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First Drive

First Drive: Dacia Duster

The story:
Renault’s budget brand Dacia has launched a second generation of its biggest model – the Duster small SUV
Category:Small off roader
Key rival:MG XS
Dacia Duster
Emissions: 149g/km
On sale:Now

Dacia has brought in its second-gen Duster, the cheapest way into a small off-roader, with prices under £10,000 for the entry car.

That doesn’t get you much equipment though, because it misses out on body-coloured bumpers, alloy wheels, electric mirrors, an audio system and split-fold rear seats. Still, stepping up through the four trim levels adds most of the kit you’d expect from other more expensive models.

The looks have been pleasantly improved from what was already a nicely styled car, but the compact dimensions of the previous model are unchanged

Opening the Duster’s door betrays its budget car roots, with even the door handle – only body-coloured on the top two trim levels – feeling cheap. The interior may have been improved over that in the previous Duster, but it’s still a car in which obvious cost has been removed on things like the quality of trim.

First Drive- 2018- Dacia Duster  Comfort- image 3 Company Car Today Magazine

Nevertheless, the cabin looks reasonably smart, if pretty basic, and the Duster’s practicality strengths are obvious when you open the boot to reveal a huge 478-litre load area. Rear passenger space is adequate rather than excessive, with the rear seats very low-backed.

Features available for the first time on a Dacia include keyless entry, multi-view camera and blind-spot warning system, all standard on the top-spec Prestige model.

The launch engines are both 115hp units – the 1.6 petrol and 1.5 diesels – and both available in two- or four-wheel drive, the latter adding 8-9g/km. However, a new turbocharged petrol range-topper will be added in the new year.

In petrol form, which is priced at £2000 less than the diesel, the Duster is a little on the loud side from the engine, and there’s also plenty of road noise. But visibility is good, helped by a thin design of door pillar. The ride is a little on the soft side, which isn’t a bad thing for a car in this class.

First Drive- 2018- Dacia Duster Comfort- image 12Emissions figures aren’t great, at 149g/km for the two-wheel drive model, compared with the Suzuki Vitara’s 121g/km, and the diesel Duster’s 115g/km. The flip side is an incredible 43.4% RV prediction, and low insurance and SMR costs. Noteworthy is that the Duster also achieved only a disappointing three stars in the Euro NCAP crash test, due mainly to the shortage of safety tech on-board.

But it’s the budget price that is the Duster’s biggest strength, undercutting even the small crossover MG ZS that is its biggest rival. And that’s on this second-top Comfort trim that gets alloys, sat-nav, electric rear windows, rear camera and parking sensors, and trip computer.



Paul Barker



The verdict

High emissions are a handicap, but the Duster impressively combines a low P11D price with high residual value and plenty of space, as well as good looks. But it still feels like a cheap car, especially for interior quality, rather than great value.