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. 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 and you should be able to average around 45-50mpg. However, our favourite remains the TCe 130 petrol which should return around 39mpg in everyday driving. The four-wheel-drive models are considerably more expensive to buy and also bring higher fuel and company car tax costs.
The Duster boasts particularly competitive insurance group ratings that, again, help 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 is excellent value for money.
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, 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.
Comfort trim adds a couple of grand to the price, but does jazz up the interior and exterior should you want to cut a dash in suburbia. It also has the touchscreen (see infotainment section) 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 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. The most advanced safety system it can offer is blind spot monitoring, and this is only available 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.
Disappointingly, Thatcham Research only gave the Duster two stars for its ability to resist being broken into, and four stars for resistance to being stolen altogether. It’s also of concern that an alarm isn’t standard.
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