Dacia Duster review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Dacia Duster is priced like a supermini but has the space and ability to rival the Nissan Qashqai

Excellent value for money, decent space, chunky looks
Extremely basic base model, ESP an option, noisy diesel

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The Dacia Duster changed the face of the family car market when it went on sale back in 2012. All of a sudden, buyers of tiny five-door superminis were offered crossover practicality and SUV style – all for less than £10,000.

It was an immediate hit with UK motorists thanks to its no-nonsense price and back-to-basics kit list. Buyers get a choice of 1.6-litre petrol or 1.5-litre diesel engines, as well as two or four-wheel drive. 

As well as engine and drivetrain options, you also get a range of three easy-to-understand trim levels. The basic Access is exactly that – basic. It only comes in white and does without modern-day necessities like split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth or even a radio.

Check out our Dacia Duster long-term test review to see what it's like to live with

The mid-range Ambiance is better equipped, adding all of the above for a modest extra outlay, while the range-topping Laureate boasts alloy wheels, air-con and electric rear windows. A top-spec diesel 4x4 costs about the same as an entry-level Ford Focus.

Direct rivals are few and far between. While it may be a small off-roader similar to the Suzuki JimnySuzuki S-Cross and Fiat Panda 4x4, favourable pricing actually puts it on a par with cars like the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio. Before the Duster went on sale, buyers after this much space would have had to look towards the used car market.

We’re big fans of Dacia here at Auto Express, and our sister site Carbuyer has twice named the Duster as Small SUV of the Year – taking the title in 2013 and 2014. 

Our choice: Dacia 1.5 dCi 110 Laureate 4x2



As you’d expect, paying £9,500 for a brand-new SUV doesn’t get you much in terms of style or badge appeal. There’s a certain charm to the Duster’s back-to-basics, utilitarian personality, but if you want luxury you’ll need to look elsewhere.

The basic Access model makes do with steel wheels and black bumper plastic – and it’s only available in white. Inside, there are swathes of cheap black plastic, and if you want a radio, you’ll have to spec one as an optional extra. That said, everything feels robust and looks quite smart, with only the odd piece of switchgear giving away its Renault roots.

• Best 4x4s and SUVs on sale now

Opt for mid-spec Ambiance and above and you’ll benefit from luxuries like Bluetooth, USB connectivity, fog lights, body-coloured bumpers and nicer upholstery. Top-of-the-range Dacia Duster Laureate models come with 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, electric door mirrors, and more stylish chrome roof bars, scuff plates and door handles.

Dacia also offers a range of option packs on the Duster. These include a Styling pack that brings daytime running lights and chrome finishing for the side bars and exhausts. There’s also a Protection pack, which includes an alarm, rear parking sensors and front and rear mudguards.



The basic Dacia Duster Access is only available with a Renault-sourced 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine, and while it's powerful enough to keep up with traffic, it isn’t particularly efficient.

However the 109bhp 1.5 dCi diesel taken from the Renault line-up – the sole engine available on Ambiance and Laureate models – is responsive and offers decent pace. It’s certainly the better engine, and thanks to the six-speed manual gearbox is fairly economical too. It's a little noisy though, so beware if you intend on spending a lot of time on the motorway.

Dacia Duster off road

The suspension soaks up bumps well, but there's a lot of body roll in the corners. If you want a fun-to-drive family car, stick with a Ford Focus. If you need a 4x4 you’ll need to stretch to Mazda’s brilliant (but expensive) CX-5. That said, a Suzuki SX4 S-Cross strikes a good balance – and is better than the Dacia both around town and at speed.



The Dacia Duster has been available to buy in continental Europe since 2010. The Duster’s tried-and-tested parts has ensured a strong reputation for reliability – and in the 2014 Driver Power survey, Dacia finished an amazing fifth place ahead of the likes of Mercedes, Kia and Audi.

All Dacias come with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, too. This can be upgraded to a Hyundai-rivalling five-year, 60,000-mile deal, or even a Kia-rivalling seven-year, 100,000-mile scheme for a small premium. At the time of writing, these cost £395 and £850 respectively.

While it's practical and good value, the Dacia Duster scored just three stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, mainly due to a poor result in the pedestrian protection test and the fact that electronic stability control is only offered as an option on the higher-end Ambiance and Laureate models. Fortunately, in addition to passenger and side airbags, Dacia fits anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist to all Dusters as standard.



In addition to its excellent value, practicality is one of the Dacia Duster trump cards. In fact, it gives some of the best space-per-pound you'll find in today's new car market.

