Dacia has up­dated its pop­u­lar Duster SUV model, whilst keep­ing prices down, in­clud­ing the eye­catch­ing £9,995 en­try-level price. Paul Con­nolly checks it out.

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE BY PAUL CON­NOLLY


WHAT’S NEW? If you’re a ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer and you can hit that sweet spot where value for money and de­sir­abil­ity col­lide, then you’ve got it made. Dacia has man­aged this with the Duster, its ro­bust SUV model.

This sec­ond gen­er­a­tion car, un­veiled at the Frank­furt Mo­tor Show last au­tumn, is a sig­nif­i­cant ad­vance on ear­lier mod­els.

Yet, Dacia has man­aged to keep prices pegged to within £500 of the first gen­er­a­tion. And they’ve even re­tained the at­ten­tion-grab­bing sub-£10k head­line price of the ba­sic model (£9,995 to be pre­cise).

The truth is, the new car looks, drives, feels, be­haves and acts in a more su­pe­rior way than its pre­de­ces­sors.

IN­SIDE THE CABIN The cabin, too, has been com­pletely re­freshed for 2018. The dash­board has been im­proved, with bet­ter qual­ity ma­te­ri­als re­plac­ing some of the harder plas­tics of the pre­vi­ous model.

The in­te­rior isn’t as plush, or course, as you’d find in mod­els from sis­ter com­pany Re­nault, but that’s part of the price-qual­ity trade-off that Dacia has learned to do so well in the past five or so years.

The cen­tre con­sole houses a higher-po­si­tioned and bet­ter qual­ity Me­di­anav dis­play based on Re­nault’s of­fer­ing that groups to­gether all your nav­i­ga­tion, me­dia and info needs in one clear touch­screen panel (note, how­ever, if you opt for the en­try-level mod­els there will be no Me­di­anav dis­play un­less specced as an extra).

The seats have been re­designed with bet­ter foam and length/ height and new head­rests.

Room in the back is de­cent, al­though there’s no change in boot ca­pac­ity: 445 litres for the 2WD ver­sion and 411 litres for the 4WD ver­sion.

UN­DER THE BON­NET For now, there’s a choice of one petrol (SCE 115 – 2WD and 4WD ver­sions) and one diesel en­gine (the Blue dci 115 (2WD).

This 1.6-litre petrol en­gine pro­vides 115 hp and of­fi­cial fuel con­sump­tion of 43.5mpg (2WD model). For 4x4 ver­sions, the com­bined fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure is 40.7mpg.

The 1.5-litre diesel en­gine pro­vides 115 hp with of­fi­cial com­bined fuel con­sump­tion of 64.2mpg.

These are not units that will feel fast un­der your right foot, but if speed and power is what you are af­ter, you won’t be shop­ping in this seg­ment/price point any­way.

If what you need un­der the bon­net is re­li­a­bil­ity, de­cent ef­fi­ciency and value for money, the Dacia is the place to be.

As stan­dard, all mod­els come with a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion, ex­cept for the SCE 115 4x2 petrol model, which has a fivespeed gear­box. The 4x4 mod­els use the Re­nault-de­vel­oped TL8 six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

Han­dling is good on both mo­tor­way and about town, with the new elec­tric-pow­ered steer­ing set-up be­ing light and re­spon­sive, and a dis­tinct im­prove­ment over the out­go­ing model.

A wel­come de­vel­op­ment is the work Dacia has put in to re­duce cabin noise – up to half, they say – over the out­go­ing model; thicker glass, bet­ter seals, and more sound-ab­sorb­ing sur­faces.

The car, par­tic­u­larly in 4WD trim, will per­form well in most ter­rains, and for the tricker stuff, there is op­tional Hill De­scent Con­trol and Hill Start As­sist. 4x4 mod­els have a rear multi-arm sus­pen­sion ar­range­ment spe­cially de­vel­oped for the Duster.

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