Another one drives a Duster: Dacia updates its sub-£10K SUV
Dacia has updated its popular Duster SUV model, whilst keeping prices down, including the eye-catching £9,995 entry-level price. Paul Connolly checks it out.
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.
Looks and design
The exterior design has had an impressive overhaul. Dacia says not a single body panel is carried over from the previous generation car.
The new bonnet has more sculpted crease lines to exaggerate rugged appearance, an affect set off by larger scratch-resistant front skid plate, and a higher side belt line.
Dacia's designers have brought the windscreen forward by 100mm and made it more steeply raked, which adds to space inside.
New 17-inch wheels with black wing arch trims give the car a more assertive personality and a slicker grille/headlamp array actually manages to make the car look a little wider.
LED daytime running lights divided into three sections and Dacia's rear lighting signature - four red stacked squares - round off the look.
The overall affect is definitely SUV, not crossover, and the car has a real 'active lifestyle' feel about it.
My review car, courtesy of Charles Hurst Dacia on Belfast's Boucher Road, came in vibrant Desert Orange colour; it sets the car off nicely, particularly in Prestige trim, and certainly gets it noticed.
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 touch-screen 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 five-speed 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.
Tech and trim
There's little change in the trim levels: Access (from £9,995), Essential (£11,595), Comfort (£13,195) and Prestige (£14,395).
Standard equipment includes the new electric power steering, ECO mode and Stop and StartABS and Emergency Brake Assist, ESC/ ASR (Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control).
Despite this, the entry-level cars are very basic when it comes to technology, and you'd be better off focusing on either Comfort or Prestige.
Essential trim adds air-con, 16-inch 'Fidji' steel wheels, DAB radio with steering-column and Bluetooth connectivity over the standard features.
Comfort adds further goodies including better alloys, leather steering wheel, graphite cloth upholstery, rear parking camera and sensors, the MediaNav 7" touchscreen multimedia system.
Range-topping Prestige piles on further extras including new 17-inch 'Diamond-cut' alloys, s really rather multi-view camera that lets you see all around the car during manoeuvres, blind spot warning, climate control and keyless entry.
Who would buy one?
It's hard to believe the Duster has been with us since 2010, but it has. With sales brisk, particularly for the higher-spec models, it's clear Dacia has hit that value for money/desirability sweet spot with this model.
This is a car that has a wide range of users, from families, to businesses to off-roaders, or singles with active weekend lifestyles.
Unless you want the basic Access vehicle for a specific purpose (say for a business), you should do your shopping at Comfort or Prestige trim - although more expensive, these still represent outstanding value for money.
- The 2018 Dacia Duster is available from Charles Hurst Dacia (www.charleshurstgroup.co.uk/dacia) and all other Dacia dealers.