Dacia Duster interior

The Duster's boot is 65 litres bigger than that found in a Nissan Qashqai at 475 litres, and despite the elasticated load cover feeling a tad flimsy, its opening is nice and wide. There should be plenty of room for most family’s day-to-day clobber, and even enough space for the odd trip to the tip.

However, Dacia only offers 60:40 split-folding rear seats on the Ambiance and Laureate models, with a single-piece rear bench as standard on basic Access cars.

Rear seat practicality is good though, offering plenty of space for three adults to sit abreast. We found the front seats a little unsupportive though, so if you cover lots of motorway miles, we’d consider a more conventional family car – such as the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus.

Running Costs


In addition to its no-frills personality, one of the most attractive aspects of the Dacia Duster is its value for money. With a starting price of around £9,500 for an entry-level model, it costs less than some similarly-priced superminis such as the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo. For an extra £2,000, all two-wheel drive models can be upgraded to 4x4, making it the cheapest off-roader on sale.

As for economy, the 1.5-litre two-wheel-drive Dacia Duster diesel is the most efficient option thanks to economy of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 130g/km. If you go for the four-wheel drive Duster, the economy drops to 53.3mpg and raises emissions to 137g/km.

However, this is still more efficient than the 1.6-litre petrol Duster. That can only manage 39.8mpg and emits 165g/km, which means it will cost a lot more to tax and run than a 1.2-litre DIG-T Nissan Qashqai

Of course, by spending less to begin with, you’ve less to lose on the second-hand market. Residuals for the Duster are forecast to be similar to the Qashqai, so you should get a fair chunk back when the time comes to trade.


Disqus - noscript

I'm sorry but 3 and a half stars for styling... the car doesn't even have alloys??!!!

4 stars for this is just a joke... what a horrible dreadful piece of crap!

I know there is a huge fanclub for Dacia because "ooooo there so cheap"... but that doesn't rub off on me. Why you wouldn't buy a NICE second hand car for the price of this TAT is beyond me!!!

Well I bought an 1.5dci Ambiance early May (metallic paint but no other extras) and have been running it for about three weeks and covered nearly 3000 miles, across Europe 4 times. Diesel noisy? - yes they all are, it comes down to level of soundproofing, it is not a problem when cruising. Comfort? no real problem and dead easy to get in and out of. Extras? who really needs them for a vehicle of this type. Space? excellent. Performance? As recommended I don't exceed 2500 rpm just now but it pulls OK and cruises at 70 mph all day. How many speeding tickets do you need before you wake up to today's reality? Satisfied? Absolutely, I want it for its utility, not to pose with. Gripes? The dealer offered extra packages are not worth the money, a pick and mix approach would be more interesting. Just about scrapes 50 mpg which is not that impressive, but maybe body size (drag?) is a factor and it may get better as the engine beds in.

A NICE second hand car won't have a 3 year warranty and zero miles on the clock.

Have you actually been in one? I sat in one in a Renault showroom and didn't think it was 'TAT'.

£655 for an upgraded styling pack to include DLR's? Aren't DLR's now compulsory for all new models under EU law?

Because you can buy a nice second hand Duster as well.

Actually that is the most silly argument ever. You can always buy a nice send hand car for the price of any new car. It applies to any new car so is has zero value. It comes up every now and then to remind us there are plenty of car brand snobs out there.

Oh, and why would need (and pay extra for) alloys on this type of car is way beyond me.

Well yes I have sat in one, and yes, it is EXTREMELY tatty.

As for 0 mileage, are you having a giggle? I have always ran my cars into high mileage and never found a problem. I would have far more faith running my old Audi A6 with 180,000 miles on the clock than this junk.

As for warranty... Anyone who has had a problem with their car and tried to get it repaired under manufacture warranty will tell you that it is not as valuable as it would appear on paper.

True, but nevertheless, it is still a valuable point!!! WHY buy this over a year old Qashqai for example which is nice to look at, good to drive and more reliable?

Why are you so bitter about this brand? Can you not afford one or something?

How on earth you can claim it is extremely 'tatty', that's just a typical trolling response.

I bet the indicators work for starters.

I suppose you could say I have a phobia of cheap and nasty products.

I would much prefer to be called a brand snob in the comfort of my BMW, than have to drive that!

This isn't a new model. It's new to the UK, but has been out in the rest of Europe for a few years now. Therefore it doesn't need DRLs as standard.

I think you have a phobia of Common Sense...

I think you have a phobia of Style...

I would be very interested to see how can you prove the Qashqai is more reliable than a newly released car.... By the way, both cars are built by the same manufacturer.

