- Approaching £20k, but still great value
- Plenty of engine, trim and transmission choice, plus two or four-wheel drive
- Practical and easy to drive
- Not that refined
- Lots of hard plastic inside the cabin
- Low Euro NCAP safety score
Dacia’s no-frills Duster compact SUV was launched in the UK in 2013 so is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Customers can choose from a wide range of models with trim levels called Essential, Expression. Journey and Extreme. And for added practicality and appeal, the Duster is also now available as a commercial vehicle, aptly called the Dusty Commercial.
Although there are no electric or hybrid models, the Duster is on sale with the option of 1.3-litre petrol, 1.4-litre diesel or a 1.0-litre Bi-Fuel mix – the latter allows you to top up with petrol or the cheaper LPG.
The majority of the line-up is two-wheel drive, but the Extreme and Commercial models powered by diesel engines, are available with 4x4 technology. And, finally, certain Dusters feature a six-speed manual gearbox, while a six-speed auto transmission is also available.
The Dacia Duster now sports a more distinctive design with a new-look grille and Y-shaped daytime running lights. And it is the first Dacia model to feature LED direction indicators.
In addition, the vehicle’s aerodynamics have been improved with the rear spoiler and wheel technology put to test in a wind tunnel to gain enhanced efficiency.
Our test car, in Expression specification, featured black roof bars with the Duster inscription, a chrome front grille, tinted windows, satin chrome door mirrors, a tailgate with the Duster inscription, 16-inch alloy wheels and it sported Dusty Khaki paintwork, costing an extra £650, that suited its character perfectly.
Moving inside, new Duster features upgraded seat fabric across the range with redesigned headrests that are slimmer to improve the driver and rear passenger visibility.
There is a high central console with driver armrest, a soft feel leather steering wheel, satin chrome interior door handles and air vents, along with a range of technical features to explore.
On the Duster Expression, these included an eight-inch media display and smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB radio, rearview camera with rear parking sensors and plenty more besides. There is no sat nav, but most people connect their phones for that function these days.
All dials, controls and readouts are well positioned for ease of use and everything worked well, apart from the touchscreen being a little slow to react at times.
On The Road
Handling & Performance
We tested the Dacia Duster in Expression trim powered by the 1,332cc TCe 130-badged petrol engine delivering 129hp and 240Nm of torque.
This front-wheel drive model with six-speed manual gearbox could complete the 0-62mph dash in 10.6 seconds and topped out at 120mph. While those performance stats may not sound that inspiring, it’s worth remembering the Duster is a back-to-basics budget model that offers a whole lot of car for a relatively small outlay.
And in fairness the performance is just fine so long as you don’t go looking for things to complain about. Yes, the ride is a little fidgety if pushed hard into sweeping bends but if driven with a little consideration, it copes well.
The acceleration through the manual gearbox is smooth enough and there is an Eco mode to eke out better fuel efficiency.
The steering is fairly light which isn’t a bad thing as it makes manoeuvring in and around town that bit easier. Manual seat and steering wheel adjustment make it simple to get comfortable and the upright driving position results in excellent all-round visibility.
When driven too enthusiastically, the engine gets more vocal (almost in protest) and the Duster feels more unsettled. Calm things down and drive with a little more tlc and the results are far more impressive and a lot more comfortable.
Space & Practicality
The Dacia Duster has always been a great looking compact SUV with bags of personality and the latest model keeps up that tradition. It stretches 4,341mm in length, is 2,052mm wide (including mirrors), 1,693mm tall with roof bars and has a wheelbase of 2,673mm.
And all those figures translate into a very spacious cabin that compares favourably in the compact SUV sector. A couple of adults could sit in the back provided the front seats are not pushed right back, but this area would be ideal for a trio of youngsters on longer journeys.
And luggage restrictions would not apply as the boot, accessed via a wide opening tailgate, can swallow 445 litres of kit, a limit that increases to 1,478 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
Throughout the cabin are a number of convenient storage compartments too, including door bins, a glovebox, seat back pockets and trays. There is one very shallow cup holder up front that would be too risky to transport a hot drink and a slightly deeper one in the back.
And, as we can’t possibly go anywhere without devices these days, there are two USB ports to keep phones connected on the move.
The Dacia Duster line-up starts from £17,295 for the Essential TCe 90 4x2 model and increases to £24,445 for the Extreme Blue dCi 115 4x4. Commercial models start from a basic price of £15,295 and rise to £19,795, without VAT factored in.
Our test car could deliver a combined 45.6mpg under WLTP testing with carbon emissions of 141g/km. While the fuel efficiency is good, the fairly high CO2 figure would be penalised slightly. It would result in a first year road tax (or Vehicle Excise Duty) bill of £255 dropping to the standard fee of £180 after 12 months.
If you are planning on covering high mileage in the Duster, then the Blue dCi 115 diesel model can return a combined 58.9mpg with carbon emissions of 127g/km.
And any business driver looking to run a Dacia Duster Expression TCe 130 4x2, as tested, as a company vehicle would have a Benefit in Kind tax rating of 33 per cent.
The insurance rating for the test car is set at group 19.
While the days of owning a Dacia Duster for just over £10k seem long gone and prices are much nearer £20k now, it is still a great deal of car for the outlay. And that makes it very good value for money.
Clearly, if dynamic performance, blistering pace and a raft of safety features top the wish-list, then look elsewhere. That’s because the Duster did not score particularly well when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating with just three out of five stars.
However, those points aside, the Duster’s simplicity does have many plus points. The cost is one, but also reliability. With less flashy, over-complicated systems to go wrong, the car has a very good reputation amongst its customer fanbase.