New Dacia Duster review

Category: Small SUV

The 2024 Duster gets new hybrid engines and represents very good value for money

Dacia Duster front right driving
  • Dacia Duster front right driving
  • Dacia Duster rear cornering
  • Dan Jones test driving Dacia Duster
  • Dacia Duster boot open
  • Dacia Duster interior driver display
  • Dacia Duster right driving
  • Dacia Duster front cornering
  • Dacia Duster front left driving
  • Dacia Duster rear left driving
  • Dacia Duster front left static
  • Dacia Duster rear left static
  • Dacia Duster front detail
  • Dacia Duster headlights detail
  • Dacia Duster alloy wheel detail
  • Dacia Duster rear lights detail
  • Dacia Duster interior front seats
  • Dacia Duster interior back seats
  • Dacia Duster interior steering wheel detail
  • Dacia Duster interior infotainment touchscreen
  • Dacia Duster interior air-con controls
  • Dacia Duster interior detail
  • Dacia Duster interior detail
  • Dacia Duster interior seat detail
  • Dacia Duster front right driving
  • Dacia Duster rear cornering
  • Dan Jones test driving Dacia Duster
  • Dacia Duster boot open
  • Dacia Duster interior driver display
  • Dacia Duster right driving
  • Dacia Duster front cornering
  • Dacia Duster front left driving
  • Dacia Duster rear left driving
  • Dacia Duster front left static
  • Dacia Duster rear left static
  • Dacia Duster front detail
  • Dacia Duster headlights detail
  • Dacia Duster alloy wheel detail
  • Dacia Duster rear lights detail
  • Dacia Duster interior front seats
  • Dacia Duster interior back seats
  • Dacia Duster interior steering wheel detail
  • Dacia Duster interior infotainment touchscreen
  • Dacia Duster interior air-con controls
  • Dacia Duster interior detail
  • Dacia Duster interior detail
  • Dacia Duster interior seat detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Dacia Duster has staged a quiet revolution since its original release in 2010. More than 2.4 million have been sold worldwide, adding up to 500 per day rolling off the production line, and it’s become the brand’s best-selling model in the UK.

Part of the Duster's success is that it easily undercuts most of its direct rivals, with only the MG ZS getting close on price in the small SUV class. And somehow Dacia manages to give buyers a lot of car for their money.

The Duster range includes enough variants to suit the broad requirements of most families. Indeed, the cheapest version is a no-nonsense domestic workhorse, while the top trim levels add plenty of mod cons.

Better still, with the launch of this 2024 Duster, Dacia has added hybrid engines to the line-up for the first time (you can have a mild hybrid or a regular hybrid). Or you can have the Bi-Fuel, which can run on petrol or LPG.

So, is the new Dacia Duster a good car and how do we rank it against the best small SUVs – including the Ford Puma, MG ZS and Skoda Kamiq? Read on to find out...

Overview

In mid-spec Expression trim with the TCe 130 mild-hybrid petrol engine, the Dacia Duster represents good value for money. True, it's not as dynamic as some of its rivals and the interior has more hard plastics, but it makes up for that in comfort, boot space, price and even off-road ability.

  • Cheap to buy and run
  • Spacious boot
  • 4x4 version is very capable off road
  • Some rivals are better to drive
  • Lots of hard plastics inside
  • Sparsely equipped entry-level model
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Our Pick

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Dacia Duster 1.3 TCe 130 Expression 5dr review
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Performance & drive

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

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

You have three different engines to choose from when picking your Dacia Duster. The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol (badged TCe 130) with mild-hybrid tech is probably all you could ever need, and gives you plenty of oomph off the line, getting you up to speed easily. There's a four-wheel-drive version, but unless you plan to go off road, we'd stick to the standard front-wheel drive.

For the first time, you can also have the Duster as a full hybrid with the same 1.6-litre hybrid petrol engine (badged Hybrid 140) as the Dacia Jogger. With 138bhp, it can drive on electricity alone at slow speeds and for short periods, and has no issues getting up to speed once the engine kicks in.

As for the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel version, it's not a particularly eager performer, but there’s a touch more power when using LPG and the main benefit is the potential for fuel savings.

Suspension and ride comfort

Previous Dusters had underpinnings from older Renaults, but the new Duster sits on the same platform as the latest Dacia Sandero and Renault Clio. As a result, the Duster rides really comfortably as you drive along.

True, it can’t match the polish of the best-riding small SUVs (the VW T-Roc for example) but the Duster’s soft suspension and small wheels with high profile tyres mean it’ll happily take the sting out of potholes and imperfections.

Dacia Duster image
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Better still, compared with the previous-generation Duster, the suspension has been stiffened slightly and that’s helped to remove a lot of the side-to-side sway you’d feel on undulating roads. On four-wheel-drive versions you get more sophisticated rear suspension, which should control stability even better.

Dacia Duster rear cornering

Handling

The Duster handles predictably enough, and manages body lean surprisingly well, staying suitably upright through corners. Even so, it doesn’t have as much grip as its tidier-handling rivals, and with lighter, less feelsome steering, it's not as fun to drive as a Ford Puma.

