New MG ZS vs Dacia Duster

The Dacia Duster is renowned for offering a lot of car for the money, but it isn’t the only SUV choice for families on a tight budget. Let’s find out how it stacks up against the MG ZS...

New MG ZS vs Dacia Duster

The contenders

Dacia Duster TCe 130 4x2 Comfort

  • List price - £14,995
  • Target Price - £14,851

At the budget end of the market, it’s hard to argue with how much value the Duster offers.

MG ZS 1.0 T GDI Excite auto

  • List price - £16,045
  • Target Price - £15,775

The MG ZS aims to win you over with an upmarket interior and spacious rear seats.

Dacia and MG are brands with long histories. MG traces its roots all the way back to the 1920s, while Dacia began life in the same year England won the World Cup. But while MG started off building sports cars, it now competes head on with Dacia at the budget end of the market.

Here, we’re matching up the brands’ latest family SUVs – Dacia’s Duster and MG’s ZS – to find out which is the better bet for buyers looking for something roughly the size of a Nissan Qashqai but at a considerably lower price point. But don’t worry: we’ve avoided the real bargain-basement trims, so there are enough creature comforts to keep most buyers happy.

Both of our contenders have turbocharged petrol engines: a 128bhp 1.3 with a six-speed manual gearbox for the Duster, while the ZS makes do with a 109bhp 1.0-litre unit, linked exclusively to a six-speed automatic gearbox. 

Dacia Duster driving


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Unsurprisingly, the more powerful Duster can whisk you up to speed far quicker than the ZS, and while the ZS stops short of being frustratingly slow, its auto ’box often hesitates when asked for a sudden burst of power.

True, the engine in the ZS is pretty quiet compared with the Duster’s, particularly at higher revs. However, the Duster is the more peaceful companion overall on the motorway, because it generates a lot less road noise.

The Duster also managed to stop quicker in our braking tests, taking 49.1 metres to pull up from 70mph, compared with the 55.1m needed by the ZS. 

MG ZS driving

The Duster edges further ahead when you consider ride comfort. Thanks to its smaller wheels (16in) and softer suspension, it dispatches speed bumps and potholes alike with minimal fuss. The ZS, on 17in wheels, jostles you more over minor road imperfections, and bigger bumps cause its body to bounce up and down in a somewhat wayward manner.

While both are easy to drive around town, on faster roads you’ll find that the ZS has more grip and more precise steering, plus it rolls less than the Duster through corners. The Duster doesn’t exactly lurch about in an uncontrolled fashion, though, so this is far from a deal-breaker.

Next: Behind the wheel >

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