What's the used Dacia Duster 4x4 like?
Aside from some subtle differences in taste, a regular tin of value-brand baked beans does much the same job as the Heinz alternative; the biggest difference between the two is the price. The same is true of the Dacia Duster, which does all the same things other family SUVs do, just more cheaply. And while you wouldn’t buy second-hand tinned food, you can buy a second-hand Duster and save even more over its main rivals.
Powering the Duster is a range of three petrol engines and one diesel, most of which can be found with or without four-wheel drive. The non-turbocharged, 113bhp 1.6 SCe petrol engine looks okay on paper, but its limited torque often leaves you without much get-up-and-go for overtaking. Mercifully, this engine was replaced a year after this generation of Duster was launched, by a turbocharged 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol with significantly more torque to pull the car along. The turbocharged 128bhp or 148bhp 1.3-litre petrols are far better, managing to be both smooth and reasonably refined for what is a budget car.
The 113bhp 1.5-litre diesel isn’t a hugely powerful engine, but it's quiet enough to fade into the background hum of road noise at high speeds and there’s enough punch for a quick burst of acceleration. Its additional torque also comes in handy for low-speed manoeuvres when navigating obstacles off road.
Speaking of going off road, four-wheel-drive models are very capable if you decide to leave sealed roads behind. You can lock the car into four-wheel drive via a dial near the gearlever and the traction control system manages the brakes, stopping wheels from spinning and ensuring that power is sent to those wheels that have grip. Four-wheel-drive cars also have more sophisticated rear suspension which is more supple over bumps than that of regular front-wheel-drive cars.
On the road, the Duster is predictable enough, with light steering, undemanding control weights for the gearlever and clutch, and a decent ride on smaller wheels (or when equipped with four-wheel drive). It doesn’t have that last degree of finesse that you’d get from other family SUV rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan – but then it was a lot cheaper than all of those when new.
Interior quality is okay rather than outstanding. It’ll stand up to the most abusive of toddlers, but it won’t impress anyone that has just stepped out of a similar-priced used Kia Sportage, because there are no soft-touch plastics of any kind in the Duster.
Space is very good, though; four adults should have few complaints about longer journeys and you can even take five – at a pinch. Boot capacity is excellent, and the depth of it means you’ll need to carry exceptionally long items without having to fold the rear seats down. Just be aware that four-wheel-drive models have slightly less cargo capacity due to the extra mechanical components needed to give it four driven wheels.
Equipment levels are very stingy on lower trim levels, with the entry-level Access not even getting a stereo system. You’ll need to step up to Essential for that and air-con, while mid-spec Comfort gets a touchscreen infotainment system, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, cruise control, 16in alloy wheels and electric rear windows. Prestige models add climate control, blindspot warning and a surround-view camera system, while Techroad models have privacy glass and some exterior and interior styling tweaks.
The biggest downside with the Duster is that next to similar-priced used rivals, it doesn't have the greatest Euro NCAP safety rating. The Duster was awarded only three stars out of a possible five, whereas rivals such as the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai both got the full five stars.
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