New look’s a big hit

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Pe­ter Keenan COVEN­TRY TELE­GRAPH

IN the mu­sic busi­ness the dif­fi­cult sec­ond al­bum is part of pop folk­lore. Af­ter spend­ing years putting all their cre­ative juices into one sub­lime record, bands are then re­quired by their hard-hearted record com­pany to re­peat the suc­cess and the heart­felt lyrics only 12 months later.

With cars, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion can also be a prob­lem when the first has sold like hot­cakes. As a mo­tor man­u­fac­turer you’ve pro­duced some­thing the pub­lic likes and wants to buy.

But fierce com­pe­ti­tion de­mands you pro­duce an up­rated model that threads the nee­dle of not alien­at­ing the fans who al­ready love you, while of­fer­ing enough in the way of changes to at­tract new devo­tees.

The first gen­er­a­tion Da­cia Duster was a no-frills, bar­gain-base­ment SUV suc­cess story. So although ev­ery vis­i­ble panel of the lat­est ver­sion is new, Da­cia en­sures the spirit of the orig­i­nal re­mains.

Thus the ex­te­rior is re­vamped rather than rad­i­cally al­tered with 16-inch al­loy wheels, skid plates front and rear, a big­ger grille and larger head­lights catch­ing the eye. There is also neat con­tour­ing for the natty bon­net as well as new nifty tail-lights at the rear.

Some of the rougher edges of the orig­i­nal have been smoothed off and there is an al­to­gether more so­phis­ti­cated feel.

Da­cia gives the cabin a de­cent re­fresh with a new dash and com­fort­able seats plus a more up­mar­ket seven-inch touch­screen. The Com­fort 4x4 model sam­pled is well kit­ted out with guid­ance pro­vided by an easy-to-use sat nav while park­ing is a cinch thanks to a rear view cam­era.

Ef­fi­cient air con­di­tion­ing, newly­ac­quired side cur­tain airbags to en­hance safety and a seven func­tion trip com­puter are joined by heated door mir­rors, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, voice con­trol and elec­tronic power steer­ing in a top team that should make the Duster much more ex­pen­sive than it is.

You might think that in or­der to save money some­where the Ro­ma­nian arm of Re­nault would skimp on the fit and fin­ish of the Com­fort model’s cabin. But here is why peo­ple have fallen in love with the Da­cia Duster – it goes above and beyond what you should rea­son­ably ex­pect from a four-wheel drive SUV with a price-tag of £15,395.

Of course there have to be some com­pro­mises to pro­duce an en­trylevel Duster still priced at un­der £10,000. The new kid on the block does re­use the old car’s plat­form with a lot of parts bor­rowed from other Da­cia mod­els while the Re­nault back cat­a­logue is shame­lessly raided.

But that said there is a re­fine­ment about the Duster de­spite the bud­get car billing that has a lot to do with top qual­ity noise in­su­la­tion thanks to ad­di­tional sound proof­ing and thicker glass.

There is plenty of room for four adults and their lug­gage as, at just 5cm shy in length from a Nissan Qashqai, it is a good-sized SUV boast­ing plenty of cubby holes in­clud­ing un­der­seat stor­age on the front pas­sen­ger side.

The SCe four-cylin­der, 1.6-litre petrol en­gine, linked to a six-speed man­ual gear­box, proves sur­pris­ingly sprightly although you do have to be rea­son­ably ro­bust with your right foot to get any­where quickly.

Fuel econ­omy is ad­e­quate at around 40mpg with emis­sions com­ing in at 158g/km. A 1.5-litre diesel is also avail­able with both en­gines de­vel­op­ing 115bhp.

There is plenty of grip in the all-wheel drive model – front driven ver­sions are also avail­able – and the han­dling is fine while the sus­pen­sion soaks up most of the pun­ish­ment meted out by our pot­hole-rid­den roads. Tak­ing it off road won’t be a prob­lem thanks to hill de­scent con­trol and the switch­able four­wheel-drive set up as well as the eight inches-plus of ground clear­ance.

The Duster is a formidable value-for-money pack­age so I can for­give it be­ing pro­moted us­ing Queen’s ‘An­other One Bites The Dust’ hit in Da­cia’s lat­est ad cam­paign as it oc­curs to me that the leg­endary rock band also had no prob­lem fol­low­ing up its break­through mo­ment.

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