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, because a lack of space to the left of the clutch pedal means you have to drive with your left foot drawn further back than your right – an awkward posture for long journeys. Entry-level cars also miss out on driver’s seat height adjustment, but at least the steering wheel adjusts for both height and reach. The seats, meanwhile, are comfortable enough but don't offer much lateral support
On the upside, the dashboard is about as complicated as a knife and fork, with simple rotary heater dials and clearly labelled stereo buttons. There’s a neatly laid out steering wheel with buttons for the cruise control and to select which information is shown on the driver’s display, but audio controls are confined to an extra column stalk.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Duster’s elevated driving position helps to provide a good view forward, but its upswept rear windows and thick rear pillars hinder over-the-shoulder vision slightly.
Unfortunately, the limited equipment list for lower trim levels means you can forget about any visibility aids, but Comfort trim includes electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Meanwhile, top-of-the-range Prestige cars gain a multi-view rear camera and blind spot detection.
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 Essential variants gain a user-friendly Bluetooth system and a radio. There are also USB and aux sockets for media players, but these are attached to the 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 feels quite old-fashioned next to the best systems out there, both in terms of graphics and usability. It's decent for the price, though, with large app-style menus, plus it offers sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. But, unsurprisingly, it isn't anywhere near as sophisticated as those in family SUVs such as the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca.
Despite an interior upgrade, wherever you look 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 plastics are hard – you could probably exfoliate your elbow on the door trim – and look unappealing, the carpets are insubstantial and the trim is rather low-rent.
Obviously, none of this will be a problem if you simply view your Duster as a budget family workhorse. The car 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.