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Dacia Duster: Exceptional value... and it's quite handsome

By Roger St. Pierre with Hazel Kempster

"New look, new features, same price. You do the math." For once here’s a TV car ad that gets straight to the point, rather than merely pounding us with OTT graphics.

With prices from £9,495, the comprehensively upgraded Dacia Duster is aimed fair and square at those looking for exceptional value for money, who are sold on the 4x4 SUV concept but cannot afford Chelsea tractor prices.

But, in its latest incarnation the now quite handsome Dacia – we kid you not on that – is no mere cheap as chips Range Rover wannabee. It also happens to be a rather competent vehicle, both on and off-road.

A little background: back in the inter-war years, Romania boasted the fifth most prosperous economy in Europe.

Today it has considerable reserves of oil, coal, gold and other minerals, soil rich enough to yield two crops a year and a resurgent industrial sector, with Dacia, which is owned by French mega company Renault, as one of its key components.

Instead of relying on hand-me-down designs from its parent, Dacia is now developing its own engineering and design skills as well as, most importantly, upscaling its image and doing some great marketing, though it has to be said that the Duster does use a lot of bits and pieces from the Renault and Nissan parts bins and is largely assembled at an impressive state of the art factory in China!

Will Dacia achieve its aim of being a successful stand-alone brand? Well, remember this: Skoda used to be ridiculed for its cheap plastics and terrible build quality while the three letters BMW were once synonymous with bizarre little bubble cars – but just look at how well regarded these marques are today.

The Duster is proof that Dacia too can reinvent itself and it has chosen the pathway of offering quality build at outstanding value for money. That said, the cheapest Duster is decidedly low-rent when it comes to specification – only coming in 1.6 diesel format and with two-wheel drive and not even featuring a radio.

However, at the top of the Duster range, the 4x4 Laureate version comes with a tick-box full of goodies – yet comes onto the showroom floor at just £15,495, which makes it far more affordable than all its rivals.

Make no mistake, this is a very good car, especially at the price.

As one reviewer put it succinctly: “The Dacia Duster is a no-nonsense machine that wears its bargain price as a badge of honour.’

Online Editors


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