The car that’s always come with what you need, now comes with a bit of what you want, too
You’d do well to find someone who can argue against the original Dacia Duster’s popularity. As a ridiculously affordable car that’s knocking above its weight in size and practicality, it’s not hard to see why there’s been such an uptake.
Between January and April 2017, over 47,000 Dusters were sold in Europe, and in the same period this year that number’s already over 60,000.
Just to add to the head-wobbling stats, that amount is already more than Dacia managed in the whole of 2010 – when the original Duster was launched.
And after sampling the second gen model, I expect those numbers to take another leap upwards.
The Mk II
Affordability is still the car’s buzz word, but you wouldn’t believe it, looking at the top-spec Prestige variant that I tried. One word that you would associate with this latest effort, however, is upgrade.
Although the shape is fairly similar to the first gen Duster, it’s now a lot more serious looking. The front end is higher and wider, with a metallic grill that you get on all trims.
In Prestige, it might even challenge the less affordable alternatives on looks. With 17in two-tone alloys and silver detailing dotted about, the all-new Duster looks like a car that goes beyond what you need, and throws in a few bits that you want.
After I’d finished circling the car, thinking out loud in disbelief at its cost (we’ll get to that), I took the review inside.
Taking its tech more seriously
The new 7in touchscreen will manage media-satnav functions with no bother, but it’s the main feature that’ll again have you baffled as you start tallying the extras and wondering how you haven’t already gone beyond the asking price.
The screen doubles up as a projector for the Multiview camera, that pulls video in from four cameras positioned around the car.
You get the front and rear views, but also side-facing shots that could be an absolute gem for parents who want to make sure there’s enough space either side before turning off the child locks and having their doors launched into neighbouring motors.
It’s not all about the screen, though
The temperature and fans are adjusted by moving the grooved silver dials, that give a cushy little click as they spin. And small displays inside the dials tell you what settings you’ve opted for, a bit like the controls in the newer Range Rovers.
The other controls come in the form of aviation-style flick switches below the screen, that give a nice touch to mundane tasks like the turning the air con on or off.
Seats-wise, unless you go for the optional leather seats, you’ll be travelling in pretty standard comfort, but the type that gets you where you’re going without any complaints.
The new Dacia Duster’s found a balance between basic comfort and handy extras, that won’t punish you if you’re an A to B-er opting for the former, but will appeal to those who like that little bit more from a car.
More composed on the road
Both of those camps will be pleased with the way it drives, as well. It comes in diesel, all-wheel drive petrol, or the standard petrol engine I drove – all 1.6-litre engines producing 115bhp.
That being said, you won’t feel like you’re missing out too much. The AWD, although not a 4×4, is targeted at those who want to get their alloys mucky, rather than those whose most tricky terrain will be a Tesco carpark.
Acceleration and gear changing is smooth, and it’ll be nippy if you get it up towards 4,000 revs. Most of its drivers are probably operating at about 2,500 revs and a fair few decibels below that, but it has a bit more pull if you’re willing to put your foot down.
The steering is also much improved on the first gen model, with power steering now a standard across the range. It’s also satisfyingly light, meaning you’ll be able to move the new Duster around as if it was a smaller car. Manoeuvrability and ease of use seem to be another two of Dacia’s aims this time round.
It’s how much?
With high demand for SUVs of any size at the minute the list of alternatives is growing by the week, but in terms of a genuine rival to the new Duster, there’s very little.
It’s almost created its own class – an affordable car that can satisfy those who only want the basics, and those who want some fancier kit, at the same time.
The range-topping Prestige, with all its standard kit and handy features comes in under £15k. For that spec on any other SUV, even in the affordable bracket, you’re probably looking at £20k odd, at least.
Dacia have taken a formula that’s served them well for the past eight years, and made it even more appealing with the new Duster.