A SIMPLE, affordable off-road vehicle, the Dacia Duster aims to sell on its low pricing and durability. Priced in line with supermini-sized vehicles but with the carrying capacity of something for the next class up, it should have some appeal and unlike many of today’s small 4x4s, it’s equipped to travel off-road.
Dacia is Renault’s world car brand, a subsidiary that’s being shaped to compete in the potentially lucrative emerging markets. Its products are designed to be durable, reliable and, most importantly, cheap. But as well as going on sale in far-flung places, from Brazil to Iran, it’s also enjoyed success in France and Germany and the hope is that they might catch on in the UK too.
Power for the Duster comes from Renault’s 1.5-litre diesel engines or its 1.6-litre 16-valve petrol alternative. These units have been widely used in Renault products over the years and should be more than adequate for a budget 4x4. The 1.5-litre diesels come in 85bhp or 105bhp guises or there’s the option of 110bhp from the 1.6 version.
Unlike many of the smaller 4x4s available to UK buyers, which are built to maximise comfort and handling on tarmac, the Duster is designed with off-road travel in mind. The Duster’s world car remit means it had to be set up to cope with the unmade roads and generally difficult terrain it might encounter in faraway lands. To this end, it’s comparatively lightweight, coming in at 1,280kg in 4x4 guise and 1,180kg as a 4x2 model. There’s also generous ground clearance of over 200mm on all models and an approach angle of 30 degrees.
The 4x4 Duster uses a Nissan all-wheel-drive system that can be set in front-wheel-drive, auto or locked four-wheel-drive modes. In auto mode, the distribution of the engine’s torque is calculated automatically, with drive diverted to the rear wheels if those at the front lose traction. In locked 4x4 mode, the torque is locked into a 50:50 split between the front and rear wheels to assist in low-grip scenarios.
You wouldn’t instantly finger the Duster as a budget Romanian model, which is half the battle won as far as its designers are concerned. Fans of 4x4s can tick off the flared wheelarches, prominent bumpers and roof rails and may even be reminded of Nissan’s Pathfinder and X-Trail models by the Duster’s side and rear views.
At 4,310mm long and 1,820mm wide, the Duster is larger than today’s crop of supermini-based 4x4s and only a shade smaller than some models in the compact 4x4 class above. It’s similar in dimensions to something like a Nissan Qashqai. Space shouldn’t be a problem as a result, with room for five adults and a generous boot capacity of 475 litres that can rise to 1,600 litres with the rear bench seat folded down and tipped forward.
Safety provision looks comprehensive for a car in the Duster’s price range. All models get an advanced ABS system. There are also front airbags, side airbags and seatbelt pretensioners included depending on the version.
The Duster should be inexpensive to run. None of its engines are thirsty and emissions are low.
Dacia is also keen to emphasise the measures it has taken to make the Duster durable. Particular attention has been paid to anti-corrosion measures, with extensive under-body protection installed. All Dusters come with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty.
CAR Dacia Duster range
PERFORMANCE Max speed 105 mph
MPG 56.5.mpg (combined)
CO2 EMISSIONS 140g/km
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