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The Top Gear car review:Dacia Duster
For:Cheap, but also value. Looks good. Is capable.
Against:Lacks safety kit; so slow that this might not actually matter.
What is it?
You look at this family-sized crossover’s price, starting at under £10,000 for a low-spec 4x2, and then you wonder how it is that sister company Renault has the sheer brass neck to charge double that for the base-model Kadjar.
Start to dig deeper though and you see where the cost has been chiselled out of the Duster. Some of those savings are really clever and don’t affect the end result. But you might decide others actually do.
Every visible panel of this Duster is new, but the spirit of the original remains. It looks similar, and most important of all it’s still cheap. Almost ridiculously so.
The price gives little clue to the Duster’s size, so let’s look at the dimensions. At 4.341m long it’s only 5cm less than a Qashqai.
Owners love their Dusters. So Dacia didn’t want the design changed much for the new generation. That’s risky of course because two or three years down the line it might look old-hat.
Still, the grille and headlights (using LED DRLs) are now wider, and the tail-lights are square not upright. The bonnet is more contoured, the wings smoother, the wheels bigger. It all makes the body look wider even when it actually hasn’t grown. This is still a handily narrow car for towns or country lanes.
But there are other reasons for the design not changing much. It re-uses the former car’s platform. That itself was a derivative of a Clio several generations old, which is one significant way of making it so cheap. Fortunately Renault was one of the first companies to aim at five-star NCAP back then, so this platform is surprisingly safe. Many exterior parts, including windscreen and even front doors, are shared with the Sandero. For the same reason.
In line with the heavy recycling of obsolete Renault parts, the cabin even smells like a new Mégane of a decade ago. How very Proustian. But it looks modern. Compared with the outgoing Duster we find an all-new dash, all-new seats, a better infotainment system, and more. It’s also quieter than before, thanks to thicker glass, more sound deadening and stiffer sheetmetal in the engine bay.
Under the bonnet, the choice is a naturally aspirated 115bhp 1.6-litre petrol or 115bhp turbo diesel. A 130bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol will join the range early in 2019. We have a very strong suspicion that’s the engine you’ll want.
The 4x4 version of the Duster (starting at under £14k) will perform off-roading tricks you probably wouldn’t credit. It’s not just some cosmetic crossover. Even the 4x2 Duster retains good underbody clearance so if the surface isn’t too greasy and the tyres are well-treaded it’ll tackle fairly rugged scenery. And it’s got more space than say a Renegade or Vitara, the closest off-roadable rivals.