You look at the price of this family-size crossover, which starts at less than £14,000 or £164 a month, and then wonder how sister company Renault has a pure brass neck for charging. double than for the Kadjar.
Start digging deeper and you’ll see where the cost of the Duster has been chiseled away. Some of these savings are really smart and don’t affect the bottom line. But you may decide that others really do – plastics can offend anyone coming from the cocoon of a car better described as a ‘crossover’ than an SUV. There’s an unabashed sturdiness about the Duster that surely allows it to hold its own against such flimsy categorization.
So what’s up?
The Duster was first launched in 2010, priced under £10,000 and picked up the ‘cheap but pretty good’ stick dropped by Skoda as it competed with the luxury market. It was actually one of the few small SUVs on offer at the time (the Nissan Juke had just been released), but the fact that it steadfastly maintained a brutalist approach to looks and interiors while the rest of the genre he had gone mad, it is admirable.
Every visible panel on this second-gen Duster is new, but the spirit of the original remains. It seems, and most important of all, that it is still cheap. Almost ridiculously. At 4.3m long, it is basically the same as a Qashqai or Kadjar. The fact that we’re several years into its life and the mandatory facelift was to tweak its smaller lights suggests that Dacia’s tame approach to reinvention was justified.
I guess you shouldn’t change a winning formula…
There are other reasons why the design doesn’t change much. Reuse the platform of the old car. It was itself a multi-generation Clio derivative, which is a great way to make it look so cheap. Renault was one of the first companies to target five-star NCAP back then, so this platform is surprisingly safe, although a three-star NCAP rating puts it behind almost all of its rivals now. You pay your money etc.
In keeping with Renault’s massive recycling of obsolete parts, the cabin even smells like a new Mégane from ten years ago. How Proustian! But it looks modern. Compared to the first-gen Duster, we find an all-new dash, all-new seats, a better infotainment system, and more. It’s also quieter than before, thanks to thicker glass, better soundproofing, and stiffer sheet metal in the engine compartment.
Is the engine up to par?
There’s a 115-hp diesel option, which sounds and feels like a pickup: it’s so absurdly short you’ll be attacking the latter while still coming out of a junction. But it’s the one you want if you need your Duster for your on-road pursuits: it’s front-wheel drive as standard, but an extra £2,300 makes it a 4×4.
Even the Duster 4×2 retains a good amount of underbody clearance, so if the surface isn’t too greasy and the tires are well shod, you’ll be dealing with some pretty rough terrain. And it has more room than a Renegade or Vitara, the closest off-road rivals.
The various gasoline options are 2WD only. All are turbocharged and split between a 90-hp 1.0-liter 3-cylinder or a 130- and 150-hp 1.3-liter 4-cylinder, with the latter being your only automatic option. “EDC” arrives with the Duster’s midlife update and is Renault’s label for its clever six-speed dual-clutch transmission. No paddles on the wheel here though.
Dacia now also offers bi-fuel cars in Britain, and you can have a Duster that fills up with LPG gas like it was back in the mid-2000s. It comes with a 3-cylinder 100-litre petrol engine, and you can read more about its complexities here.
Our choice of the range.
What’s the verdict?
The joy of the Duster is the seriousness with which it overdelivers the unpromising price. Renault has been very disciplined in controlling Dacia’s costs. They’re built in a low-cost country, use engines, platforms and electrical equipment long since dropped by other cars, and integrate dealerships with Renault rather than start a separate network. The Duster cleverly shares body parts across the entire Dacia range and the number of available options is reduced.
Sure, it’s a little slow, a little unrefined, a little light on the active security features available. But that’s by the standards of rivals costing twice as much. The Duster is not trying to fool anyone. It’s not cheap in a way that insults your intelligence or makes you feel bad. It’s a much better car than it has to be strictly for the price, and we love it for it.
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Source : topgear.com