DACIA’S NO-NONSENSE DUSTER IS A ROBUST FAMILY WORKHORSE
The Dacia Duster is a rough and ready SUV that doesn’t cost and arm and a leg. As Simon Davis finds out, it’s also rather likeable – and it’s selling very well...
DACIA DUSTER WHAT’S NEW?
Since its launch back in 2010, the Dacia Duster has been making something of a name for itself as a bargain basement compact SUV. For the 2017 model year, the Romanian manufacturer has added a new top-of-the-line trim level - known as Prestige - as well as the new 1.2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which we tested on our mid-range Laureate-specification car.
LOOKS AND IMAGE
The Dacia Duster has always been an incredibly utilitarian-looking car. Its no-nonsense exterior is completely devoid of any chintzy detailing or over-the-top styling cues. While this might sound like a recipe for a rather dull-looking car, in reality the opposite carries more sway.
The Duster is a rather handsome thing, and a handful of very subtle updates on the 2017 model year version, such as squarer headlights and a revised front bumper, help keep the car looking fresh. Dacia has also introduced a number of optional styling features to the Duster range that will allow customers to add that little bit something extra to their vehicle. These include new 16-inch Tyrol alloys, a Pennine Green paint scheme and part-leather upholstery.
Moving into the cabin, the Spartan approach to styling continues. All of the surfaces are either plastic or soft-touch plastic, but then you wouldn’t really expect luxurious materials in a car that costs as little as £9,495. The Duster isn’t the last word in build quality either, but the cabin’s rough and ready surfaces should be able to stand up to the most of the abuse family life can throw at them.
So, while the Duster is by no means a car that has been built for posing, its un-aspirational, no-frills nature has always been one of the its more endearing features.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
When you boil it down, the Dacia Duster really does offer all the space an average-sized family really needs. There are five seats, plenty of headroom, a decent amount of legroom in the back and a 475-litre boot. With the rear seats folded down, cargo space in the boot is increased to 1,636 litres. Thanks to a low boot lip, loading and unloading those heavier items in and out of the Duster
is made that much easier.
Children will find the three rear seats more than comfortable enough over those longer journeys. Two adults won’t have a problem sitting in the back of the Duster either, though a middle seat occupant might start to get uncomfortable after a while.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Surprisingly for a car that is so basic, the Duster composes itself rather well on the road. Sure, it has heavy steering and the controls don’t feel great or provide a good level of feedback, yet through the corners there isn’t a huge amount of lean, and its handling feels predictable. It rides well over lumps and bumps, and is comfortable enough at motorway speeds.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the new 1.2-litre TCE 125 petrol engine, which is good for 123bhp. While the free-revving unit had plenty of grunt to get you up to speed in a fashionable manner, we couldn’t help but feel that a diesel engine would suit the Dacia’s character better. While it is more expensive to buy, it will cost less to run in the long-term.
VALUE FOR MONEY
If all you’re after is a means of getting from A to B, the Duster really is hard to beat. Sure, it’s incredibly basic, not terribly well equipped and by no means the most exciting car to drive, but it does the job of being “a car” rather well. It’s far cheaper than alternatives such as a Nissan Qashqai or Ssangyong Tivoli, and with a diesel engine, won’t be too expensive to run, either.
WHO WOULD BUY ONE?
If you can get over the fact the Duster carries no badge prestige whatsoever, then it makes for quite a rational purchase. It’s cheap, comfortable enough, comes with a decent amount of boot and interior space, and with the right engine and transmission combination, it won’t be too expensive to run.
Families looking for a robust workhorse for the school run, dashing to the shops or even long-distance travelling will find the Duster an appealing proposition.
DON’T wait for the January sales! Customers quick off the mark can pick up a pre-increase bargain from Subaru between now and end of year. The Japanese manufacturer has announced an impending January price increase – its first for many many years.
“We’ve held our prices for a con- siderable number of years now, thanks to keen dealer margins and support from our Japanese manufacturers” said Subaru UK Managing Director Paul Tunnicliffe (pictured). “We’re the only brand building our entire range in Japan so it’s really quite remarkable how well we’ve resisted currency and other fluctuations. Most of our competitors have already had one or more price increases in 2016 already, reluctantly we are now forced to follow suit.
“Make no mistake, even after a price increase Subaru will still represent astonishingly good value. Our flagship WRX STI is 300 bhp powered by Boxer engine symmetrical AWD – yet matches the price of the 2WD Volkswagen Golf GTI and is significantly below the cost of an everyday version of the Ford Focus”.
“Outback continues to win accolades with its industry leading Eyesight technology. The insurance industry love our crash avoidance technology and have been slashing premiums on Outback with Eyesight. Importantly, it underlines how much safer you and your loved ones are in a Subaru, your safety is no accident with us. Subarus are engineered from the chassis upwards, we demand class-leading safety and stability, and engineer steel beams into the front and rear doors of all our cars to protect occupants from side-on collisions. There’s a lot going on beneath the skin – to avoid accidents, and to maximise your loved ones’ safety.
“AWD is not just for winter driving, far from it. Given the amount of farm and diesel spills on Northern Ireland’s roads, autumn leaf falls, grit, standing puddles and even occasional ice and slush it’s a full time job staying safe on the roads. Subaru AWD delivers. Imagine a two-legged coffee table? How bad would that be? Only Subaru have all four wheels firmly gripping the road at all times. Many competitors offer inferior variations and permutations of AWD, but nobody else permanently grips the road at each corner from just £17495 OTR delivered in Northern Ireland.
“Customers ordering now from available stock for January registration are fully price protected, after that we cannot promise to avoid the increase,” said Tunnicliffe. “We have limited physical stock after which increases will be inevitable. It really is a case of ‘acting now’ if you are able to. Considering most Subaru owners keep their cars 10 years or more and 99% of all Subarus ever built are still on the road worldwide, then prices tend to balance out over time. But we all love getting a bargain and paying less than our neighbour so best act now to be a Subaru winner. Subaru invented AWD for cars. Don’t settle for less, only with Subaru will you get Boxer engined AWD and WRC Heritage – why would you choose second best?”
Paul Tunnicliffe, Subaru UK Manufacturing Director