The Dacia Duster is a well-made, well equipped and affordable vehicle which still has the ability to get you out of a “muddy” situation. You can say just about everything about it except the fact that is “rubbish”, because it isn’t, and it has its sales figures speaking for it. This is a budget SUV, placed between the B and the C segments, and it really has no direct competitor. Some might say that the Nissan Juke, the Peugeot 2008, the Opel Mokka or similar vehicles might be in the same league as the Duster, but the truth is that they aren’t.
Before going into its technical specs and design, we have to remind you that this has been in production since 2010. It’s being sold as the Renault duster or the Nissan Terrano as well and it comes to life in Romania, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, India and Russia. The model has a 5-door body style, it is closely related to the Logan and Sandero and it has a front-engine and front-wheel or all-wheel drive, depending on the selected version.
Engine and transmission
A variety of engines are being offered on the budget SUV, starting with the 1.6-liter 16-valve (105 HP), going through the dCi in its two outputs, 90 HP and 110 HP and ending with our tested version, the 1.2 TCe. This is a brand new addition to the Dacia Duster range and it’s a small turbocharged four-cylinder petrol burner, which can also be found on some other vehicles within the group. Hearing about a small engine on an SUV made me think that this isn’t really that suitable, but the Dacia representative mentioned something about its torque being similar or even better to the diesel one. I haven’t really heard that well because I was concerned of getting behind the wheel of an underpowered vehicle.
Well, at least, that was my main concern but it hasn’t lasted that long, it only took me a few seconds to realize how wrong I was and, skeptical in the beginning and a fan of the dCi 110 in this version, I soon realized that I would prefer the 1.2 TCe. The small engine has enough power to get you wherever you need to go and if you are concerned about the torque figure like I was, forget about it, because it seems exactly similar to the of the range-topping diesel. On top of that, the newer unit also feels better made and truly reliable.
Dacia says that the 1.2-liter engine is producing no less than 125 HP and a peak torque of 205 Nm, more than the dCi 90, with its 200 Nm, but still less than the dCi 110, which is bringing 260. Speaking about the 0-100 km/h acceleration or its top speed makes no sense since this is a budget SUV, but let’s not forget that this is currently the most powerful engine offered on a Dacia vehicle ever. Since we were in the top-of-the-line petrol variant, it came with four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. This is a relief considering the fact that the carmaker used to offer a 5-speed manual as well.
Don’t expect low-range gearbox because this isn’t a true off-roader but Dacia did something clever. It made the first gear extremely short and this is just enough to allow short bursts of power sent to the wheels. It may be annoying getting used to it in urban driving but once you have got the hang of it, you will end up adoring what the company did. And if you hate it, than you can always start in the second gear, because this is really what the engineers have thought when developing it. What I’m really trying to say is that the gearbox has just 5 speeds, because the 1st one is really useless most of the time, so imagine what the Dacia Duster owners who have a 5-speed transmission have to go through, because that really has four speeds.
You won’t be amazed by the official figures which stand at 6.4L / 100km average, 7.1L / 100km urban and 6.0L / 100km extra-urban. In the real world, as you are probably used to by now, things tend to be a little different, or a lot different in this case. Achieving 7.1L in the city is nearly impossible, the trip computer refused to show me anything less than 10L on average but I have to tell you that the AC was on at all times. Push the throttle harder and you would be amazed to see a small SUV equipped with a 1.2L engine and made in 2015 eating up to 13L.
On the highway, things aren’t looking better either and if Dacia says that here we should expect 6.0L / 100km, this is also impossible of achieving if the right foot will go anywhere near the accelerator pedal. If you’re not in a hurry, you may get the Duster’s trip computer to indicate an average of 8L / 100km, but driving it at a legal speed of 130 km/h will also raise the fuel consumption to 10L / 100km. Add a 50-liter fuel tank to the equation and things will look even sadder and you will struggle to get a total range of 500 km.