Why would you buy this one instead of similarly priced 1 year old Qashqai? Because it's new, has longer warranty, it's cheaper to run and does 16 mpg more (combined) whilst having 50% more torque. Not to mention much better attack angles, bigger boot, better off road capabilities.

Price? the cheapest 1 year old 4WD Qashqai is £19000 (autotrader) whilst the cheaper 4WD Duster is £11000. So you pay £8000 less for a new, more spacious, better offroader car.

Firstly, the Duster is a cheap Renault, a company hardly known for robust reliability, the Qashqai is built by Nissan, a brand in the motor industry which stands for reliable motoring. Renault and Nissan are in alliance but not on these two models my friend.

Secondly, the cheapest 1 year old qashqai on autotrader is just over £10k, pointless comparing 4x4 as they are both useless offroad, you may as well buy a real offroader like a Defender if off-roading is a priority.

As for styling... I simply refuse to argue why the qashqai is better looking than the WORST looking car on sale today.

Tell me something - you say you have sat in one. Given that you'd clearly made up your mind about them beforehand, can I ask why you bothered?

(P.S. there is a saying: "more money than sense" - I think it applies.)

OK folks - you heard it here first. Never mind the expert reviews from Auto Express, Carbuyer, Car and Driver, Top Gear etc. etc; never mind the string of awards from top motoring bodies. Mr 3-series sat in one and knows more about it than anyone else. It doesn't have a premium badge, so it's no good. Must be true.

A wise man once said "a fool and his money are easily parted." A cynic might argue that certain so-called "premium" brands have been relying on this principle for too long. Wonder what Mr Rightfoot drives...? Oh, right....

"The Qashqai is built by Nissan, a brand in the motor industry which stands for reliable motoring"

"Renault, a company hardly known for robust reliability"

You are really funny. The Qashqai is built on the C platform, just like Renault Megane, Koleos, Fluence, Kangoo and Scenic. And the diesel engines are Renault built as well.

Renault has such reputation because of car brand snobs like you.

Just like your Audi A6 is built by a company that used to have a reputation of being the folks' car. Fortunately for you, they increased their prices so you are driving a premium brand now. Although it still lags behind Renault Megane in the 2013 most reliable car top published by Autoexpress.

The cheapest Qashqai might be just over 10k, but you wouldn't buy that one because it's too cheap, so it must be bad.

"Renault has such reputation because of car brand snobs like you."

At that point I stopped reading because of your stupidity and naivety.

Renault are known for being unreliable because they're cars are unreliable!

Your banter is nearly as impressive as the styling of this car.

And another wise man once said "No way am I driving something THAT ugly. Instead I'll buy a car that I wouldn't mind people seeing me in"

Because they are on display in a range of shopping centres up and down the country?

Your're out of arguments so your high education starts to prevail.

Don't worry mate, there will always be a more expensive car for you to buy. Chill out, have another bear!

Look, I'm bored now, if you want to buy a cheap car which looks like it has some sort of mental disability, then go for it! I really don't mind!

Meanwhile, Yes... I will enjoy driving my overpriced BMW, because I am a petrolhead; someone who gets great enjoyment out of driving powerful sports cars... A concept I understand that the owners of these hideous vehicles will struggle to understand.

You also get great enjoyment spending your life online bashing cars you don't like.

Judging by the amount of energy you put in this instead of just enjoying your "overpriced" car, makes me think there is plenty of frustration in your petrolhead.

Live and let live!

well, your obviously in the minority, nigh 5,000 buyers in just a few months for a new brand to the UK is amazing, and as for quality, I think teh reputed quality of the German marques are factually poor, against other brands like Skoda, Jaguar and many others.

A year old bimmer looks tatty and rubbish and a second hand one would still cost twice that of a Dacia, they are honest and true, they don't have idea's above their station, and do exactly what they say they will do.
I have been in Dacia's and german cars, yes they dont ride the same, but they dont compete in the same segments, so to compare them is pathetic.

I would rather have a new Duster than a 2nd hand anything, your comment on warranties is stupid, and if you have had issues with your German cars and warranties, well that says it all.

That was most stupid comment I have ever read, well done.

Clearly I am the majority as Dacia are hardly the biggest selling manufacturer in the uk!!

As for the statement that you would prefer a new Duster over ANYTHING second hand... Hahaha that is brilliant! What an idiot.

In the latest JD power jobby, BMW faired poorly, in fact based on the comments below and its uber reliability the ACTUAL reliability is dreadful, and was beaten by such Quality brands of Kia, Mazda, Hyundai, Skoda, Jaguar Mercedes and so on.

