A Dust-up over slashing prices: Alan Candy road tests the budget-beating Dacia Duster

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Most car makers nowadays give you everything but the kitchen sink on board - much of which we don’t actually need.

But there is a new breed with a fresh philosophy – less is more.

We’re talking Romanian here, folks, in the form of Dacia, which manages to pack an awful lot of car into an amazingly small financial package.

Top value: The Dacia Duster

Top value: The Dacia Duster

Renault-owned Dacia (Datch-ya, not Dayseea, folks) doesn’t just eliminate frills, it goes to war on them.

“Eliminating the unnecesary” is one of their key phrases, along with the memorable “shockingly affordable”.

They’ve got a point. The Sandero supermini, for example, starts at £5,995 and you can invest less than £9,000 to buy a great value Duster SUV.

I have been testing the top range Dacia Duster Laureate dCi 110 4x4, which is still only £14,995 yet still boasts selectable all-wheel drive, returns 53.3mpg overall and has a smart list of extra features inside and out.

Yes, Dacia really does kick dust into its rivals’ faces when it comes to honest value for money. For a start off, the Duster has simple, pleasing lines. It looks the part of a 4x4 (although there are 2WD versions in each trim), with a smoothly rounded bonnet; the scooped Dacia badge we shall see more of on our roads; restrained, simple headlamps; side skirts; and muscular wheel arches.

Inside, Dacia keep it simple. The Laureate model I drove had obvious cost-cutting measures such as hard budget plastics on dashboard and doors, but the relative ‘luxury’ of piano black console, door grabs and stack surround.

There are no mysteries as far as instrument layout is concerned, with main dials visible through the wheel. Four big vents push out generous airflow and the main stack is headed by a simple CD-tuner. It’s a bit of a stretch down below knee level to locate heat/vent arrangements and even further to select almost at floor level the turn knob selector for drive options – 2WD/Auto/Lock. The first is for everyday driving; the second brings in 4WD selectively as and when necessary; and the third is for serious off-roading.

In terms of comfort, the Duster scores highly , with well padded and supportive seats and the vehicle is family friendly with plenty of width, decent headroom and good rear legroom.

The 110 model I tested has a surprisingly quiet and well subdued diesel engine which can hardly be heard outside the car, let alone in, and pulls very well from low down, cutting down gearchange time.

In fact you can usually guarantee to pick a higher gear than normal, which of course boosts economy.

A six-speed gearbox has a short throw and easy movemen.

Best of all, the rear luggage section is well sorted and generous on space, with bumper-level easy loading and a smart fitted rubber boot tray.

Unbeatable in every way on price, Dacia will make serious inroads in these stringent times.

It can do pretty much everything most people will want and provided you’re not a badge snob, this Indian-built bargain is hard to resist.