The back-to-basics Duster SUV aims to shake up the new car market with bargain prices
The Dacia Duster is a neat- looking compact SUV that offers lots of room and decent running costs. Yet it’s priced the same as a supermini, and there’s no other car that can offer that much passenger and luggage space for the money. The company hopes to shake up UK new car sales with its pricing strategy and customer service. We’ll just have to wait and see if buyers here can be convinced by what it offers.
Value for money is a great selling tool these days, and Renault’s budget brand Dacia is ready to clean up with a range of affordable models that will arrive in the UK from next January.
The first to launch is the Duster compact SUV. Prices start from a near unbelievable £8,995 for the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol Access 2WD model. For that you get a chunky-looking five-seat compact SUV, designed with some off-roading in mind.
Standard equipment is spartan on this model, with steel wheels, black plastic exterior trim and manual wing mirrors, but three rear headrests and electric front windows are included.
The mid-spec Ambiance and flagship Laureate are diesel-only and are offered with two or four-wheel drive. Even the top spec is only £14,995, and Dacia expects the majority of buyers will go for this. We tried a Lauréate 2WD to see how it fares on UK roads.
Car group tests
If you’ve been on holiday in Europe recently, you’ll probably have seen a Duster on the road. And it’s a chunky-looking thing. The squared-off shape doesn’t look like any other 4x4, and the short front and rear overhangs allow the 4WD versions to tackle tough terrain.
Inside, the dash is Dacia’s own design, and the centre console features odd metallic brown centre trim. It’s neither wood nor metal, but it certainly stands out.
There’s a smattering of Renault-sourced switchgear, including the interior door handles and electric mirror switch, which is strangely placed under the handbrake lever, so you can’t use it on the move.
Another clever cost-cutting exercise is the location of the rear electric window switches at the back of the centre console, where both driver and passengers can use them. This saves wiring an extra set of buttons for the driver.
Passenger space in the backis good and you’ll easily get three adults in there. The 475-litre boot is 65 litres bigger than a Nissan Qashqai’s, although you get a flimsy elasticated load cover, rather than a roller-style one.
On the road, the Duster is comfortable and the suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps. There’s a fair amount of roll in corners, but you’re unlikely to explore its handling limits.
The 1.5 dCi diesel is a familiar Renault engine, and while it’s a little rattly, it’s quite responsive, thanks to the six-speed gearbox, and returns decent economy, too.
Dacia is opening 127 dealers and the Duster will come with a three-year warranty as standard, although buyers can extend that to five or seven years, adding extra value to a strong package.