Dacia Duster delivers SUV driving delights

by Michael Moroney

Dacia has brought a new level of value to the SUV market with the competitively priced Duster. This re-styled mid-range SUV has lead the Renault owned brand to a significant market share in the Dublin car market and for good reason as Michael Moroney reports.
Dacia’s very popular Duster SUV got a mid-life makeover last year and there is more to come for 2018.
The Duster is an affordable SUV that offers a reasonable price package for families that want SUV features at a value price.
I’ve recently driven the upgraded Duster, which is a model that just been on the Irish market for five years. Despite it’s relatively short time here, the distinctive Duster design and the value for money image have made the car highly identifiable.
The Dacia brand is a wholly-owned part of the Renault Group. For decades Renault had been supplying Romanian-based Dacia with car components and then in 1999, the Renault Group acquired the full business. Dacia’s brand image is all about value, using some tried and test Renault components that are now also found in the Nissan range, which is also part of the Renault family of brands.
For the Irish market Dacia has kept things simple. There is one diesel engine offering with 109bhp power out and varying CO2 levels depending on whether you opt for two- or four-wheel drive versions. The price differences are then based on the specification options, while the entry price of €16,890 sets the tone for the value discussion.
In an overall sense and relative to the competition, you get a whole lot of car value in a Dacia Duster for the competitive price and the package includes three years/100,000km warranty. These are the compelling reasons to give the Duster a closer look but they are not the only ones.
Taking the Duster to the road I soon found that the overall car styling and build quality has improved so much from the first Duster that I drove almost five years ago.
This newer Duster has improved comfort, better engine performance, its smoother and quieter to drive. It well deserves to be respected and not just for its value tag.
The engine performance is good, not remarkable, while it is on par with the entry-level Nissan Qashqai. Both the Duster and the Nissan Qashqai use a similar 1.5-litre Renault designed diesel engine. While the Dacia version will be a slightly older generation engine, there is little difference in the key performance features.
The economy data for the Duster is a match for the competition. While this is not a heavyweight SUV on the scales, it does deliver an economy figure that’s only surpassed by the related Nissan Qashqai. With a rated economy figure of 21m/litre (4.4/100km or 59mpg), this Duster beats all others in terms of economy, on paper at least.
Out on the road, the Duster demands a little more the accelerator pedal the achieve its best. That meant that my relatively shorter test drive than usual gave a performance that was 25% off the rated figure. That in my book is the standard in the market, so it is enough for me to rate the Duster a reasonably economical car.
Interestingly, the Duster has the longest wheelbase among the mid-range SUV’s such as the Qashqai, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan. This despite the fact that it’s the most compact in terms of length and that makes it easier for city driving. Add the fact that its turning circle is good you have a car that’s easy to drive and now comes with some additional driver friendly features.
Since the first days of the Duster the build quality has improved significantly. The car just feels more solid and by some styling adjustments, the look has also been modernised. These subtle changes to the styling give a better look to the car, while its raised stance is preserved to give a true SUV look to the Duster.
The Dacia has plenty of safety kit it has not undergone a Euro NCAP safety test since 2011, when it received a three star rating. The car comes with ISO-fix couplings, four airbags and a host of safety features, I’m surprised that as a Renault Group car it has not a more recent Euro NCAP safety rating.
I drove the Summit version with some additional kit over the entry model. This included cruise control and speed limiter, electric front and rear windows, MediaNav touchscreen navigation, rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, metallic paint, 16” alloy wheels, burnt orange air vent surrounds, Duster orange trim upholstery, body side and wheel arch mouldings. That extra kit adds nearly €5,000 to the price, while it’s still competitive for a similar specification package from the competition.

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