Caroline drives the 2018 Dacia Duster.
The Dacia Duster has been a bit of a runaway success in Ireland, with over 10,000 Dusters finding homes here since it first arrived in 2012. Not a bad performance for Dacia, a relatively new challenger brand to the Irish market. It’s fair to say Irish buyers have embraced the Dacia Duster’s ‘no nonsense’ approach to motoring and accepted this budget SUV into the fold.
The next generation of the Dacia Duster has just arrived in Ireland so I was keen to secure a test drive to see what makes the Duster so popular.
For a start there is the price. The range kicks off at supermini money – €17,390 for a compact SUV. That certainly sparks interest. Diesels are available from €18,590. Yes, this is ‘shockingly affordable’ motoring.
Duster’s got rugged, boyish charm
Part of the Dacia Duster’s charm I believe also has to be its styling. Though it occupies the compact area of the market, the Duster is not small on attitude. It has the presence of a tough little off-roader and whether intentional or not, Dacia has created something quite distinct in the segment while rivals like the Renault Captur and SEAT Arona go for a softer look.
Now don’t get me wrong, Dacia has taken some of the angles off this new Duster and it’s looking less square. All the body panels are new, but it’s a gentle evolution of styling that enhances the Duster’s rugged appeal and will certainly not isolate fans of the first generation of the vehicle.
Inside the 2018 Dacia Duster
Hop inside and you will be greeted with swathes of hard grey plastic that allow the Duster to compete at such a low entry price. The dashboard and interior have been revised, though it remains plain but seemingly well screwed together. There’s a multimedia touchscreen display in the centre of the dash, though the graphics do look quite dated. The seats have been completely redesigned with denser foam for improved comfort and support, and the driver enjoys the same high seating position as the previous car.
In Ireland there are three trim levels: Essential, Comfort and Prestige. Standard features include LED daytime running lights, Emergency Brake Assist, 16-inch steel wheels and DAB radio with steering-column mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity. Comfort trim (from €19,790) adds 16-inch alloy wheels, manual air conditioning, leather steering wheel, rear parking camera and sensors, electric front and rear windows and the MediaNav 7″ touchscreen multimedia system. The Prestige version (from €21,290) adds 17-inch alloy wheels, multi-view camera, blind spot warning, climate control and keyless entry.
Will the Duster fit my gear?
Interior space in the Duster is good for this size of vehicle. The footwells in the rear are of a good size, and there’s plenty of headroom. In terms of the width of the rear bench, two will be more comfortable than three, which is similar to competitors. The boot is also very usable with a practical shape and a generous capacity of 445 litres.
In terms of engines, Dacia Ireland is now offering the Duster with a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, along with the well proven 1.5dCi. Both engines offer 115hp, though the diesel has more torque and is the best for economy in the range. Standard models are front wheel drive, though 4×4 is available from €20,590 with the diesel engine from January 2019.
What’s the 2018 Dacia Duster like on the road?
The model I tested was a front wheel drive Dacia Duster Prestige 1.5 dCi with a list price of €22,490. With that pricing it’s still quite the bargain for a diesel compact SUV. Over a few days of driving my fuel consumption was 6.1 litres per 100kms and motor tax for this model is €200 per year.
On the road, the diesel has plenty of power to move the Duster efficiently and is reasonably refined too. Dacia has improved the sound insulation in the cabin and the 2018 Duster also comes with a new electric power steering that reduces the effort required to turn the wheel by 35 per cent.
The steering is very light, so it’s great for parking and manoeuvring, but contributes to a more vague feel at speed. Dynamically the Duster could be sharper and more refined, but on the plus side it’s comfortable and perfectly acceptable considering the price point of the vehicle.
Dacia has improved the packaging of the Duster considerably with a smarter exterior, more equipment, and improved comfort and refinement. The interior finish and the driving experience hint at the Duster’s more budget positioning in the market. But this Duster is a likable and very affordable compact SUV with an attitude far bigger than its humble beginnings!
Model tested: Dacia Duster Prestige Blue dCi 115 4×2
Price: €22,490 (Range from €17,390)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Torque: 260 Nm
0-100km/h: 10.5 seconds
Top speed: 178 km/h
CO2 emissions: 115 g/km
Motor tax: €200 per year