New look’s a big hit
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.