New 2013 Dacia Duster review

The Dacia Duster is a large SUV with the option of four-wheel drive, space for five people and excellent Renault engines – all for a starting price of just £9,000.

This incredible price means it is by far the cheapest SUV on the market today and has led to a string of awards including Top Gear’s Bargain of the Year where it was described as offering ‘true value’.

The Duster is an eye-catching prospect for anybody who wants a rugged SUV at an affordable price. It easily undercuts the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Vauxhall Antara and comes with a choice of five- or seven-year warranties.

What is the Dacia Duster?

Dacia is a new brand in the UK but it is not completely new to the market. This is because the Romanian car maker is actually owned by Renault and is being sold as the French manufacturer’s budget option.

The Dacia Duster is the first of the brand’s cars to go on sale in the UK but it will be followed by the Sandero supermini which will become the UK’s cheapest new car at around £6,000.

The brand is being offered as a budget alternative to the more mainstream brands. The Duster is a stripped-back, simple but durable SUV with practicality at its heart.

However, low prices are its main selling point – although a starting price of £9,000 is particularly surprising considering even a new Ford Fiesta supermini costs slightly more.

Compared to Nissan Qashqai prices the Dacia Duster is well ahead. The Nissan Qashqai is a particularly affordable car but still comes in at £8,000 more than the entry-level Duster at around £17,000.

What do you get for that price?

As you would expect for a spacious SUV that costs £9,000 the entry-level Access trim is sparsely-equipped. There is no air conditioning, cruise control or even stability control and it is a front-wheel drive model only.

The engine, however, is sourced from Renault and as a result the 1.6-litre petrol delivers up to 39.8mpg on the combined cycle – a little below the 45.6mpg offered with the Nissan Qashqai two-wheel drive 1.6-litre petrol.

You will also get a braked towing capacity of 1,200kg, five seats and a maximum boot volume (with the rear seats folded) or 1,636 litres.

This is more than the 1,513-litre boot available with the Nissan Qashqai and in terms of pounds-per-litre is certainly great value for money.

If you are looking for a four-wheel drive Dacia Duster the mid-level Ambiance trim comes with a 109bhp diesel engine and a few extra bits of equipment including alloy wheels, chrome highlights and a radio with MP3 connectivity.

This will cost £11,495, which is around the same price as a compact SUV such as the Vauxhall Mokka or Nissan Juke. A 4×4 version will cost a little extra.

However, the most popular specification is likely to be the range-topping Laureate trim which includes heated electric door mirrors, a leather steering wheel, Bluetooth and an upgraded interior trim.

This is priced from £15,000 and once again is available in two- or four-wheel drive while still falling below the lesser-equipped entry-level Nissan Qashqai.

Still not convinced? Many people are. Orders for the Duster opened last year and although deliveries have begun, waiting times for some models are as much as five months because of the popularity of the car with UK buyers.

Inside the Dacia Duster

The interior of the Dacia Duster is simple, clean and well-thought out. The big, easy-to-use dashboard buttons and instrument panels offer plenty of practicality and the seating position is commanding and comfortable.

There is plenty of room in the back for three adult passengers and the SUV shape of the Duster means enough head room for taller passengers.

The materials are surprisingly durable and there is never a moment behind the wheel when you question the build quality of the Duster. This is perhaps its most impressive feat considering the price paid for the car.

The new Dacia Duster is very much a car that gives a lot for very little money and for bargain hunters, it is sure to be an incredibly popular option.

Dacia Duster on the road

It is all very well buying a car for under £15,000 and getting the raised ground clearance, commanding driving position and general practicality of an SUV, but what is it like to actually drive?

The Dacia Duster looks like a traditional SUV and it drives just like one too. Perfect for soaking up the bumps and holes on a typical UK road, it is comfortable to drive and is rarely troubled by uneven surfaces.

The Duster does not have the handling characteristics of a small car but it is relatively refined and the steering is responsive enough to not cause too many problems.

Overall the Duster feels like a much more expensive car on the road and the diesel engines in particular offer plenty of grunt.

Comparing the Duster to the likes of the Qashqai there is not a lot between them. The Qashqai offers less body roll in corners and is slightly more refined on the road but the Duster is by no means left behind in this regard.

Should I buy a Dacia Duster?

In short, yes. Do not let the new badge and lack of knowledge about the brand stand in your way. Dacia benefits from a partnership with Renault and has put together a superb package for very little money.

It comes with a choice of five- or seven-year warranty if you are still a little nervous about splashing out on a lesser-known brand and cannot be beaten on practicality for the price you will pay.

You can buy the new Dacia Duster today from Perrys Dacia of Aylesbury.