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.
The Mk2 Duster 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, and it does suffer from a combination of a fair bit of body roll and dull, lifeless steering as result. This creates a vague and detached driving experience, and its inadequate soundproofing means the Duster can be a tad noisy, especially when idling in the 1.5-litre diesel model.
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.
Car group tests
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- Long term test review: Dacia Duster 4x2 Comfort
- New Dacia Duster Expression 130 TCE petrol review
- New Dacia Duster Extreme SE 2022 review
- Dacia Duster petrol review
- New Dacia Duster Bi-Fuel 2020 review
Used car tests
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.
0-62mph 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 helps to reduce emissions.
Acceleration would be best described as adequate, with the diesel hitting 62mph in 10.2 seconds in both 4x2 and 4x4 forms. 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.
There are two TCe petrol engines to choose from: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder or 1.3-litre inline-four. The larger 1.3-litre unit seems like the pick of the range to us, as it’s barely any less economical than the smaller three-cylinder, but far smoother, particularly at idle. It’s more powerful too, producing either 128bhp or 148bhp; enough to provide perfectly adequate performance.
The more potent TCe 150 unit will propel the Duster from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds, giving the SUV the clout to take on models costing several thousand pounds more. Meanwhile the TCe 130 takes 10.6 seconds to complete the same benchmark sprint.
For those unconcerned with extra power, the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine produces just 90bhp and takes 13.1 seconds to reach 62mph, so it does feel a little lethargic.
One slightly unconventional option is a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder Bi-Fuel engine that can run on either petrol or LPG. The Duster TCe 100 Bi-fuel produces 99bhp in all, but takes 13.8 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
In this review
- 1Dacia Duster reviewThe Dacia Duster is better than ever, and is possibly the best value SUV you can buy
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe Duster focuses mainly on delivering comfort, while being reasonably economical and rather good off-road
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsCheap to buy and cheap to run – owning a Dacia Duster shouldn’t break the bank
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe Dacia Duster looks better than before, and the interior quality is up a notch
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spacePracticality is a real Dacia Duster strong point, offering space for five adults and a large boot
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe Duster's lowly safety rating might be a concern for some buyers, although Driver Power customer feedback is improving