Dacia Duster

A capable 4x4 that's great value for money

7.7
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 9 reviews
  • Great value for money
  • Smooth ride
  • Roomy cabin and boot
  • Basic interior
  • Low standard kit levels
  • Less refined than some rivals
 

£9,495 - £16,795 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

41 - 64 MPG

Review

The Dacia Duster is a bargain SUV that offers the benefits of a crossover for city car prices. As with the rest of the Dacia range, the Duster’s strong point is value for money – it’s considerably cheaper than rivals such as the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Suzuki Vitara.

Out on the road the Duster is relaxing, with a smooth ride and light steering. However, soft suspension and a raised ride height means that it rolls a bit in corners. Safety kit is limited compared to some of the competition, but standard-fit stability control keeps you on track.

Entry-level models get an underpowered petrol engine, while more expensive Dusters get a 1.5-litre diesel capable of an official fuel economy of 64.2mpg. When mated to the Dacia’s optional four-wheel-drive system it’s a great car for towing with, too.

Cabin space is one of the Duster’s strongest plus points – there’s room for five along with plenty of luggage space. The dashboard design and material choice leaves much to be desired, but with prices so low minor faults like these can be excused.

As far as equipment goes, the basic Duster barely gets any – not even a stereo on the entry-level cars. Spec the mid-range trim and you get plenty for your money – a Bluetooth phone connection, folding rear seats, front fog lights and that all-important stereo. See our colour guide for a breakdown of paint finished available on the Duster. Check out the recently facelifted Dacia Duster by reading our dedicated guide or see how the upcoming seven-seater Duster could look with our price, specs and release date article.

The Duster’s interior may be completely absent of soft-touch plastics and other fancy materials, but it undoubtedly has an air of robustness to it. The buttons aren’t particularly good to look at but feel pleasingly chunky.

High-spec Laureate models are available with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system borrowed from the Renault Clio. It’s easy to use, and includes sat-nav and smartphone app connectivity.

Dacia Duster interior space

Thanks to exterior dimensions more comparable to a family hatchback than a compact crossover, the Duster easily trumps its rivals for interior space. The wide rear bench offers room for three, while a high roofline results in plenty of headroom.

The seats are reasonably comfortable, but basic models suffer from a lack of adjustment. Nonetheless the elevated position gives the driver a great view of the road ahead, while large rear windows help with over-the-shoulder visibility.

Dacia Duster boot space

As with its passenger accommodation, the Duster’s boot space is comfortably ahead of most of the class. With the seats up, the two-wheel drive version has a 475-litre boot – bigger than the Captur (455 litres) and far more than the Juke offers (354 litres). Mid-range models get a 60:40 splitting rear bench, which when folded down opens up around 1,600 litres of space – more than twice what some rivals offer. It’s worth noting that if you opt for a 4×4 Duster, seat-up boot space goes down to 408 litres.

The Dacia has some practical drawbacks, though. When the seats are folded, they don’t quite form a flat surface with the boot floor, and no hooks or tie-downs means your luggage can slide around. For more info on the boot, take a look at our Duster dimensions guide.

The Duster feels quite different to many of its competitors from behind the wheel. The majority of the contenders in the small crossover class are set up for sporty handling at the expense of ride quality. The Dacia takes the opposite approach. Through a series of bends, body movement is pronounced and the light steering lacks feel, which generally encourages you to take things easy.

Fortunately, a relaxing cruise is something that the Duster is more than happy to do. Its ride quality is far superior to most rivals, particularly the overly firm Nissan Juke. Though a lack of sound deadening materials make the presence of potholes fairly audible through the cabin, you hardly feel them. That light steering also makes town driving stress-free.

A 4×4 system is available for the Duster, and it turns the car into a confident off-roader, although part of that is down to the car’s relatively low weight and rugged exterior plastics. It’s not as good as a Panda 4×4 in the mud, but considering it’s much more spacious, the Dacia makes for a tempting alternative.

A choice of two Renault-sourced engines are available for the Duster. Admittedly there isn’t much choice, because the 1.6-litre petrol is only available in the most basic Access trim, while the 1.5-litre diesel is the only engine on offer in the higher two trim levels.

Dacia Duster petrol engine

The petrol-powered Duster may be the cheapest to buy, but it’s also the most expensive to run. A combined fuel economy figure of 39.8mpg isn’t really competitive when petrol rivals can often return on average around 10mpg more.

The real budget buster is the road tax, though – with 185g/km of CO2 emissions, the 1.6-litre Duster will set you back £225 a year. If petrol is a must, however, performance is reasonable, and it’s a smooth, revvy unit.

Dacia Duster diesel engine

However, we’d recommend the 1.5-litre diesel unit. With 109hp at its disposal it isn’t very fast, but the 191lb ft of torque makes it feel punchier than the petrol in everyday driving. It’s easier on the wallet, too – during our time with the Duster, we averaged approximately 50mpg, while annual road tax costs £130. The engine sounds a little clattery compared to some competitors, though.