The Duster’s trump card comes if you order the 4x4 version and head off road. It gets slightly raised suspension and a dial between the front seats, giving you access to five different off-road modes.

It’s actually really impressive off-road, and can tackle some steep descents and hill climbs with ease. There's no question that the Duster will go further into the rough than road-focused rivals such as the Puma, MG ZS, Skoda Kamiq and VW T-Roc.

Noise and vibration

The Duster's petrol engines are surprisingly hushed, emitting just a faint whine under hard acceleration. The regular hybrid (Hybrid 140) is the quietest version when it’s running on electricity alone, but makes the most noise when the engine kicks in and sits at high revs as it recharges the battery.

The six-speed manual gearbox is slick enough as you flick through the gears and its clutch is well weighted. We prefer it to the Hybrid 140’s automatic gearbox because, while it shifts gears smoothly enough, it doesn’t always make the most intelligent decisions, changing up and down at inopportune moments.

Road noise isn’t too prominent, but there’s a fair bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors and roof rails on the motorway. The MG ZS isn't much better, but this is one of the key areas where pricier rivals will give you a much calmer travelling environment for covering long distances.

“The Volkswagen T-Roc is more polished to drive than the Duster, but the new model is much improved compared with the previous generation. The firmer suspension set-up reduces side-to-side sway on undulating roads, but without weakening ride comfort.” – Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Driving overview

Strengths Good range of engines; comfortable ride; genuine off-road ability

Weaknesses Pricier rivals are quieter, not as good to drive as rivals

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

The Dacia Duster’s driving position places you high above the road, giving you the feeling of being in a proper SUV. It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, thanks to plenty of driver’s seat and steering-wheel adjustment.

That said, although UK equipment lists have yet to be confirmed, we'd expect the cheapest trim, Essential, to miss out on driver’s seat height adjustment.

Every version of the Duster comes with a dashboard that’s easy to use, with physical air-conditioning buttons below the infotainment system and proper buttons on the steering wheel for controlling the speed limiter, cruise control and, where fitted, the new 7.0in digital driver display.

The driver display (included with Expression trim and higher) is crisper than the MG ZS's and delivers all the necessary information, although it's not as versatile as the systems in some versions of the VW T-Cross and T-Roc.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

You get a good view forwards from the Duster’s elevated driving position and the fairly narrow windscreen pillars make for a good view forwards. There are over-the-shoulder blind-spots (although more expensive versions should get blind-spot monitoring) but all-round visibility is better than in the MG ZS.

Helpfully, to make parking easy, all trims come with rear parking sensors, while stepping up to Expression trim adds a rear-view camera. Meanwhile, the off-road focused Extreme trim upgrades the camera to a surround-view one, which also helps the driver to see obstacles when off-roading.

Regardless of which trim you go for, all Dusters come with LED daytime running lights and front fog lights, but you can’t have full LED headlights.

Dan Jones test driving Dacia Duster

Sat nav and infotainment

The entry-level Essential trim comes with a very basic infotainment system purely of a DAB radio with Bluetooth, four speakers and a USB socket.

Jumping up to Expression adds an 10.0in infotainment touchscreen with a simple layout and sharp graphics, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.

The two top trims, Journey and Extreme, both use the same unit but add built-in sat-nav and two extra speakers. Four-wheel-drive models get extra off-road-focused features, such as a compass and an inclinometer.

Quality

Wherever you look or touch inside, there’s no escaping the fact that the Duster is built to a price. It lacks many of the cosmetic flourishes we’ve come to expect from more expensive small SUVs.

You get soft-touch fabrics here and there, but the majority of the interior surfaces are covered in hard plastics. It looks quite pleasant, but feels pretty cheap once you start prodding around, and even an MG ZS feels better. 

Then again, none of that will be a problem if you simply view your Duster as a cost-effective family workhorse, and in the main it feels solidly screwed together. In fact, this is a car that’s built to withstand tough treatment in countries with poor roads.

“The Duster's interior offers plenty of visual appeal, and everything feels sturdy. However, most of the surfaces consist of hard and scratchy plastics. The MG ZS, by comparison, gives you a much classier mix of materials.” – Dan Jones, Reviewer

Interior overview

Strengths Simple controls; elevated driving position; good forward visibility

Weaknesses Interior plastics feel cheap

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

Getting in and out of the Dacia Duster is a breeze thanks to its tall, wide front doors, and there’s a decent amount of head room up front. The front seats don't slide back very far though, so long-legged occupant might struggle for room.

It’s not the best for storing stuff either. For example, the front cupholder is too shallow to put anything that might spill in, and you’ll only squeeze a half-litre water bottle into each door pocket.

Even the central armrest is relatively small, although it is worth having. Ultimately, the MG ZS trounces the Duster for storage, with proper cupholders and larger door bins.

Rear space

The rear door openings are tall, so access is easy, and the height of the seats from the ground means you don’t have to bend too much to help youngsters get in and out of their child seats.

Regardless of where you're sitting, the Duster’s high roof means you won’t find your head grazing the roof lining, even if you're more than six feet tall and sitting on the slightly raised middle seat.

