Motoring and Property Editor
4:20 AM 9th October 2021
New Dacia Duster – Launch Review
The Duster first went on sale in Europe back in 2010 with UK sales beginning some three years later. An undoubted success for the Renault-owned Romanian brand, over 1.9 million cars have been sold thus far.
When the Duster first arrived on our shores, the opening price of just £8,995 shocked many. How could a company import the cars, sell them and make a profit? The answer lay in using tried and tested Renault and Nissan parts, cheap Romanian labour costs and a simple pricing structure.
I should point out that the basic model, whilst spacious, was rather sparsely equipped. Wind-up windows, no central locking and as for a radio, sorry no. Most buyers upped the spend to gain a modicum of comfort and convenience.
Since the introduction, Dacia has continually updated the Duster, no doubt using customer feedback and buying trends to cater for demand, yet always making sure to offer value for money.
I have just returned from the Cotswolds where I was able to sample the Duster in its latest incarnation. Yes, prices have risen, the entry ‘Essential’ model now costing £13,999, but there is nothing on sale today as spacious for anything like that sort of spend.
Expect to find manual air conditioning, a DAB radio, cruise control with a speed limiter and electric front windows. Also fitted is a raft of important safety equipment, the likes of which buyers of early Dusters could only have dreamt about. There may be no need to spend more.
‘Comfort’ spec is next in the pecking order (from £15,495) and in this guise you can marvel at the smart 16-inch alloy wheels, electric door mirrors, front fog lights, powered rear windows, leather steering wheel and an 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
If you really must have the best, then ‘Prestige’ is the one to go for. From £16,695, you will now be spoilt by 17-inch alloys, automatic air conditioning, keyless entry, heated seats and satellite navigation.
Most Dusters will now be front wheel drive, with traction to all wheels only available if you specify the diesel engine. Expect to pay around £20,000 depending on the trim selected, so sales are likely to be modest.
There is the choice of three petrol engines in addition to a bi-fuel LPG variant.
For the first time it is possible to have an automatic gearbox with the most powerful TCe 150 engine. It’s a twin-clutch six speed offering which aims to reduce the stress of driving, yet without ruining fuel economy and CO2 emissions. It was this version that I got to sample.
Changes are smooth and acceleration reasonably brisk and those drivers who spend a lot of time in stop-start traffic will love it. Dacia quote 44.8mpg for the combined cycle and from my time behind the wheel, 40mpg should be readily achievable with judicious use of the accelerator pedal.
What else can I tell you about the new Duster. Well, exterior design team have been to work, so please note the Y-shaped LED lights up front, the new grille and rear spoiler for improved aerodynamics.
Ride and handling are still 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.
The driver’s seat is more comfortable than ever and more supportive too and there’s a new centre console with armrest for storage and comfort.
Fast Facts (as tested)
Dacia Duster Comfort TCe 150 4x2 Automatic
Add £845 for metallic paint and spare wheel
110bhp 1,332cc engine
6-speed DCT automatic gearbox
0-62mph in 9.7 seconds
Top speed 124mph
Combined WLTP economy 44.8mpg
Emissions 142g/km CO2
Insurance group 13E
There’s ample room for four or five to travel in a degree of comfort and the boot is generously proportioned too.
Much as I enjoyed the automatic gearbox, I suspect most buyers will be content with the manual. Dacia says that the mid Comfort trim will prove to be the most popular and I would agree. I suggest the TCe 130 engine offers the best all round power and economy option, £16,845 if you follow my advice.
Loyal Dacia customers will undoubtedly love the changes and improvements that come with the new Duster, but although value for money remains at the heart of the brand, the package is such that I am sure new customers will soon be making their way into the showrooms for a test drive.
The Dacia PR representative summed up the brand rather well in just four words – attractive, robust, versatile, and affordable. Agreed!