Driving

Dacia Duster review

Manufacturer price from:£9,995
What Car? Target Price:£9,904
Search new deals
Dacia Duster
Review continues below...
9 Dec 2015 15:29 | Last updated: 1 Nov 2018 17:34

In this review

Driving

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Dacia Duster 4x4 performance

The Duster is available with two four-cylinder engines: a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel. The naturally aspirated petrol unit is truly gutless. Off the mark it's a real struggle to get it up to speed, with only a slight whiff of enthusiasm to its acceleration at 5000rpm, although this disappears again almost as soon as it has arrived. Around town it isn't such an issue, but if you choose it, be prepared to work this engine very hard most of the time.

Watch the next video >

For those who do more miles, the diesel is a good bet. It pulls strongly, so you’ll have no problem accelerating up to motorway speeds, and it feels relaxed once settled in top gear. The diesel is currently our pick of the range, but it's worth bearing in mind that a turbocharged petrol engine will be joining the range soon.

A five-speed manual gearbox is standard on the petrol two-wheel-drive version, with a six-speed manual ’box standard on all other models. The manual gearshift has quite a long action and is a little notchy, but there's no automatic option available yet - expect one in the future, though.

Dacia Duster 4x4 ride

Being based on the old Renault Clio, the Duster's suspension is rather old-fashioned, and this is especially noticeable at higher motorway speeds, where you will lots of vibrations coming from the rear of the car. Four-wheel-drive cars come with a more sophisticated rear suspension that improves comfort, but these models are relatively expensive given the bargain basement starting price. That said, 4x4s still don't come any cheaper than this.

Mind you, even front-wheel-drive Dusters aren’t too bad around town, thanks to the combination of relatively small wheels and high-profile tyres that help to squish most small lumps and bumps with little noticeable impact.

When driving on faster, undulating roads, things aren’t quite as composed because there is a fair bit of vertical body movement and there’s also some fairly pronounced nose dive under hard braking.

Dacia Duster

Dacia Duster 4x4 handling

The Duster may not be the best SUV to drive, but it’s not awful either. It handles predictably enough and there’s a reasonable amount of grip, even if its soft suspension means it leans quite a bit in corners. Even so, more road-biased SUVs like the Suzuki Vitara and the MG GS cope with bends even better.

The steering does feel quite stodgy around the straight ahead, though and it’s quite slow to get the front wheels to respond to inputs. At least the steering has a reasonable amount of feel when turning in to a corner, so you’ll always have a fair idea of what the front wheels are up to.

Four-wheel-drive versions provide extra traction in slippery conditions, with a selectable system that allows you to choose front-wheel drive, automatic or a 50/50 front and rear set-up.

Dacia Duster 4x4 refinement

There's a fair bit of wind noise from the door mirrors and roof rails on the motorway, along with some grainy road noise that filters through the floor, but never to the extent that you’ll need to shout to communicate with those travelling in the rear.

Both engines can be noisy when worked hard, especially the ageing petrol, which sounds rather coarse as the revs rise. By comparison, the diesel sounds rather cultured, but it does transmit some noticeable vibrations through the steering wheel and floor area that surrounds the pedals.

 

open the gallery16 Images
There are 4 trims available for the Duster 4x4. Click to see details.See all versions
OUR PICK
Essential
This trim does what it says on the tin. Air conditioning is the biggest bonus over Access, while height adjustment for the driver’s seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a radio with steering wh...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£11,587
Average Saving £108
View Trim
Comfort
You’re being asked to fork out a fairly steep premium for this upgrade, but you do get plenty of goodies, including alloy wheels and quite a few body embellishments to help make your Duster look mo...View trim
Fuel Petrol, Diesel
What Car? Target Price from
£13,270
Average Saving £125
View Trim
Prestige
There’s no doubting that this is the swankiest-looking Duster in the line-up but, at this kind of money, it is starting to invade the territory of more illustrious brands. That said, you do get cli...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£14,557
Average Saving £138
View Trim
Access
Entry-level trim keeps the price low but it’s very hard to recommend because it’s desperately short on kit. Electric front windows, remote central locking and the same safety kit as other Dusters a...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£9,904
Average Saving £91
View Trim