The Dacia Duster on test for Changing Lanes!
The Dacia Duster on test for Changing Lanes!

Say hello to the 2021 Dacia Duster!

The Dacia Duster is maturing. Launched in Ireland back in 2012, it quickly gained notoriety as a ‘no nonsense’ budget SUV. Some canny pricing and a tough off-road look did the Duster a lot of favours. Just as the market was becoming saturated with B-segment crossovers, the Duster’s angles and honest charm wriggled its way into the hearts of more than a few Irish buyers.

That’s right, over 10,000 Dusters have found a home in Ireland. Now in its second generation, the latest Dacia Duster has the exterior sheen of the trendy suburban compact SUV to it, magnified by a glossy metallic finish! It’s come a long way. With the last significant update to the car in 2018, the Duster looks like it’s ready for the Dakar Rally. Larger than life roof rails, plastic cladding and squared off wheel arches make the Duster just so…tough!

In fact, I’d missed the honest charm of the Duster. Slipping in behind the wheel, and it’s fair to say that the Duster is not trying to seduce you with sophistication. The cabin is a hard-plastic affair with some more dated switchgear than the most style conscious of the small SUVs. Superficially, you might dismiss the Duster for its lack of glossy surfaces, glittering technology, and digital interfaces. But there is a lot of substance to this car. This is why you will find a small army of Dusters already holding their own on Irish roads.

Pricing for the Duster starts from €18,795 in Ireland
Pricing for the Duster starts from €19,365 in Ireland

What are my options?

With pricing starting from €19,365, the Duster offers a compact SUV stance for supermini money. Standard equipment is basic but the Essential model includes LED daytime running lights, Emergency Brake Assist, 16-inch steel wheels and DAB radio with steering-column mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity.

You will find a more comfortable home in Comfort trim (from €21,365) – still ‘shockingly affordable’ – including cruise control, 16″ alloy wheels, soft feel steering wheel, trip computer, satin chrome roof bars and skid plate, manual air con, electric rear windows, rear parking camera and sensors, and the MediaNav 7″ touchscreen multimedia system.

Top of the range Prestige models like the one on test for Changing Lanes start from €23,665. Word has it that Dacia buyers do tend to go for the higher trim levels in this car for maximum goodies. The Duster Prestige looks the business, adding 17-inch alloy wheels, multi-view camera, blind spot warning, climate control and keyless entry.

Front wheel drive and four wheel drive models are available. Power comes from the trusty 1.5-litre dCi diesel or a new 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine.

The interior of the 2018 Dacia Duster
The interior of the latest Dacia Duster

Inside the latest Duster

The Dacia Duster has a plain cabin with little of the glitter or glamour we have come to expect from a small SUV. That wouldn’t sit well with the Duster’s image now would it? It appears solidly built and practical. There’s a multimedia touchscreen display in the centre of the dash but the graphics do look quite dated. Yet with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, it’s not likely to matter too much.

Where the Duster really shines is when you consider the space available inside the vehicle at this sticker price. Duster will seat five, with the rear footwells offering more space than many rivals. The high roofline gives loads of headroom, adding to that feeling of space. The boot is also a good size at 445 litres. The Duster’s boxy goodness reaps dividends. Isofix child-seat mounting points are fitted to the outer rear seats.

The Duster holds a 3-star Euro NCAP safety rating with some safety equipment like lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking still absent.

The Duster is available with petrol or diesel engines
The Duster is available with petrol or diesel engines

Driving the Dacia Duster

The driver enjoys a high seating position behind the wheel giving the feel of an authentic off-roader. Steering is light making the car easy to park and drive around town. The Duster handles the road safely though it’s not the sharpest driver of them all in its class, with more body roll than some more low slung competitors. Yet it’s comfortable where it matters over long distances and copes with rougher surfaces on rural roads and in town reasonably well.

The diesel engine in our test car is a 1.5-litre affair with 115 hp. It gives a nice bit of pulling power without getting too raucous under acceleration. It returns good economy with my average fuel consumption coming in at 5.4 litres per 100 km over a week of driving. Motor tax is €200 per year for this model. There’s also a 1.0-litre petrol available with 100 or 130 hp.

The Duster is missing some polish but at this side of the market and at this price, it’s clearly not a deal breaker.

The Duster offers great space for the money in the small SUV market
The Duster offers great space for the money in the small SUV market

Did you like it?

The Dacia Duster is the darling of the Dacia range. The Duster offers excellent value but also happens to be quite the charismatic car. The modern, squared off look gives Duster a leg up in the crowded SUV market.

Inside the Duster provides the convenience features one would expect of a compact SUV – if you avoid the very entry model – but without the gloss or sophistication of the best of the rivals. But everything works and it’s comfortable and fun to drive in a basic and authentic way.

On the road the Duster makes good progress backed up by strong engines.

No disparaging remarks are needed. The Dacia Duster is a rough diamond, but a good one.

The Dacia Duster makes a great, affordable small family car
The Dacia Duster makes a great, affordable small family car

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Dacia Duster dCi 115 Prestige
1.5-litre turbo diesel
115 hp
260 Nm
10.5 seconds
Top speed: 
179 km/h
Fuel economy: 4.9-5.5 l/100 km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
111 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€200 per year