What Car? says...
The advice that if you “buy cheap, you buy twice” may be wise if you're choosing a fridge or sofa, but the Dacia Duster SUV hopes to convince you it offers thriftiness that will leave you feeling rather smug.
In the world of wheels, Dacia is the champion when it comes to giving motorists a lot of car for their money. The Duster is a family SUV that can cost as little as half the price of a mid-spec Seat Ateca or Skoda Karoq, and handsomely undercuts the Renault Kadjar.
Well, we've tested it thoroughly and will let you know how the Dacia Duster compares with all its main rivals, including the Seat Ateca and the Skoda Karoq. We'll also let you know what we think of the performance, handling, interior quality and much more.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Our favourite engine for the Dacia Duster is the 128bhp 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol – badged TCe 130 – because it offers good mid-range oomph and a pleasing briskness when you rev it out. The 0-62mph time is 10.6sec, which is roughly the same as the MG ZS 1.5 and Skoda Karoq 1.0 TSI 110, and on the whole, this version has no problem getting up to speed and delivering easy motorway cruising.
Try to avoid the entry-level 1.0-litre TCe 90. The power delivery is quite flat and it takes a relative age to get up to motorway speeds. There’s also a TCe 100 Bi-Fuel version that can run on both petrol and natural gas (LPG). The main benefit of that is the potential for fuel savings, but the engine also delivers more power when running on LPG. It feels a touch stronger from low engine speeds than the standard TCe 90 and, crucially, is smoother and quieter.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Duster handles predictably enough, but its soft suspension means it leans over an awful lot in corners relative to something really tidy to drive, such as the Seat Ateca. Compared with the MG ZS, the Duster lacks grip when you start to press on. The steering feels less consistent and could do with more weight at lower speeds.
Its trump card comes if you order the four-wheel-drive version and head off-road. Despite what you might expect, the Duster is meant for more than just gravel tracks, and happily tackles pretty much anything that true off-roaders can conquer.
Yes, you’ll wince a little as it rubs its chin or belly due to the limited ground clearance, but it has no trouble hauling itself up challengingly steep, rutted, muddy or sandy inclines, and will outwit more road-biased SUVs, including the Nissan Qashqai, the Ateca and Karoq, and the two-wheel-drive only MG ZS.
- The Dacia Duster managed a very respectable joint fourth place out of 28 models in the family SUVs category of our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. Dacia finished second place behind Lexus out of 30 car brands in the survey. The Duster’s warranty is a fairly standard three years or 60,000 miles policy, but there are five and seven-year plans available for a fee. Read more here
- There are no hybrid or electric car versions of the Dacia Duster to appeal to company car drivers, but there is the Bi-Fuel, which can run on LPG and petrol. It has a 48.8-litre LPG tank to supplement the car’s standard 50-litre petrol tank for a range of 800 miles. LPG costs around half the price of petrol, slashing running costs. Read more here
- We recommend the Dacia Duster’s 1.3-litre TCe 130 petrol engine, which gives you a good blend of performance and efficiency, with mid-range Comfort trim. Comfort adds lumbar adjustment for the driver and an 8in infotainment touchscreen that can run phone apps with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. It also has sat-nav, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and automatic emergency braking (AEB). Read more here
- The Dacia Duster’s Comfort trim is the well-equipped mid-range choice. Upgrading to the more expensive top-spec Prestige adds model-specific upholstery, heated front seats, climate control, 17in alloys, blind-spot monitoring and a surround view camera system. Read more here
- If you opt for the entry-level Essential Dacia Duster, you’ll get a basic DAB radio. Comfort adds an 8in infotainment touchscreen with full smartphone connectivity, while Prestige models add sat-nav. We’d prefer to have some physical shortcut buttons, but at least the system responds swiftly to prods and swipes. The screen in the instrument cluster is a simple monochrome affair. Read more here
- Big by family SUV standards. The four-wheel-drive Dacia Duster has a slightly smaller boot than the front-wheel-drive version (414 litres instead of 478), but we managed to fit seven carry-on suitcases in both. It’s a similar size to the Nissan Qashqai boot, but a Skoda Karoq is quite a bit bigger, taking three more cases in its 521 litres. Read more here
|RRP price range||£14,845 - £21,995|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel, petrol, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||44.1 - 57.6|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£932 / £1,346|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,864 / £2,692|