Some manufacturers loudly shout about success, others simply get on with selling it, like the Dacia Duster.
Part of the Renault-Nissan family, the Dacia Duster is probably the UK motor trade’s best kept secret. Since the marque’s 2012 launch in the UK it has slowly but steadily built up sales as more motorists seek a few-frills and no thrills motoring but want a down to earth car which does a competent job. Heck, you can even have a van version if you want, that’s how straightforward it is.
The Dacia Duster range comprises carefully profiled 18-models of 4×2 and Nissan-engineered 4×4 models in four trim levels with choice of 110bhp diesel or petrol engines developing 115 or 125bhp and priced between £9,500 and £16,500. There are also four van versions with 550KG payload and choice of engines and drivetrain.
The powertrain choices, trim levels and pricing pitch the Duster into a very competitive UK sector and it does not disgrace itself.
Our test model was the best selling Laureate dCi 110 4×2 and it had reasonable acceleration and ability to keep up with motorway traffic without straining, thanks to the flexibility and power delivery of the diesel engine.
It is not quick off the mark but once on the move you hardly notice it’s a 1.5 litre engine as the power smoothly flows right up to the motorway limit, but push into higher revs and it does make itself heard. The six gears mean it’s rarely stretched and keeping within limits we managed to achieve 55mpg overall, seeing 57mpg for a brief spell.
The steering had a fairly good turning circle but it did not give much feedback on open roads although brakes had a pleasantly progressive feel even if they needed a heavier than expected foot at times.
What did produce comment from passengers was the Duster’s surprising comfort. For a car with a comparatively short wheelbase it was very smooth riding over any surface, soaking up the worst holes and bumps without sending them shuddering into the car.
The bumps which did get felt were softened by the excellent seats and their wrap around shaping infront. Adjustment range was reasonable for driver and passenger but those in the back had to contend with quite flat cushions and backrests.
An offset split back seat arrangement permitted the load capacity to be gradually raised from a nominal 475 litres with the back seats used to 1636 litres with them down and the loadbed is well shaped behind a low lip. Inside, the oddments space is good for a family.
The driver has the usual stalks and simple instrumentation and there is a multi-function central screen for infotainment systems (below) which does the job but is not particularly attractive in design.
The purposeful look to the interior is probably the disappointing feature of the Duster, with its spread of unrelenting plastic from side to side. With some investment into the look and feel of the cabin, Dacia could make a big different to the showroom appeal of the Duster as a cross-over model.
On the road it does not disappoint. It handles faithfully, stays planted on the road even with just front wheel drive and copes with whatever it comes up against in terms of poor surfaces. It also has a higher than average ground clearance for light off-road or winter road duties where you do not need a 4×4 transmission.
The slim roof pillars contribute to good all-round vision, wipers are on the small side but the system is effective and the lights have a reasonable range but not wide beam.
There is a peculiar charm to the Duster that many rival cars lack and if you are not worried about being seen in the latest crossover or SUV, then this Dacia is certainly an attractive proposition, particularly in the price range of the series.
|Dacia Duster Laureate dCi 110 4×2||Price: £13,595|
|Insurance Group: 11A||Mechanical: 110ps 4cyl 1461cc turbo-diesel, 6 sp|
|Max Speed: 105mph||0-62mph: 11.8 sec|
|Consumption: 55mpg||C02 emissions: 115gkm|
|Bik rating: 20%||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
For: Value, room, comfort, economy.
Against: Interior trim, performance, steering