In-depth reviews

Dacia Duster review - Engines, performance and drive

The Duster focuses mainly on delivering comfort, while being reasonably economical and rather good off-road

The Dacia Duster doesn’t offer razor-sharp dynamics or strong performance, but that’s not really the point of this kind of vehicle. Besides, the Duster’s talents lie elsewhere.

It sits on the same platform as the previous model: a stretched version of the Nissan Juke’s underpinnings. That makes it quite an old car underneath; the combination of a fair bit of body roll and dull, lifeless steering combine to create a vague and detached driving experience. Inadequate soundproofing means it can be a tad noisy, especially when idling in the 1.5-litre diesel

But that’s where most of the problems end, because the light steering makes it easy to manoeuvre around town, while the raised driving position gives a commanding view of the road ahead. However, during our test we found the car's basic architecture beginning to show its age, with a noticeable amount of vibration felt through the steering wheel and pedals, while there was too much wind noise from around the A-pillars.

In 4x4 guise, the Duster presents itself as a capable and inexpensive off-roader, with up to 210mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 350mm. The gearing is shorter to make it better at towing and more capable when the going gets rough, but this also makes it a bit more challenging to drive around town.

Otherwise, the Duster is a pleasant car to drive. A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard to all but the 148bhp petrol-engined 4x2 model, with 4x4 variants using a transmission with a shorter first gear better suited to off-road demands. The new dual-clutch auto works smoothly enough, although it will sometimes choose to hold onto a  gear when you'd prefer a higher ratio.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine is carried over from the first-gen Duster, but Dacia has made a few tweaks to make it more powerful and efficient than before. There’s a modest 5bhp hike over the old diesel, with the new unit producing 113bhp. An overboost function delivers a torque increase, while an AdBlue system has cut emissions.

Acceleration would be best described as adequate, with the Duster diesel 4x2 hitting 62mph in 10.3 seconds or 10.2 seconds in the 4x4. The top speeds are 111mph and 108mph respectively. The 4x4’s short gearing can make the Duster difficult to drive smoothly, so we’d avoid this version unless you regularly tow heavy loads or spend lots of time off-road.

A 1.3-litre TCe petrol unit with either 128bhp or 148bhp is also available. The higher-powered model sprints from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds, and makes the Duster feel even more grown-up, giving the SUV the clout to take on models costing several thousand pounds more. For those unconcerned with extra power, there's the entry-level 1.0-litre 90PS petrol engine which, at 13.5 seconds from 0-62mph, does feel a little lethargic.

Dacia has taken an interesting step in offering a 99bhp 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder Bi-Fuel engine, that can run on either petrol or LPG. The intention is to deliver lower emissions, improved fuel consumption and an increase in range.

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