Ever since Dacia was reintroduced back into the UK car market a few years back, it’s caused somewhat of an upset amongst the major car manufacturers for producing mass-market, affordable cars.
First came the Sandero hatchback – the UK’s cheapest car to buy. Then the Duster – a vehicle that provides SUV levels of space and some off-road ability but commands a price that easily trumps rival family hatchbacks by many thousands of pounds.
It’s an interesting mainstream alternative for people who don’t want to spend a fortune on buying a practical car. Here at carwow though, we like a good rivalry, so we’ve paired it against another unusual hatchback alternative the Dacia Duster is looking to conquer – the Ford EcoSport.
Which will come out on top? Let’s see.
The Dacia has a much more understated and sensible look which suits the car much better – it’s inoffensive while still being purposeful. Its styling clearly shows how capable it can be off-road, but it doesn’t have the rugged look of say, a Land Rover Defender.
The interiors in both the EcoSport and the Duster are not their best features. The EcoSport does feel the better quality of the two, though you couldn’t call it a ‘quality’ item – critics have said the plastics feel very “flimsy” and cheap.
Ford has tried to rectify this by fitting some revised materials around the centre console and instrument panel but it’s still not class leading. It’s also added more sound deadening because road testers said at higher speeds there was quite a bit of wind noise from the windscreen. They also say the large A-pillars create a substantial blind spot.
The Ford also comes with more standard equipment including keyless entry, a leather steering wheel and climate control. The Dacia only comes with electric front windows, power steering, central locking and steel wheels as standard. A radio isn’t included either.
The dashboard in the Dacia has a minimalist, no-frills design that’s trimmed in hard plastics. However, it does have many storage cubbies dotted about and there’s excellent head and legroom for passengers.
This is an important area for both the Duster and EcoSport. Happily, both of these cars deliver in this regard.
The Duster has the most capacious boot of the two. In the two-wheel drive model, it can hold 475 litres with the rear seats up and 1,638 litres with them folded down. With the four-wheel-drive system in place, the boot space is reduced to 408 litres and 1,570 litres respectfully.
The space in the Ford is considerably smaller, however, measuring 330 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,238 litres with them folded flat.
On the inside, the EcoSport has split-folding rear seats where the Duster only has a single rear bench as standard (upgrading to more expensive models gets you split-folding units). However, when the rear seats are folded down in both cars, neither leaves a flat floor, making life loading objects into the boot a little bit more difficult.
Then there’s the boot mechanism itself – the Duster has a conventional tailgate which opens upwards but the one on the EcoSport opens to the side – much like the passenger doors would do. This means, to open the boot fully in the EcoSport, you have to allow for lots of room, meaning you cannot reverse into car parking bays or fit in a tight parallel parking space if you’re intent on opening the boot.
The EcoSport is based on the Fiesta – with a chunkier body and a raised ride-height – it was expected that it’d be as entertaining as the Fiesta. However, this isn’t the case.
Road testers have said the steering isn’t quite as sharp as its hatchback counterpart – there’s quite a bit of body roll and the suspension is much firmer than you’d expect.
The Dacia Duster, on the other hand, has compliant suspension, but there’s some body roll – unsurprising in a car of this size – and the steering isn’t the sharpest in its class, but overall it isn’t bad.
The Duster is also very good when taken off-road thanks to its selectable four-wheel drive – it can be specified with two-wheel drive if that’s all the driver needs. The EcoSport is only available with two-wheel drive.
The Dacia offers two petrol engines – a 1.6-litre and a new 1.2-litre turbo, both of which appear elsewhere in the Renault range. Critics suggest, however, the 1.5-litre diesel is the one to have because it provides more torque, suiting the characteristics of the car better. It also returns better fuel consumption – 56.5mpg on the combined cycle.
The Ford also has a 1.5-litre diesel and two petrol engines – a 1.5-litre and the well-praised 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine which has won the International Engine of the Year award for the past few years.
Which one should I buy?
If you’re looking for the cheapest SUV around that’s great off-road whilst not compromising on its on-road abilities, then the Dacia Duster is the one to have.
However, if you’re someone who’s not too fussed about off-road capabilities but still wants the image, space and versatility these sort of vehicles provide, then the Ford EcoSport is the one to have.
The Dacia starts from £9,495 whilst the Ford begins at £14,245. That’s a huge price gap for this end of the market but you have to consider the Dacia has a spartan interior, it doesn’t have the creature comforts or brand image the Ford brings, but for everything else you get – it represents fantastic value.
Essentially, if you just need a car to go on- and off-road, be cheap to buy, own and repair, and be practical then the Dacia Duster will do all you need for not very much money. If you want a little style and aren’t fussed about off-road ability then the EcoSport might be a better bet.
Check out our in-depth reviews of the Dacia Duster and Ford EcoSport, then head over to our car configurator to see how much you could save on your next car. Don’t forget to check out our car deals page to see our latest discounts, too.