Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Duster range opens with the staggeringly affordable Access which, as mentioned, is less than half of the starting price of rivals such as the Seat Ateca. Better-equipped versions are naturally more expensive, but even the top-trim Prestige comes in at less than the starting price of the Suzuki Vitara. Residual values are excellent, too.
Running costs are low if you avoid the thirstier petrol engines. The diesel is reasonably fuel-efficient and, given that official WLTP combined fuel economy figures suggest 57.6mpg for the front-wheel-drive variant and 48.7mpg for the four-wheel drive, you should easily average around 50mpg if you drive it responsibly. The four-wheel-drive models are considerably more expensive to buy and also bring higher fuel and tax costs, though.
The Duster boasts particularly competitive insurance group ratings that, again, help to keep running costs down. Dacia also offers some very cheap PCP rates so, all in all, the Duster is among the cheapest cars to own in its class.
Equipment, options and extras
You probably won’t be surprised that 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 there’s no radio, driver’s seat height adjustment or USB input 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, fancier (albeit still steel) wheels and steering wheel stereo controls.
Comfort trim adds a couple more grand to the pricetag, but does jazz up the interior and exterior should you want to cut a dash in suburbia. It also has the touchscreen infotainment system that some people can't live without. Prestige has a much longer list of equipment including rear parking sensors and a multiview camera yet still comes in at less than the entry-level Ateca.
Dacia is owned by Renault, so many of the parts are tried and tested items from the French company. That's probably why Dacia finished a very respectable 13th out of 31 manufacturers in the 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey; believe it or not, that’s higher than Renault managed. Likewise the Duster itself finished 10th out of 14 in the Family SUV category, above the considerably more expensive Mercedes GLA and the Range Rover Evoque.
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. It has six airbags (including curtain ones) as standard across the range, but blind spot monitoring is only available on top-of-the-range Prestige trim and 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 crash tests.
Thatcham Research has not tested any Dacia for resistance to forced entry and theft. Although the steel wheels on the two cheapest trim levels are unlikely to attract thieves, it’s disappointing that an alarm isn’t standard.
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