Duster: how does this value-for-money option shape up?
Cars these days are becoming ever more complicated. As a motoring journalist whose first ever launch was the Land Rover Discovery in 1989, I’ve seen quite a few changes.
We pride ourselves at being able to jump from car to car and being able to quickly get to grips. But technology is changing and only last week I found myself having to Google how to switch off the newest Smart car (you don’t, you jump out and lock the door and the car switches itself off).
And on the same day it took me a little while to locate the gear selector on a Jeep Avenger (it’s a slide control which looks for all the world like an old-style heater switch).
So imagine my delight when the Duster turns up. A proper car with traditional controls. A key to turn it on (many cars are keyless these days) and a proper gear lever (again, a device in decline). There are no complicated buttons to electrically lift the tailgate and no buzzers to make you keep in lane (Dacia assume if you have a driving licence then you should be fit to steer).
It is like a breath of fresh air, the Duster. The price is good, too. OK, so £20,000 might not sound that cheap but take a look at similar cars costing £30,000 or £40,000 or more and you will appreciate this really is comparatively good value.
It isn’t totally without functions. It has anti-lock brakes, traction control, parking sensors and air conditioning. It does have cruise control but it’s a simple one which doesn’t try to adapt to the speed of other cars.
It has an 8in media display which replicates a smartphone and a built-in satellite navigation system.
It isn’t without frills too. Alloy wheels, chrome trim, heated door mirrors, USB ports and smart roof bars all feature.
But it feels like every feature has a purpose. There are no gimmicks and every feature makes the car easier to drive, not more complicated.
So, what is the Dacia Duster? Well Dacia is part of the Renault group and was originally a Romanian brand. When it became part of Renault it became known for its affordable but sensible products. There is no doubt that it has proven successful among sensible motorists who are tired of gimmicks and just want a cheap and cheerful car.
Duster is an SUV. It looks decent and drives and handles well. It has a six-speed gearbox which is slick and easy to use. Enjoy it while you can because in this rapidly-advancing EV age the old gearstick will be consigned to history.
Anyone learning to drive in the next few years probably won’t ever learn how to change gear, much in the same way that I never learned how to double de-clutch.
This is a simple car and it is going down a storm. Dacia has sold more than 240,000 vehicle since its first model was registered in the UK in 2013.
The value-orientated brand is celebrating a decade on sale in the UK, with a total of 240,010 vehicles sold over the last 10 years. The first vehicle it registered was a Sandero back.
Since then the rugged Duster SUV has become its most popular model, with 88,488 examples sold over the period. Glacier White has proven to be the most-selected colour, too, while tip-top specification Laureate has proven to be the most popular with buyers.
Luke Broad, Dacia Brand Director for the UK, said: “Ten years on and Dacia has grown and innovated, but our focus on providing UK car buyers with an unrivalled blend of quality and value is as strong as it’s ever been.
“In many ways, our success over the last decade is only the beginning, with Dacia now firmly established and widely recognised for redefining the essentials. As we enter an exciting new phase and as the brand continues to be bolder and continually push the boundaries, there’s no mistaking that Dacia is here to stay.”
The Sandero Stepway has accounted for 71,236 sales during its lifetime, while 59,987 examples of the Sandero supermini have been sold.
Dacia has seen continued success in the market, too, with its sales volume increasing by 55 per cent in 2022 compared with the year previous. Today, it occupies a three per cent market share, while the brand has kickstarted its electrification journey with the introduction of a new hybrid-powered Jogger.
Meanwhile, Dacia has announced that it will compete in the 2025 World Rally-Raid Championship, including the gruelling Dakar Rally.
The Renault-owned budget brand will compete as a manufacturer in arguably one of the most demanding forms of motorsport. Dacia says competing aligns with its values of being ‘rational’ and ‘emotional’.
Dacia has confirmed it will work with motorsport experts Prodrive, based in Banbury, Oxfordshire. This firm has been involved with the Dakar Rally since 2020 and has nearly 40 years of experience working in various motorsports.
World Rally Championship legend Sebastien Loeb, who won nine titles between 2004 and 2012, has been named as one of Dacia’s drivers, alongside Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero, who was the first Spanish woman to finish the Dakar Rally in 2017.
Dacia has not confirmed what vehicle it will compete with, but it’s likely to be a model based around its next-generation Duster – the firm’s rugged 4×4. It will also run on a synthetic test fuel supplied by Aramco, which produces less carbon and is compatible with existing engines. Dacia says the ‘Dakar Rally is the ideal testing ground for this technology’.
Dacia Duster Expression Tce
Engine: A 1,332cc engine generating 96bhp via a six-speed gearbox
Performance: Top speed 120mph and 0 to 60mph in 10,6 seconds
Economy: 45.6mpg average
Insurance: Group 19D
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles