The Bargain of the Year: Dacia Duster
Can the UK’s cheapest 4x4 survive the Southern Hemisphere’s harshest mountains?
Posted: 09 Jan 2013
We are, it strikes me, putting a lot of trust in the Romanian men who checked the Duster's brake hoses, who fitted its wiring. If anything goes even marginally wrong now - flat tyre, power steering glitch, headlight fuse failure - we are dead in the most horribly inevitable way possible. But the Duster keeps on, unstoppable, unruffled, its mud-painted headlights throwing a narrow, dim beam on the narrow, dim road. I decide, altitude-drunk, thankful to be alive, that this must be the perfect car for Peru. You want something with four-wheel drive, something cheap enough you won't mind it getting a bit dented by, say, a rapidly onrushing valley floor. Decent visibility is a must, to avoid clouting a mototaxi and being clouted by a ten-tonne truck.
And, the altitude-monologue continues, all those things that make the Duster so good here make it the perfect cheap car for Britain. A bit of extra suspension travel isn't only useful when you're tackling an Ande - it provides useful compliance on crumbled tarmac too, absorbing divots and ruts. The trade-off - in budget cars, at least - is usually a wallowing, sailboat approach to corners. But the Duster is slop-free. Maybe it's the hypoxia speaking, but I'm pretty sure it nails the ride-handling balance better than cars at many times its price.