BMW were in 15th place, thats DOWN one place from 2012 and down a further six places from 2011, whereas Renault have risen from 24th in 2012 to 21 this year, and only 1.5% away from beating your beloved BMW.

Now thats not just talk, thats statistics from people that OWN these cars, SO, if, as they are, Dacia are based heavily on tried and tested parts from Renault, there reliability will undoubtedly be the same if not better, as the cars are predominantly built for less than perfect road systems in their home country, SO, who now is driving the better car, I dont think it is the BMW driver, with a reputation dropping like a stone.

you want Ugly, what about the hideous 1 Series or the bloated and awful looking 6 series, the X1 is just so weird in proportions, and what about all the BANGLE BUNGLES as they were known....

This is easily the funniest bunch of comments I have ever read... The duster a better car than any BMW... HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA

Compared to the duster, the BMW's are gorgeous, even the runts of the family.

The Duster rivals the multipla, rodius and PT cruiser for the best representation of what a car would look like if it had downs.

NO, your the idiot, because you still think your BMW is better than anything else when there are far more superior cars out there,

yes you laugh at your own failure, heavyrightfoot= FAIL, why, because you cant see the facts for what they are


and your banter is nearly as pathetic as the bimmers are horrid

Wasn't that you that said that not me? When did I say my Beamer was better than anything else?

You are a strange little man... you have my sympathies.

Moving on now - as we all should, folks. No point appealing to a closed mind.

When you buy a BMW you are not just paying for the car you are also paying for the dealership premises that have to be of BMW specs and to make sure they are to spec BMW sells the repair equipment the showroom furniture the tin[les for the walls everything at another inflated price and the floor area around the repair bays has to be a certain size etc adding to the rateable value of the property. You are also paying for the availability of courtesy cars or collect from place of work when in for service or maintenance and as for reliability two cases from many come to my memory of many cases one that every auto box of a certain model had to be replaced because of faults and another model from a certain factory had to have a complete re-spray before being delivered to it's new owner.
I know this because I used to work for the delivery company that had the sole contract for BMW deliveries.
I also owned a Duster for 2 1/2 years and had no faults and was 100% satisfied with it and did not consider it ugly and before you ask I changed cars to purchase a Lodgy another Dacia model.

Folks, I'm aware this thread has gone cold, but I was put in mind of the "useless offroad" comments above. If anyone is interested in making up their own mind, objectively, as to the Duster's off road credentials, simply search 'Dacia Duster 4x4' or 'Dacia Duster off road' into YouTube. There are numerous videos that should help - sadly, it appears I can't post the urls direct in Disqus.

My experience with renault warranty has been second to none, even when my vehicle was outside of its 3 year warranty it was repaired with genuine parts free of charge because it had been serviced as per manufacturers specifications. Dacia is looking good europe wide.

When I paid for my BMW, I got a free phallus extension. It's got a little LED daytime running light on the crown too. I win.

Had my Duster for 4 months and am totally disgusted at the lack of customer service, appalling build quality and faults, all over a 2000 mile period. 2 breakdowns, rust appearing in 3 different areas and the dealwer and Dacia UK don't want to know.Avoid like a plague of locusts!

can only agree after having owned a BMW -it's shait!

wonder if those slaging you off also buy their food at Aldi. or heaven forbid Lidl!

Can't believe the comments about BMW having good reliability. I've owned 3 new BMWs over 7 years and had 7 breakdowns, requiring recovery. The most serious was a catastrophic engine failure requiring a new crank, big ends etc. Just out of warranty - cost a bloody fortune!

Why is no one talking about 3 star euro ncap crash rating of this car... If u want to be one of the statistics, go ahead and buy one

Fully discussed in a separate thread. Look beyond the headline ratings and you might lear n something - about the car, or about yourself...

I have a Dacia Duster and I am very happy with it I have previously owned an Audi q5 an Audi TT a Nissan Juke and various Peugeot models and also a Mercedes A clas all new and I can honestly say I wish Dacia had been around years ago and I could have saved myself a fortune I am more than happy with my Dacia it's a great car

The dacia is built with the same chassis as a qashqui, the 4x4 is off an xtrail and it uses the same 1.5dci as the qashqui, pretty reliable then.

the qashqai ( stupid name) is as dog ugly as a kia or hyundi who also make cars with stupid names

look at Clarksons comments about SSangyongs pub brawl and believe it or not designd by a brit who obviously designed the skoda estell as well

Last updated: 3 Feb, 2015