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A clear winner on the cost sheet - and this SUV isn't bad in the real world either.
Automatic LED headlights, LED tail lights, roof bars, tinted windows, air conditioning, DAB radio, cruise control and speed limiter, tyre pressure warning light, stop/start.
90hp 1.0, 130hp 1.3, 150hp 1.3
Essential, Comfort, Prestige
Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
The second-generation version of Dacia's Duster SUV was first introduced in 2018, and now Renault Group's value brand has introduced a mid-life facelift. It features exterior styling tweaks such as new LED lights and a new-look front grille, along with improved infotainment and interior upholstery. Size-wise the Duster sits somewhere between B-segment SUVs such as the Ford Puma and Nissan Juke, and C-segment offerings like those manufacturers Kuga and Qashqai.
The Dacia has more of a chunky off-roader aesthetic than many modern SUVs, aided by features such as prominent roof rails and big wheel arches. In line with this, the Duster is also available with four-wheel drive, though only with the diesel version rather than the petrol tested here. Also supporting this impression is a high seating position, allowing easy entry and a more commanding view of the road.
However, this off-road feel does not mean agricultural driving manners. Ride quality is generally good, with the suspension set up well to absorb bumps, and this doesn't come at too great a detriment to cornering performance. It's no sports car of course, but handling is safe and reliable without undue wallow and roll in bends. Light steering and good visibility with that high vantage point help with ease of driving around town, while the reversing camera included with this spec helps with parking. With a car this size the 130hp petrol engine tested here is more than adequate, and although the manual gear shift isn't the slickest it's acceptable enough.
Dacia's emphasis on value for money is perhaps most evident from the Duster's interior. With the mid-range Comfort equipment grade tested here, most materials used are fairly utilitarian, but that's to be expected at this price point - ditto the analogue instrument panel. What you do get, however, is a new 8in touchscreen, which is clear and simple to use and comes with full smartphone integration. Switchgear - some of it, like the volume control behind the steering wheel, recognisable from Renault models - feels solid enough, and a leather-covered steering wheel does bring a bit more of a quality feel, which should last at least until you have cause to adjust the strangely light and flimsy-feeling sun visors.
The interior generally feels spacious, with good rear headroom, though legroom back there is only passable and might get a bit tight for adults behind tall drivers. On the plus side, rear passengers will likely appreciate the provision of two USB ports, to go with another two upfront.
There's certainly no quibbling with a 445-litre boot, which is usefully large, with an interesting, split parcel shelf arrangement.
When it comes to value for money, Dacia continues to justify its strong reputation. With a P11D of just over £17,000 as tested here, the Duster comes in over £5,000 cheaper than equivalent versions of smaller B-segment SUV rivals, not to mention those from the class above, which still hardly embarrass the Dacia in the practicality stakes. Although official CO2 emissions of 141g/km are less impressive, putting the Duster in the 33% BIK bracket, this is nowhere near enough to spoil the effect of that P11D when it comes to drivers' payments. Also, the Duster has impressively strong predicted residual values, with the data experts at KeeResources having recently revised them upwards from an already strong baseline, noting increased desirability of the facelifted model.