Gareth Butterfield reviews the cheap and cheerful, but not cheap and nasty Dacia Duster
You’ve got to doff your cap to Dacia. Here’s a company which is aiming to introduce budget cars into a world of rapidly rising prices and increasing heights of luxury.
Of course, you don’t get something for nothing. You can, if needs must, buy the new Dacia Duster, the firm’s SUV, for £9,995 and, as you might expect, sub-£10,000 SUV ownership is a little on the basic side.
But, and this is important, it is possible to drive around in a brand new SUV for about the same price it would cost you to fit a few choice options to your Range Rover.
Thankfully, though, another £1,700 is all it takes to add a few of life’s luxuries and the “Essential” spec comes with a radio, air-conditioning and so on.
It also doesn’t cost a huge amount to spec a Duster up to a reasonably generous spec level, with the “Prestige” version and all its many trimmings weighing in at just £16,695.
Engine choices affect the price, as does the option of four-wheel drive and automatic transmission, but there’s basically a petrol choice, or a diesel choice and you can stick to two-wheel-drive if you fancy keeping costs down.
Dacia is owned by Renault, so you’ll find plenty of familiar touches if you’re used to the French brand and, save for some scratchy plastics, the interior isn’t as swamped with cost-cutting measures as you might think.
Storage space is good, visibility is perfectly acceptable and it’s comfortable, in a cheap and cheerful sort of way.
The new Duster, although it looks very similar to the out-going model, is improved in just about every way. It has better storage, better visibility, engines are cleaner and there’s more safety kit available.
The steering is lighter in the new version and the suspension is still very comfortable, with no drastic pay-off in terms of handling.
The engines will do nothing to set your trousers on fire, sadly, but that’s not really what this car is about. It’s about saving a few quid. And strong fuel economy claims help with that. In the real world, incidentally, it should be possible to eke out a good 50mpg.
More than anything though, the Duster feels tough. It feels ready to take on the rigours of every day life and it feels well set up for use as a functional, no-nonsense tool for the daily grind.
And while it is possible to buy an SUV for less than £10,000 – and that is something to celebrate – I can’t recommend it. Honestly, save up a little bit more, opt for at least the Essential spec, pick the diesel engine, and enjoy driving around in a car that looks and feels like it cost more than it did.
As with any cheap car, there’s a fine line between cheap and cheerful, and cheap and nasty. But the Duster, just like all the other Dacias, is far from nasty. And the new Duster is better than ever.
Value for money is something we all strive for, and the Duster has it in spades. It’s a very good choice of car.