the new Duster will be just as popular as its predecessor.
Model: Dacia Duster
Base price: £13,995
Model as tested: Dacia Duster Comfort TCe 100 Bi-Fuel 4x2
Price as tested: £13,995
Engine: 1.0 litre turbocharged bi-fuel
Torque: 160Nm (Petrol) 170Nm (LPG)
Max speed: 103mph (Petrol) 104mph (LPG)
0-60mph: 14.9 seconds (Petrol) 12.9 seconds (LPG)