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 a regular family SUV does, just more cheaply. And, while you wouldn’t buy second-hand tinned food, you can buy a second-hand Duster and save even more against its main rivals.
Motivating 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-litre 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 vanishes into the background hum of road noise at speed and there’s enough punch for a quick burst of acceleration. The additional torque it does have 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 Tarmac 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 that have broken traction from spinning and ensuring that power is sent to those wheels that have grip. Four-wheel drive cars also have more sophisticated rear suspension that is more supple over bumps than regular two-wheel drive cars.
On-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 or 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 similarly 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 no complaints over 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 back seats down.
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 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear parking sensors and a rearview 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.
Page 1 of 5