Dacia Duster Review
Being delivered in a covered trailer is usually the preserve of the more luxurious machinery I’m privileged enough to try, even the Audi Q7 I sampled recently was driven back the press office. So it came as a bit of a surprise the other day when I was told Dacias’s Duster was being unloaded outside. Such was the job of the Dacia (it’s pronounced Dat-chee-ah incidentally) valeters, that the delivery driver didn’t want to get the Duster dirty again on it’s way up to me up here on the Welsh border, hence it’s cosseted ride.
That’s probably where the comparison between the Duster and the more expensive end of the automotive spectrum starts and ends, but I must say the Duster did indeed look good – well, in a functional and chunky(ish) budget brand 4×4 kind of way.
Resplendent in its (optional) metallic Khaki green paint, complete with (optional) chrome side bars, and sitting its on pressed 16 inch steel wheels, my first impressions of the bubble-arched Duster was that it wouldn’t look out of place chasing a certain Mr Bond across an eastern block tundra somewhere whilst being choc full of bumbling baddies. Indulge me; to this particular correspondent at least there is certain stripped-back military-grade look about it, and on closer inspection some of the panel gaps are wide enough to hide a secret weapon or two in too. Oh, alright then, perhaps that’s just me.
Let us not be too harsh. Once inside it’s easy to see that Dacia, once a Romanian brand, is now part of the altogether more Gallic Renault empire. One look at the indicator stalks, the dials, the heater controls, the steering wheel, the gear-knob… you get the idea, is all it takes to make some who’s more familiar a Clio feel right at home.
Fripperies such as built-in touch-screen satellite navigation, heated seats, auto-lights, rain sensing wipers, and a digital radio are all notable by their absence. However in ambiance spec, as per the test car, you do get electric front windows (rear passengers still have manually wind their own), central locking, a USB socket for your phone/i-pod and Bluetooth. Everything is laid out in an orderly fashion and within easy reach, the driver’s seat is height adjustable, and what has been fitted feels like it could do its required task time and time again ad-infinitum. Plush it ain’t, then hard plastics aside, neither is it austere.
That feeling of work-a-day utilitarianism also comes apparent when you drive the Duster. Compared with nearly ever other modern car you can think of, refinement is somewhat lacking. The 110bhp 1461cc 4 cylinder turbo-diesel does deliver an admiral amount of mid-range shove whilst returning a promised and not-to-be-sniffed-at-either 53.3 mpg, and although the Duster could never be described as swift, it is capable of keeping up with the morning traffic. But, stir the 6 speed gearbox up a little or push the Duster a little harder and it soon begins to sound like a trawler on a heavy tide. The steering too is hardly what you’d call communicative. Ultimately you wouldn’t the Duster for the way it handles. But, one look it should be all it takes to tell you that.
What you won’t discover at first glance though is just how cushy the ride is. In an age where everything must be sporty or Nurburgring tested, it’s rather refreshing sometimes to drive a car that feels, well…cushy, soft, and perhaps just a bit baggy. Everyone I took out in it remarked how comfy it was; everyone rather liked it as well.
Those same passengers also liked the fact the Duster, a rugged family sized SUV with selectable four-wheel drive and decent sized boot, one that comes with all things you ever really need, including a full sized spare wheel – when was the last time you saw one those? – can be had (albeit in full nuclear winter spec) from just £9,995. You simply couldn’t buy any other brand new similar-sized SUV for that kind of money.
When it all boils down to the cold hard numbers, you have to admit that Dacia’s Duster really delivers.
Dacia Duster Ambiance dCi 110 4×4
Engine: 1461cc 4Cyl turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed manual, with selectable four wheel drive.
Power: 109bhp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 177 lbft @ 1750 rpm
0-62MPH: 12.5 Sec
Max Speed: 106 mph
CO2: 135 g/km
MPG: 53.3 combined
Price: From £9,995 (car driven £14,490)
For more information visit http://www.dacia.co.uk/vehicles/duster/