The Dacia Duster is an exceptionally affordable SUV that’s significantly more spacious than most equally cheap family cars, but entry-level models come with barely any equipment at all
The Dacia Duster is a back-to-basics family car with chunky off-road styling and a reasonably roomy interior. It feels pretty cheap inside, but it is significantly more affordable than all other small SUVs.
The Duster feels especially basic if you go for an entry-level Access model – believe it or not, these don’t even come with a stereo or air conditioning. Work your way up to a Comfort model (ignoring the relatively spartan Essential version), and the Duster comes with a good selection of equipment, however.
Sure, there are still plenty of hard, scratchy plastics dotted about the cabin, but at least you get some flashy chrome trims, more supportive front seats and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with built-in sat nav. Not bad for such an affordable SUV…
Also winning the Dacia Duster some brownie points is its fairly spacious cabin. There’s more than enough space for tall adults to get comfy in the front and you get driver’s seat-height adjustment in all but the most basic Access models.
Space in the back is fairly generous, too – there’s enough room for three adults to sit side-by-side and the Dacia Duster’s large side windows mean it doesn’t feel cramped or claustrophobic in the back like some smaller hatchbacks.
The Duster’s boxy body means you get quite a good-sized boot, too. There’s room for plenty of suitcases with the back seats up and a bike will fit with room to spare if you fold them down. Unfortunately, there’s an awkward step in the boot floor that makes it a pain to load very heavy boxes.
Cheap and cheerful – that pretty much sums up the Dacia Duster. Unless you go for an entry-level model, in which case it's very cheap and pretty miserable
If you plan to pack your Dacia Duster’s boot to the brim on a regular basis – or do lots of long journeys – go for the 1.5-litre diesel engine. It’ll return more than 50mpg in normal driving conditions and feels perkier than the rather sedate 1.6-litre petrol version.
The petrol’s still worth considering if you do lots of city driving, you’re on a strict budget or ever plan to go off-road – it’s the only engine that comes with the option of four-wheel drive. That said, even two-wheel-drive Dacia Dusters are much more capable of tackling a muddy field than your average family hatchback thanks to their good ground clearance and rugged plastic body cladding.
If traipsing from school to supermarket sounds more like your thing, fear not. The Duster’s a doddle to drive thanks to its light controls, fairly comfortable suspension and the good visibility afforded by the large windows and raised driving position. Mid-range Comfort models even come with cruise control to help make long motorway journeys as relaxing as possible.
Sadly, even top-spec cars don’t come with as much safety kit as many other small family cars. For example, automatic emergency braking to help prevent avoidable collisions is noticeably absent from the Dacia Duster’s equipment list. As a result, it scored a poor three stars out of five when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2017.
As a result, the Dacia Duster makes a good budget buy if you’re after something practical and relatively cheap to run, but if safety and upmarket features are high on your list of priorities then you might want to look elsewhere. The Renault Kadjar, for example, costs just a few thousand pounds more (or less with a significant carwow saving) but comes with significantly more equipment across the range.
You can read more in-depth info on the Dacia Duster in the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our review over the following pages. Or take a look at the very latest Dacia Duster deals.