Dacia expects nearly all Duster buyers to plump for this 1.5 dCi engine, and we don’t doubt that claim for a second. The critics agree that the diesel is a far better all-round engine than the 1.6 petrol and, unlike the petroleum powered four-pot, is available in the plushest of trim levels. All in all, if you’re interested in the Duster, this is the engine that’ll satisfy almost every buyer’s needs.

Though it’s by no means the smoothest of engines in the world – one tester stated it was a bit rattly at times – it’s still a dependable one (as you’d expect, from something that also resides under the bonnets of various Renaults) that shouldn’t be too expensive to run. After all, Dacia is claiming up to 56mpg is possible on the combined cycle, and road tax is £100 per year.

However, it’s worth pointing out these figures are for the 2WD version – plump for 4WD, and the increased emissions means the tax bill is now £120, whilst the fuel economy figure drops slightly to 53mpg.

If you want your Duster to have a more ‘zingy’ engine, then perhaps the 1.6 petrol is worth considering, but for all other people who are interested in the UK’s latest Dacia, it’s best served with diesel power. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive to buy than the petrol, but if these reviews are anything to go by, it seems it’ll be the better ownership proposition by quite some margin.

It seems that not all of the positive traits you can find in the diesel version are present in this one. Though the 1.6 is undoubtedly the cheaper of the two to buy, it’s only available with the most basic trim levels, and it’s not quite as ‘user-friendly’ as the oil-burner.

Though the motor itself isn’t a terrible one – it has, after all, been used in many different Renaults over the years – the critic reckons it hasn’t got much on the “more flexible and efficient” 1.5 dCi option. Not only do you have to work it quite hard should you need to get up to speed in a hurry, but the fuel consumption figures are quite poor in comparison with the diesel’s.

That said, it’s not an awful engine: there weren’t any complaints regarding foibles such as intrusive engine noise, and unless you rack up quite a few miles each year, the petrol may be cheaper to run during your ownership stint than the diesel.

However, we’d recommend you consider spending a bit more money on the 1.5 dCi models, especially the ones with more equipment and goodies as standard. Yes, they’re more expensive to buy in the first place, but we’re sure the bonus of having aircon, electric windows and a stereo as standard far outweigh the savings you’d make by picking the most basic Duster over the rest in the range.

The Duster was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2015 and scored three out of five stars. It was mainly criticised for the limited array of safety assists it offers. It comes with ABS and airbags, but at the time of testing stability control wasn’t standard. Emergency city braking is out of the question, too.

In other areas the Duster was on par with rivals with only the poor safety equipment dragging the score down. Stability control is now a standard fit, which would have helped it to a four-star rating.

Arguably the Duster’s greatest strength is its price. With entry-level models starting from just £9,495, it’s the same price as a basic Renault Twingo – a significantly smaller car. A top-spec Duster diesel with two-wheel drive costs just £65 more than the most basic petrol-powered Nissan Juke.

There are only three trims to choose from, but they take the Duster from a back-to basics jacked-up hatchback to a decently equipped family SUV.

Dacia Duster Access

If you like body-coloured bumpers or singing out of tune with the stereo, we’d advise avoiding the Duster Access, because it doesn’t have either. You can have any colour you like (as long as it’s white) and has to make do without air conditioning and electric windows – stuff that’s taken for granted these days. However, as a workhorse the basic Dacia is perfect – you get a big boot, an interior that is easy to clean and minor bumps won’t be worth getting stressed about. It’s also around £4,000 cheaper than its closest rivals.

Dacia Duster Ambiance

Spend a bit more money, and the Ambiance model adds a stereo with USB and phone connectivity, while chrome-look details add some upmarket appeal to the cabin. Body coloured bumpers are standard, as are front fog lights.

Dacia Duster Laureate

If you plump for the most expensive model, you get most of the equipment you’ll ever need in a family crossover such as cruise control, air-conditioning, an on-board computer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and electric rear windows. You can spot the most expensive Duster thanks to its 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome scuff plates.

For more information, take a look at our Dacia Duster options guide to see what optional extras we think are worth paying for, and which to avoid.

Conclusion

While the Duster has several niggles which might irritate some, almost all of its faults can be forgiven when price is taken into account.

Some rivals may offer a more engaging drive, a wider range of engines and more modern safety tech, but is space, off-road potential and, of course, a tiny price top your list of priorities, the Duster could be the car for you.

Go for the Nissan Juke for fun handling, the Renault Captur for generous equipment levels or the Suzuki Vitara for a mix of the two, but in terms of sheer value for your money the Duster is hard to beat.

Looking for great Dacia Duster offers?

On carwow you can easily compare the best new car offers from local dealers and top UK Dacia dealers. Get a great deal and a buying experience without any of the usual hassle!

Compare Duster offers Save on average £200