All-New Dacia Duster Up Hill And Down Dale
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
When the Dacia Duster first appeared on the UK motoring scene the opening price of just £8,995 shocked many. How could the company import the cars, sell them and make a profit?
The answer lay in the use of tried and tested Renault and Nissan parts, cheap Romanian labour costs and a simple pricing structure with no room for haggling in the dealer showrooms.
It should also be said that the basic model, whilst spacious, was shall I politely say, sparsely equipped. No electric windows, manual door locking and as for a radio, sorry no. As such most buyers upped the spend to gain a modicum of comfort and convenience.
On test this week is the all-new Duster. The styling has certainly been sharpened up but I would never have guessed that every panel is new.
There’s more standard kit and yet prices are still affordable. A base ‘Access’ model can be had for a whisker under £10,000 and you now get electric front windows and central locking thrown in. This will suffice for some.
There is only one engine available at the moment, a non turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol unit boasting 115hp. A diesel goes on sale any day and I’m told a boosted petrol engine is also in the pipeline.
Most buyers will opt for the front-wheel drive version, but as before it is possible to choose to have the power to all wheels.
My test car’s ‘Comfort’ trim is likely to be the most popular, though you can go higher and select a ‘Prestige’ model if you are feeling especially flush. I had also requested a 4x4, ideal for some light off-roading – more of that later.
Let’s start with the engine. It is no ball of fire as indicated by the 0-62mph sprint time of 12.9 seconds. Plenty of revs are required to make any kind of decent progress and overtaking manoeuvres require plenty of anticipation and a long run up.
The Duster’s gearing also warrants mention, as first gear is extremely low geared, ideal for off-road excursions and for towing, less so for everyday motoring. I found setting off in second gear worked best.
The gearbox itself is quite slick, so cog-stirring is not too much of a chore. Sixth gear is high enough to make high speed cruising a relaxed affair.
Ride and handling are clearly set up more for comfort than high speed cornering, but generally the Duster makes a reasonable fist of coping with the twisty and bumpy stuff.
Dacia claim 40.4mpg should be possible and this under the new more representative WLTP testing regime. The trip computer read 35mpg at the end of my week behind the wheel. Emissions are a tad on the high side at 158g/km CO2.
The 4WD system fitted to the Duster is a Nissan design and allows the driver to choose from three different driving modes: Auto, in which the rear-wheel drive is engaged automatically in case the front wheels lose grip. In Lock mode 50 per cent of the power is consistently fed through the rear axle and 2WD where the transmission is locked into front-wheel drive for maximum efficiency.
I am lucky to have some reasonably challenging off-road tracks close to home. Mud, lose rocks and some fairly steep climbs were all accomplished with ease and that is with road-orientated tyres. Fit some all-terrain rubber and the Duster would be all but unstoppable.
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There’s ample space for five adults and a decent sized boot for chattels.
Equipment levels in ‘Comfort’ trim are good with air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and rear parking camera amongst the highlights. Mention should also be made of the cruise control, leather steering wheel and front-seat armrest.
The appeal of the Duster is an obvious one, but if you look beyond the affordable pricing structure you will find a genuinely capable and likeable car. The improvements Dacia has made are most welcome, my only reservation being the rather underpowered engine, especially when mated with the 4x4 system.
I would suggest that diesel may be the way forward, but I’m not sure that is ‘PC’ any more...
So far 120,000 Dacia cars have found homes in the UK and on reflection, the new Duster should go a long way to rapidly increasing that figure. A good honest car, with tried and tested mechanicals and a certain charm. Take a look and if you like what you see, I would suggest keeping it simple. ‘Access’ all areas!
Dacia Duster Comfort SCe 115 4x4
1,598cc four-cylinder petrol engine
6-speed manual gearbox
Selectable 4x4 system
0-62mph in 12.9 seconds
Top speed 105mph
Combined economy 40.4mpg
Emissions 158g/km CO2
Insurance group 10
3 year/60,000 mile warranty
All-New Dacia Duster Up Hill And Down Dale, 14th October 2018, 15:59 PM