Overall, the Duster offers quite a lot of space in the back, and certainly feels as though it will fit into family life for most households. As with front space, though, the MG ZS is more accommodating.

Dacia Duster boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

All Dusters have a 60/40 split folding rear bench, but that’s about the extent of their versatility. The Skoda Karoq has a distinct advantage here, because it’s available with Varioflex back seats that recline, slide, split 40/20/40 and can be removed altogether.

On Expression models and above, you can fold the front passenger seat backrest forwards about 45 degrees to allow more space for extra-long loads.

Boot space

The Duster’s boot is large by small SUV standards, with 594 litres of storage on most versions, and 520 litres if you have four-wheel drive. For reference, even the smaller boot in the 4x4 models is much bigger than the boot in the MG ZS and Toyota Yaris Cross.

As a result, you’ll have no issues fitting in all of the family’s holiday luggage, a fold-up buggy or loads of shopping.

The boot is a very practical shape – it's wide and high, with only a small lip to load items over. With the rear seats folded as flat as they’ll go, front-wheel-drive Dusters offer 1696 litres of storage volume, which is plenty for a trip to pick up flat-pack furniture.

“The Duster is one of the more practical small SUVs, offering a good amount of space in the back seats for six-footers. The boot is bigger than what you'll find in a Volkswagen T-Roc and Seat Arona, too.” – Claire Evans, Consumer Editor

Practicality overview

Strengths Large boot capacity; plenty of space for occupants

Weaknesses Some rivals are more spacious; limited rear-seat versatility

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

Prices for the new Dacia Duster have yet to be confirmed, but we expected it to remain the cheapest small SUV in the UK in entry-level Essential trim.

Officially, the Duster should pip that rival when it comes to running costs too. Indeed, our preferred TCe 130 petrol engine can officially return up to 51.3mpg, a fair chunk more than the MG ZS 1.0T GDi’s 42.7mpg. The regular hybrid (Hybrid 140) is a bit more efficient again.

If you have an eye on cutting fuel bills, you might find the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel interesting. The lower price of LPG brings the potential for big savings, and the fact that it has two fuel tanks means it has a combined range of more than 800 miles – although there are limited numbers of LPG outlets in the UK.

Equipment, options and extras

Equipment lists for the Duster in the UK have yet to be finalised, but the cheapest trim, Essential, will remains pretty sparse. Along with a very basic infotainment system and parking sensors, it gets electric front windows, fixed roof bars and cruise control.

We suspect the price hike to Expression trim won’t be too much, making that the one to go for. It adds 17in alloy wheels, along with a much better touchscreen infotainment system, a digital driver display and a rear-view camera. You’ll also need to go for this trim if you want our recommended engine, the TCe 130.

Journey and Extreme trim sit side by side at the top of the range, adding 18in wheels, automatic air-con and built-in sat-nav. Each gets its own styling – Journey is aimed at families, while Extreme is more about off-roading.

Dacia Duster interior driver display

Reliability

Dacia as a brand performed pretty well in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey – it came 11th out of the 32 manufacturers included. Toyota did better, coming second, but Fiat, Ford, Renault, Skoda and Volkswagen came lower. 

Better still, every Duster comes with Dacia’s Zen warranty, which covers the car for up to seven years/75,000 miles if you service your car at an authorised dealer every year. That’s better than most rivals offer, although Toyota gives you a 10-year warranty with the same servicing stipulation.

Safety and security

The previous-generation Duster received just three stars out of five for safety when it was tested by Euro NCAP (most modern cars get five) but that will hopefully improve when the new model is assessed. It comes with more standard safety kit, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), traffic-sign recognition, lane-departure warning and lane assist.

Unlike in a lot of models, which require you to dive into their touchscreens in order to turn safety aids on and off, the Duster comes with a "my safety" button which, once customised, allows you to quickly switch to your sensitivity preferences.

"Like some of Dacia's other models, the Duster is available with a long list of accessories, including the innovative YouClip. This is a small attachment that you can use to clip various items, such as your mobile phone, onto designated spots within the interior." – George Hill, Staff Writer

Costs overview

Strengths Low prices; Bi-fuel model can cut running costs; Dacia has a good reliability record

Weaknesses Entry-level trim is sparsely equipped


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FAQs

  • It depends which version you get. The Duster 4x4 has four-wheel drive and can do far more than just drive in a muddy field. Indeed, unlike its rivals, the Duster will happily go properly off road and is far more capable than other small SUVs except the Range Rover Evoque and some Jeep models.

  • The new 2024 Duster goes on sale soon and will be delivered to customers towards the end of the year. It features new engines, new styling and better handling.

  • Prices for the new Duster have yet to be confirmed but we’ve been told it will cost less than all its competitors, with only the MG ZS getting close to the starting price. To find the best prices, keep an eye on our new Dacia deals page.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £399
Target Price from £17,991
Save up to £399
or from £186pm
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Nearly new deals
From £15,695
RRP price range £18,295 - £23,695
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)4
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)hybrid, petrol
MPG range across all versions 44.1 - 45.6
Available doors options 5
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,150 / £1,496
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £2,300 / £2,991
Available colours