2012 Dacia Duster review - updated
The Duster is pretty much the same size as the Nissan Qashqai, but whereas even the cheapest version of the Japanese car costs more than £16,000, prices for the Duster start at just £8995. Even the dearest Dacia – with four-wheel drive, alloy wheels and air-conditioning – costs just £14,995.
The Duster range includes petrol and diesel engines (both with the choice of two- or – for £2000 more – four-wheel drive), but the 1.6-litre petrol unit is reserved for the most basic models, in Access trim. Stepping up to Ambiance or Laureate trims brings the 1.5-litre diesel engine as well as the extra kit.
Access models come with steel wheels, roof bars, electric front windows and four airbags, while Ambiance cars add a stereo with aux-in socket, Bluetooth, split-folding rear seats, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and body-coloured bumpers in exchange for a £2500 higher list price.
Laureate is the top trim, and – with alloy wheels, air-conditioning and rear electric windows, as well as a smarter look inside and out – is expected to be the top seller in the UK. Little wonder when it costs from just £12,995.
Review continues below video...
What’s the 2012 Dacia Duster like to drive?
The Dacia name might be unfamiliar in Britain, but pretty much everything about the Duster has already been proved in Renaults – and the diesel engine in the car we drove is a prime example.
Dacia Duster is available to order now, from £8995
The 1.5-litre unit is perfect for the Duster, with a strong pull from low-down in the rev range, so there’s no need to work it hard. Around town, it has a decent turn of speed, and you’ll have no problem getting it up to the motorway limit or keeping up with everyday main-road traffic.
It’s true that the ride and handling aren’t the very best – the Duster thumps over bumps at high speed, there’s a fair amount of lean in corners, and the steering has a vague, rubbery feel – but for the bulk of the time, the Dacia is more than acceptable.
Standard equipment is basic; entry-level models have black bumpers
The ride is generally quite forgiving, there’s plenty of grip, and the decent gearchange helps to make the car easy to drive. Beyond that, the high driving position and good view out will certainly appeal to many buyers.
Our only main criticism is the refinement. At the motorway limit, passengers noticeably have to raise their voices to talk to each other.
What’s the 2012 Dacia Duster like inside?
The good news is that, by the time we get British-spec models, the Duster will have had a face-lift that includes a much smarter dashboard.
The hard plastics and dated switchgear to be found in the German car we tested will be gone, while the controls for the stereo and ventilation will look and feel much more classy.
Cabin is solidly built, but there are lots of hard, shiny plastics
What won’t change is the amount of room on board; and, again, that’s good news. The driver and front-seat passenger will need to be well over six feet tall before they worry about the head- or legroom being tight, and you’ll easily get a couple of tall adults in the rear seats, too.
The boot is a little narrower than you might expect from the width of the car, but there’s no criticising the 475-litre capacity you get in two-wheel-drive versions. Even four-wheel-drive models offer more than 400 litres of space, which expands to more than 1500 litres (1636-litres in two-wheel drive) when the rear seats are folded down.
It’s a little disappointing that the seats don’t fold down completely flat, but even so, the Duster has more bootspace than a Nissan Qashqai.
Should I buy one?
It’s all too easy to sound like we’re damning the Duster with the faint praise because our review inevitably includes the phrase, ‘for the money.’ However, we also feel compelled to include the word ‘astonishing.’ It’s simply astonishing how little such a large car costs, and for the money, it’s unbeatable.
Naturally, there are some compromises – there’s a limited range of paint colours and options – but we’re sure that buyers won’t mind that once they’ve grasped how little it costs.
This is a car that will doubtless make many buyers sit up and take notice – and probably a lot of other car manufacturers, too.
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