In-depth reviews

Dacia Duster review - Engines, performance and drive

The Duster is surprisingly enjoyable to drive, 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 – which apparently requires 35 per cent less effort than before – makes it easy to manoeuvre around town, while the raised driving position gives a commanding view of the road ahead. Put simply, the Duster is no worse to drive than the vast majority of small SUVs, all of which are more expensive to buy.

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 petrol-engined 4x2 model, with 4x4 variants using a transmission with a shorter first gear better suited to off-road demands.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine is carried over from the old 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 10.5 seconds or 12.1 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 new 1.3-litre TCe petrol unit with either 130PS or 150PS is also now available. The higher-powered model sprints from 0-62mph in 10.4 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 100PS petrol engine offered with Access, Essential and Comfort trim levels.

Dacia has taken an interesting step in offering a 1.0-litre 100PS 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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