Dacia Duster

Laureate TCe 125 4x4

Dacia Duster, 2016, front
Dacia Duster, 2016, side
Dacia Duster, 2016, rear
Dacia Duster, 2016, boot
Dacia Duster, 2016, boot
Dacia Duster, 2016, display screen

THE Dacia Duster makes a very polished job of defying preconceived ideas.

For instance, who would have thought a few years ago that you could buy a hefty 4x4 SUV at under £15,000.

Yet the Duster Laureate TCe 125 4x4 deliverssuch a dealand although not in the class of Land Rover is a commendable total-traction machine with almost swaggering looks for £14,895.

Of course cheap 4x4s are not new to Britain as many remember the quirky but capable Niva from Lada, but the Duster is a very different animal.

It is a product of Renault's ownership of Dacia, Romania's national vehicle manufacturer.

Originally Dacia built Renaults under licence, but it was bought by Renault in 1999 after former chairman Louis Schweitzer spotted a chance to make affordable new cars for the lower and middle classes in emerging markets, particularly Central Europe.

And Dacia's "break the rules" philosophy has bred impressive brand loyalty - owners even join forces for picnics across Europe.

Everything about the brand centres on eliminating the unnecessary and giving customers the option to pay for what they value.

Typically, Dacia offers a car for the price of one from the class below. For the Duster, it means a family-sized SUV for less than a decent-spec supermini. There is virtually no competition, other than from used cars.

And this thinking works so well in the UK. There seem to be Dusters everywhere and they have boosted parent company Renault's fortunes tremendously.

Wesaw Dacias in Britain some decades ago, but they were those Renaults built under licence with Romanian quality control which then was not of the highest order.

The difference with the Dacias of today is that they are under the supervision of Renault with a lot of evidence of the Renault parts and trim bins which is no bad thing.

On the road the Duster TCe defies another common belief - that a 1.2 petrol-engined 4x4 will be a gutless wonder.

In truth it is a surprisingly lively car with 92 bhp on tap from its four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine.

This translates into a top speed of 110mph, 0-62mph acceleration in 11 seconds and a combined economy figure of 44.1mpg.

There are four trim levels for the Duster - Access, Ambiance, Laureate and Laureate Prime - all offering two- and four-wheel drive.

And for all Laureate versions there is the MediaNav seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and UK and Northern Ireland mapping, USB and AUX ports, Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel-mounted fingertip controls.

The Duster is built on a platform which has proven strength, reliability and built-to-last quality. The front MacPherson strut-type suspension has been strengthened to cope with off-road driving.

The 4x4s have a multi-arm arrangement at the rear that was specially developed for the Duster.

A capable and satisfying drive on the road, the Duster has ample room for the family.

FAST FACTS

Dacia Duster Laureate TCe 125 4x4

Price:£14,895

Mechanical:92bhp, 1,197cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:110mph

0-62mph:11 seconds

Combined MPG:44.1

Insurance Group:11

C02 emissions:145g/km

Bik rating:26%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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