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No-frills, honest value Dacia Duster passes muster

PUBLISHED: 17:44 30 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:44 30 March 2017

Simple four-wheel drive means the  Dacia Duster can get off the beaten track. Picture: Dacia

Simple four-wheel drive means the Dacia Duster can get off the beaten track. Picture: Dacia

Dacia

Motoring editor Andy Russell finds the simple charms of the cheap and cheerful Dacia Duster SUV curiously endearing.

No-nonsense design makes the Dacia Duster curiously endearing. Picture: DaciaNo-nonsense design makes the Dacia Duster curiously endearing. Picture: Dacia

There’s nothing wrong with cheap and cheerful for Dacia. In fact, the Renault-owned Romanian brand’s honest, no-nonsense approach to building cars is refreshingly endearing.

Take the Duster sport utility vehicle – even this range-topping model starts under 10 grand.

It’s a utility design, on older Renault running gear, but its no-frills ethos makes it handsome in a curious kind of way. A mild facelift, with squarer headlights and restyled front bumper, has freshened the look but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Dacia Duster 's fascia is functional but the touchscreen is set awkwardly low. Picture: DaciaDacia Duster 's fascia is functional but the touchscreen is set awkwardly low. Picture: Dacia

Under the bonnet

The 115hp 1.6-litre petrol and 110hp 1.5-litre turbo diesel engines, the latter now also available with an automatic gearbox with front-wheel drive, has been joined by a 125hp 1.2-litre turbo petrol in Laureate and new range-topping Prestige, with two and four-wheel drive.

Dacia Duster is roomy enough for adults to sit comfortably. Picture: DaciaDacia Duster is roomy enough for adults to sit comfortably. Picture: Dacia

The new turbo petrol engine is a pleasant travelling companion, pulling willingly from low revs and revving eagerly, if a little noisily, and averaged 37-40mpg.

How it drives

Front-wheel drive Dacia Duster's have slightly more boot space. Picture: DaciaFront-wheel drive Dacia Duster's have slightly more boot space. Picture: Dacia

Soft suspension easily soaks up roadwork scars and small potholes – a big plus for comfort – but the downside is that the high-sided Duster can be wallowy driven quickly on winding roads. Add lifeless steering and you’re better off backing off and enjoying the ride.

Four-wheel drive whacks £2,000 on the price over front-wheel drive models, taking the shine off value, but it’s a price worth paying for a budget soft-roader with decent ground clearance if you need to get off the beaten track with selectable two-wheel drive, auto and locked four-wheel drive modes.

There’s noticeable tyre and wind noise, the latter down to the chunky shape and roof bars.

Facelifted Dacia Duster gains a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine but doesn’t lose sight of being great value. Picture: DaciaFacelifted Dacia Duster gains a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine but doesn’t lose sight of being great value. Picture: Dacia

Space and comfort

The Duster has enough legroom and headroom to spare for four adults, and three in the back is fine for shorter trips.

The front-wheel drive Duster has a deep 475-litre boot, rising to 1,636 litres – rear seat backs split 60/40 on all but entry Access – but it’s cut to 408 and 1,570 litres on 4x4 models with a higher floor, to accommodate the extra running gear, level with the sill.

At the wheel

The no-frills design continues inside with swathes of hard plastics and a dated, simple fascia but the infotainment touchscreen is set awkwardly low and some switches, such as the electric mirror controller under the handbrake, are in odd places.

The steering wheel adjusts only for height but there’s good seat adjustment.

Value

Available in Access, Ambiance, Ambiance Prime, Laureate and Prestige trims, higher-spec Dusters come with a good array of functional creature comforts.

Final say

With its honest, functional approach to value motoring, it’s easy to develop a soft spot for the Duster’s charms and character.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Dacia Duster Laureate TCe 125 4x4 £14,895 (range £9,495 to £16,495)

Engine: 1,197cc, 125hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 11 seconds; top speed 110mph

MPG: Urban 39.8; extra urban 47.1; combined 44.1

CO2 emissions: 145g/km

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,315mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,000mm; H (including roof bars) 1,695mm

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