2012 Dacia Duster 1.6

* Cheapest Dacia Duster driven in UK * Available to pre-order now, priced at 8995 * First deliveries in January...

2012 Dacia Duster 1.6 review

The Dacia Duster is a Skoda Yeti-sized SUV, but while the Yeti starts at 14,945, the Duster is available from just 8995.

This entry-level model, which we're testing here, has front-wheel drive and a 1.6-litre petrol engine, but not much else. The only colour available is white, the windows are operated manually, there's only 'preparation' for a stereo, and air-conditioning isn't even an option.

Dacia, which is owned by Renault, is taking pre-orders for the Duster now, for a 100 deposit. Prices are guaranteed until December 2012 and first deliveries are planned for January.

What's the 2012 Dacia Duster 1.6 Access 4x2 like to drive?
Pretty much everything in the Duster comes from Renault; including this model's 1.6-litre petrol engine, which produces 103bhp and needs plenty of revs.

The Duster's ride soaks up most bumps well, but there's a fair amount of body roll in corners

The ride is more impressive, soaking up most bumps well. However, you pay for this with a fair amount of body roll in corners, and the steering is both slow and vague.

The petrol engine drones noisily at motorway speeds, too, and you can hear a significant amount of wind noise from around the door seals.

You can order the 8995 Duster now, with a deposit of just 100

What's the 2012 Dacia Duster 1.6 Access 4x2 like inside?
The good news is that, by the time cars start to be delivered to British buyers, the Dacia Duster will have been given a face-lift that includes a much smarter dashboard than the car we drove.

The updated dashboard is the one you can see in our picture; it has a more modern centre console and switchgear, and upgraded (but not soft-touch) plastics.

What won't change is the amount of space you get, and that's a good thing, because six-footers have plenty of room in both the front and the back of the Duster.

The updated dashboard has a more modern centre console and switchgear, along with upgraded plastics

True, you don't get a height adjustable driver's seat on entry-level cars, but the basic driving position is good, so most people will still be able to get comfortable behind the wheel.

Front-wheel-drive models have 475 litres of boot space, which is more than you get in rivals such as the Skoda Yeti and Nissan Qashqai, while even four-wheel-drive Dusters offer a competitive 400 litres.

On the downside, the rear seats fold in one piece on entry-level cars, limiting versatility, and they don't lie completely flat.

Don't expect luxury; there's merely 'preparation' for a stereo, while air-conditioning is not even an option

Should I buy one?
The Duster's main strength is the fact that it offers SUV space for supermini money. However, we wouldn't go for this version because its so poorly equipped.

The range-topping front-wheel-drive model makes far more sense; it costs just 12,995, yet comes with most of the kit you're likely to want and swaps the entry-level car's 1.6-litre petrol engine for a more flexible and efficient 1.5 diesel.

Read the full Dacia Duster review >>

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What Car? says

Steve Huntingford