Costs & verdict
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Duster range opens with the staggeringly affordable Access, which, as mentioned, is priced to massively undercut rivals such as the Seat Ateca. However, not everybody wants an SUV that goes without a radio or air-conditioning, so the next-up Essential model is our recommendation. Better-equipped versions are naturally more expensive, but even the range-topping Prestige comes in at less than the starting price of the Suzuki Vitara. Resale values are excellent, too.
In terms of running costs, the diesel is reasonably fuel-efficient; you should be able to average around 45-50mpg. The TCe 130 petrol should return around 39mpg in everyday driving. Four-wheel-drive versions are considerably more expensive to buy and also bring higher fuel and company car tax costs.
The Duster is particularly competitive in terms of insurance, with relatively low groups again helping to keep running costs down. Dacia also offers some very attractive PCP finance deals, so – as if we even need to reiterate it – the Duster offers excellent value for money across the board.
Equipment, options and extras
You probably won’t be surprised to find that, with such a low price tag, entry-level Access trim is sparsely equipped. You'll find electric front windows, remote central locking and the same safety kit as other Dusters, but, as we’ve already mentioned, there’s no radio, driver’s seat height adjustment or USB socket, and it rides on plain, no-nonsense steel wheels.
It’s definitely worth upgrading to Essential trim – our favourite – because it adds all of the above, plus air conditioning, 60/40-split rear seats and fancier (albeit still steel) wheels, as well as the Bluetooth-equipped radio/media player we mentioned earlier.
Comfort trim distances itself a little from the bargain prices of the lower trim levels but does jazz up the interior and exterior. It also has the touchscreen infotainment system that some buyers will consider a must-have. Prestige has a much longer list of equipment yet still comes in at less than the entry-level Ateca.
Dacia is owned by Renault, so many of its parts are tried and tested items from the French company. That's probably why Dacia finished a very respectable 12th out of 31 manufacturers in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey; believe it or not, that’s far higher than Renault managed. The Duster itself could only manage a 17th-place finish in the family SUV category, but it still scored higher than the considerably more expensive Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar.
The Duster’s standard warranty lasts an unremarkable three years or 60,000 miles. Extended five-year/60,000-mile and seven-year/100,000-mile warranties are affordable options.
Safety and security
Safety is one of the areas where the Duster falls well off the pace. The most advanced safety system it can offer is blindspot monitoring, and this is available only with top-of-the-range Prestige trim. Automatic emergency braking isn't even offered as an option. That's partly why the Duster scored a very disappointing three stars in its Euro NCAP safety tests. It also scored poorly on the protection it offers the driver’s head and neck in a crash.
Thatcham Research gave the Duster a disappointing two stars for its ability to resist being broken into and four stars for its resistance to being stolen altogether. It’s also of concern that an alarm isn’t standard.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here