August 21, 2017

DRIVEN: DACIA DUSTER AMBIANCE DCI 110

Dacia’s Duster delivers knock-out value

Renault’s subsidiary budget brand Dacia, has been making waves since it splashed onto the UK automotive scene with the Duster. This SUV’s distinctive looks have a functional robustness, from the bluff front and rear, straight flanks and flared wheel arches housing chunky mud and snow tyre shod wheels. Even before it’s moved an inch, the Duster looks ready to ‘off-road’ – and unlike many SUV/crossovers – it has the ground clearance to do just that.

Available in both two and four wheel drive form, the Duster uses proven Renault-Nissan Alliance technology, with 4×4 models featuring selectable three-mode, four-wheel drive as standard (2WD, Auto and Lock). Two Renault group engines are offered: a 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel. Tested here is the diesel motor, which in two-wheel drive guise returns an official combined 56.5 mpg and emits 130 g/km.

The 105 bhp 1.5 dCi engine is a punchy performer, propelling the Duster along smartly, aided by a six-speed gearbox with well chosen ratios, ensuring good tractability at low speeds and decent in-gear acceleration, while also allowing for a relaxed 2,800 rpm cruise at 75 mph. Less praise can be given to the steering, which is a bit woolly, but while it’s not the most dynamic of drives, the Duster’s suspension is sufficiently taught and composed to be wieldy on a twisty road. However, the biggest plus with this car’s set-up is in the smoothness of its ride, which allows the Dacia to glide over pockmarked road surfaces that ruffle many of its rivals.

 

Initially the Duster does feel a little utilitarian – the engine sounding gruff on start up and at low revs, and the steering feeling fairly weighty at manoeuvring speeds. Thankfully, both of these traits are less noticeable once underway.

Stepping into the Duster’s cabin is a bit like going back to mid 1990s – the dashboard utilising some easily identifiable previous generation Renault parts, such as the instruments and steering wheel. As you’d expect, given the price, the quality of the interior isn’t up to that of more expensive rivals. Switchgear, especially the ventilation controls feels pretty cheap and nasty, but everything works and the overall feel of the cabin is actually quite acceptable.

The seats actually offer good levels of support and are comfortable, even for taller occupants and there’s plenty of head, elbow and legroom – both front and rear. The high-up, commanding driving position is comfortable, despite the pedals being slightly offset to the right, although there’s no reach adjustment of the steering wheel. Storage is decent, with cubbies dotted around the cabin and the 475 litre boot is a good shape for loading and has minimal wheel-arch intrusion. Unfortunately, the 60/40 split rear seats don’t fold completely flat and leave a slight step in the load floor.

There’s also no denying the sheer lack of equipment and features. On the cheapest ‘Access’ version, even a stereo is an option. This £ 11,995 mid-spec ‘Ambiance’ gets a CD/MP3 player with Bluetooth connectivity, which is intuitive and straightforward to operate. But if you want luxuries like air-conditioning and a trip-computer, you’ll need the top-spec ‘Lauréate’ – still far from expensive at £13,495 in 2WD guise.

Verdict:

The Dacia Duster is a welcome breath of fresh air. It offers a no-nonsense, ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ approach to motoring and for that it must be heartily applauded. Look past the slightly rough edges and you’re left with a truly capable and highly likeable small SUV that is worthy of consideration against considerably more expensive rivals.

Tech spec:

Dacia Duster Ambiance dCi 110 2WD
OTR Price: £11,995
Engine: 1461 cc, diesel
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Driven wheels: Front
Max Power: 105 bhp
Max Torque: 240Nm @1750 rpm
Max Speed: 106 mph
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11.8 seconds
Official combined MPG: 56.5
CO2 emissions: (g/km) 130
VED Band: D
 

 

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