Dacia Duster Review
The Dacia Duster might be basic but it offers value-for-money SUV ownership - especially if you're considering used versions
Strengths & weaknesses
- Low cash prices
- Appealing styling and cabin
- Larger cabin and boot than before
- Rivals feel more upmarket inside
- Access version feels incredibly basic
- Not the sharpest driving car
Dacia Duster (previous generation) prices from £7,495 Finance from £137.49 per month
Everyone loves a bargain, so Dacia is the ideal car brand for many drivers, with its cheap and cheerful approach to car ownership. The Sandero is the cheapest car on sale in the UK, but step up to the latest Duster and buyers can actually grab a brand new SUV for less than £10,000 - or at least that was the case when the car came out.
Dacia is owned by the Renault-Nissan Alliance, so the Duster is based on Renault and Nissna technology – albeit a previous generation, so it’s a little dated in some ways. The car falls size-wise between the Renault Captur and Kadjar, and it doesn’t feel as sophisticated as the two Renaults, but neither does it cost as much - at launch there was a £5,000 difference between the cheapest Duster and the entry-level Captur. You pay your money, etc…
However, the Duster’s styling doesn’t look outdated or cheap. Every panel has been updated compared with the previous generation and it’s sharper, more sculpted and more grown up than the previous iteration. The lights, for example, have a more modern feel, with LED daytime running lights available.
The cabin is less modern in feeling than some rivals, and is a lot more basic and utilitarian in feel, but it's still nicely designed. The Duster is spacious enough, as befits an SUV, with plenty of head- and legroom in the rear, but most versions have fabric seats (even the range-topping versions only have part-leather) and the overall feel is one of being built for durability.
The controls and switches feel chunky, practical to use and built to last, but you have to choose the Comfort trim (which is the second-highest of four) to get an media system with a colour screen: the base Access cars don’t even have a radio. Unless you want the absolute cheapest, most basic car, therefore, we'd steer clear of Access versions.
In keeping with the basic, no-frills nature of the Duster, the on-road performance is functional but unexciting. It handles twisty roads tidily, with body roll well contained, accurate steering and enough grip in the corners. The ride is soft and comfortable, but the worst of the UK’s roads can be felt when encountered. However, all this is a good fit with the relatively relaxed performance of the Duster: this is not a car that is built to hustle along at pace, so it all works.
In terms of rivals, the Duster does compete in some ways to the smaller SUVs such as the Nissan Juke, Hyundai Kona, Seat Arona, Skoda Karoq and the numerous other models now on sale, but it's a very different proposition. Apart from the fact that it's slightly larger, it's a lot more basic if you go for one of the lower-specification models. But that’s a good thing, as it keeps prices low and provides an alternative to SUV buyers on a budget.
June 2021 Minor updates include new LED lighting and new eight-inch touchscreen
Dacia Duster Engines
Sce 115, Blue dCi 115
In line with Dacia’s simple approach, there are just two engines available at launch, one petrol and one diesel, but both are available in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive guises.
The SCe petrol engine is a 1.6-litre unit with a 115hp output, with a 0-62mph time of 11.9 seconds (or 12.9 seconds with 4x4 capability). It’s not a quick car, by any means, but it’s relatively smooth and quiet and will do a job for buyers who aren’t bothered about getting anywhere in a hurry.
The one downside is that the power required for overtaking is a little lacking, while in-gear acceleration also isn't great. Official economy figures are reasonable for a petrol SUV, with 43.5mpg (40.7mpg for 4x4), but CO2 emissions are 149g/km (158g/km).
The 1.5-litre Blue dCi 115 also produces 115hp, but the additional low-engine-speed muscle that is produced by a diesel engine (compared to a petrol unit) means a slightly quicker 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds (or 12.1 seconds with 4x4). The diesel is also considerably more economical, with an official fuel consumption figure of 64.2mpg (60.1mpg for 4x4) and CO2 emissions of 115g/km (123g/km).