Driving position and dashboard
The Duster provides the lofty driver's perch that you might expect from a family SUV. Some might struggle to find a comfortable driving position, though, as there’s a lack of space to the left of the clutch pedal to rest your left foot. Entry-level cars also miss out on seat height adjustment, but at least the steering wheel adjusts for both height and reach, and you can get a comfy arm rest for the driver’s seat. The seats, meanwhile, are comfortable enough but don't offer any real support through corners.
On the upside, the dashboard is about as complicated as a knife and fork, with simple rotary heater dials and clearly labelled stereo buttons. The cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are also easy to use, although the audio controls are mounted on a separate column hidden behind the wheel, so you need to learn which button does what.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Duster’s elevated driving position helps to provide a good view forward, but there are some over-the-shoulder blind spots in the area around the rearmost pillars. Still, all-round visibility is better than you get in the MG ZS.
The limited equipment list for lower trim levels means you can forget about any visibility aids, although Comfort trim includes electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Meanwhile, top-of-the-range cars come with a multi-view parking camera that lets you choose between rear, front or side views for help in extra tricky parking spots. It’s worth mentioning that the resolution of said camera is pretty low, though, so don’t expect to see much detail.
Sat nav and infotainment
The entry-level Access model doesn’t even have a radio – just some wiring and a slot to fit one – so there are minimal controls to acquaint yourself with. Next-rung-up Essential variants gain a user-friendly Bluetooth system and a radio. There are also USB and aux sockets for media players, but these are inconveniently positioned on the face of the stereo stereo in a way that leaves wires are dangling untidily when in use.
You'll need to jump up to Comfort trim if you want a touchscreen infotainment system, and its 7.0in set-up is quite old-fashioned next to the best systems out there, although it is at least simple to use. There are large app-style menus, plus you get sat nav, and smartphone mirroring to enable use of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as standard.
Wherever you look or touch there’s no escaping the fact that the Duster is built to a price; it lacks many of the cosmetic touches we’ve come to expect from modern cars. The interior plastics are hard – you could probably exfoliate your elbow on the door trim – and look unappealing, the carpets are thin and most of the fixtures and fittings feel rather low-rent. The MG ZS feels more modern inside.
None of this will be a problem if you simply view your Duster as a budget family workhorse, and it does at least feel solidly screwed together and sturdy. In fact, this is a car that’s sold globally and is built to withstand tough treatment in countries where road conditions are much poorer than in the UK. It’s also a considerable step up from the real utilitarian feel you’ll find inside the Suzuki Jimny.