New Dacia Duster vs MG GS
The Dacia Duster budget SUV sweeps up for price. But does the MG GS brush up well beside it?...
Dacia Duster 1.6 SCe 115 Comfort
List price £13,195
Target price £13,072
Second-gen bargain family SUV gets a fresh interior but keeps its giant boot and low price.
MG GS 1.5 TGI Explore
List price £15,095
Target price £14,624
One of the few direct rivals for the Duster on price; it’s bigger inside and much quicker, too.
You need food. Oysters and caviar are great, but sometimes you just have to settle for a 99p microwaveable burger.
You need a car. Likewise, your finances will dictate your ambitions. Microwaveable burgers might seem a harsh comparison, but there is no doubt this test features the bargain-basement end of the family SUV class.
The new model is the second-generation Dacia Duster, featured here with a petrol engine and two-wheel drive in mid-spec Comfort trim. Dacia has long been a hero of budget motoring, and the Duster offers lots of space at a tiny price.
In fact, the Duster is so cheap it has few direct rivals – one of them being the MG GS. It’s as far away from MG’s sports car heritage as McDonald’s is from haute cuisine but, in entry-level Explore trim, rivals the Duster for value while promising better performance.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The GS wipes the floor with the Duster for performance. In fact, it’s capable of hitting 60mph from a standstill quicker than a Volkswagen Up GTI, and its 1.5-litre petrol engine revs sweetly, easily coping with a full quota of passengers and luggage. By contrast, the Duster’s 1.6-litre engine is truly gutless, with only a slight whiff of enthusiasm to its acceleration at 5000rpm, although this disappears again almost as soon as it has arrived.
An overly sensitive accelerator pedal can make the GS jerky in stop-start traffic. The Duster is smoother around town, but it struggles when trying to get up to higher speeds, because there are significant flat spots in its power delivery. At least the engine isn’t overly loud, unlike the GS’s.
Our decibel meter showed that the GS was the quieter car at a steady 30mph or 70mph. However, our testers’ ears were far more comfortable in the Duster, which didn’t suffer from the more abrasive wind noise that’s evident in the GS at 50mph and beyond.
The Duster’s five-speed manual gearbox has a longer action but doesn’t feel as notchy as the GS’s six-speeder. The Duster has better brakes, too, pulling up almost four metres before the GS from 70mph. That could be the difference between having a crash and not.
The steering in both is lethargic, although it’s more precise in the GS at higher speeds, whereas the Duster’s lighter controls are better suited to town driving. There’s plenty of body lean through corners in both, but the GS is marginally better at controlling those movements. It also deals with quick changes of direction better and has more grip.
The Duster rides better, feeling softer and more absorbent over all surfaces, but the trade-off is that it’s less well tied down, taking an extra moment to settle once a big bump has passed. As a result, the cars aren’t far apart for comfort.
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