What you see is what you get so don’t expect a comfortable ride but don’t prepare for a bumpy one either. The truth is that the engineers in charge of developing the Duster have made a pretty good job when it comes to its suspension system. It goes in day-to-day driving just well and you will also feel where every wheel is once you decide to leave the main road for a short adventure. Don’t expect anything similar to the main off-roader in the Group, the Pathfinder, but you won’t be disappointed either.
When it comes to cornering, the SUV will do it and if you haven’t upgraded from a Logan to a Duster yet, you should, because there aren’t many differences. The main problem it comes when pushing the brake pedal because, despite the vehicle stopping pretty well, you will feel like you are driving a 3-ton beast. Same goes for when the accelerator is pressed hard to the floor too. Speaking about its ride height, this is mainly suitable for bumpy roads rather than off-roading and you won’t feel anything more than stepping inside a raised Logan with a different design.
There isn’t anything much to notice here because we are still talking about the same old Duster which has received a facelift. However, the refreshed version is bringing some better-made materials but the hard plastic which isn’t really good looking is still there. This is a compromise because things will not be getting all squeaky after a few thousand kilometers. We also get a dashboard layout with storage spaces, a multi-function steering wheel, air conditioning for when it’s hot, heaters for when it’s chili and a knob which will be rotating to three positions, 2WD, AUTO and LOCK. We have to return to the previous chapter and tell you that he above-mentioned fuel consumption figures have been obtained in 2WD mode.
Overall, the cabin of the “new” Duster is a nice place to be. We have every button in range, the commands for the electric windows are fitted on the doors, we get a cruise control, a speed limiter, central locking and some chrome elements as well, which are giving it a sporty look. The steering wheel is getting some white stitching on it (fake) and so are the seats. Speaking of the seats, I didn’t really find these comfortable enough. The driving position is weird, it’s not low and it’s not high, it’s something in between. And I don’t particularly enjoy the side support of the driver’s seat either but the headrest is actually usable.
Dacia is also offering rear parking sensors, which come in handy, but I would have preferred a rearview camera, especially since technology isn’t that expensive anymore and since we also have the MediaNav infotainment system, signed by LG, so here’s a tip, tell LG to bring a camera too for the next generation. Other things worth mentioning are the Eco button, which is cutting down on the engine’s power to improve the fuel consumption (how ironic is that?), electrically adjustable side mirrors, accessible through a small joystick fitted between the front seats (I spent some time looking for it so the driver’s door would be a better position) and manually adjustable headlights, which reminded me of the “classic” Dacia cars.
Likes / Dislikes
I particularly enjoy the way the Dacia Duster looks on the outside. I like its manly lines and the front fascia looks even better since it was upgraded. The same cannot be said on the interior because it really seems dull, but you get a lot of space and storage options. The engine is really well made and I really prefer it instead of the usual dCi 110 but this would work even better with an automatic transmission, so hopefully Dacia will decide to offer the Easy-R on the Duster as well. The fuel consumption is the main drawback and I cannot really put my finger on the steering either, because it does feel heavy and it isn’t offering any feedback to the driver. This being said, if you are looking for a budget crossover, go ahead, buy one and you won’t be disappointed, but if you are expecting premium finishes, a great ride, good fuel consumption and a “posh” look, then you should spend the equivalent of two, three or maybe four Dacia Dusters for one ride.
When it was tested by the Euro NCAP, back in 2011, the Dacia Duster received a total of 3 stars. The main concerns are in the Pedestrian Safety (28 percent) and in the Safety Assist (29 percent). The SUV is offering 74 percent in Adult Occupant and 78 percent in Child Occupant.
Dacia Duster Laureate 1.2L TCe 4×4
Engine: 1.2L petrol (1,197 cc)
Power: 125 HP (92 kW) at 5,250 rpm
Torque: 205 Nm (151 lb-ft) @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: manual, 6-speed
Dimensions: length 4,315 mm, width 1,822 mm, height 1,695 mm
Weight: 1,387 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50L
Trunk Capacity: 443L
Top Speed: 177 km/h
Entry-level – 11,000 EUR
Tested Car – 16,600 EUR
4.0 / 5