Dacia Duster

Laureate dCi 110

Dacia Duster, 2016, front
Dacia Duster front
Dacia Duster, front action
Dacia Duster, front static
Dacia Duster, 2016, side
Dacia Duster, 2016, rear
Dacia Duster, 2016, boot
Dacia Duster, 2016, boot
Dacia Duster, boot

THE Dacia Duster is cleaning up when it comes to bargain-priced SUVs.

I've driven superminis costing more than this Romanian-built off-roader that offers both good looks and a quality interior.

Much like a master magician performing the ultimate illusion, astonishment is the order of the day when you reveal to friends and family how much they cost.

But this is no trick. The Duster Laureate model is one of the more expensive versions - but it is still yours for a shade under £16,000.

For that you get an all mod cons four-wheel drive SUV which has managed the not inconsiderable task of making it on to the new-car shortlist of my father-in-law who knows value for money when he sees it.

Those who don't need 4x4 capability can go for the front-wheel drive option ushering in even cheaper prices - with the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol powered Access model available for under £10,000.

Families on a budget are clearly the target of the Renault-owned marque.

The keen pricing does mean the cheaper versions lack most creature comforts but even here remote central locking, power-assisted steering, electric front windows plus stability and traction control are included.

By the time you reach the Laureate model 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, digital radio with steering wheel-mounted fingertip controls, body-coloured door handles and bumpers, Bluetooth connectivity, USB connection for MP3 players, front fog lights, leather steering wheel as well as heated and electrically-adjustable door mirrors have joined the party.

If you want sat nav you do have to pay more however with the MediaNav seven-inch touchscreen coming in at £450 while a rear parking camera is a £400 optional extra.

The exterior looks like a modern SUV should with natty chrome grille featuring a Dacia badge presenting an appealing face.

There are smart roof rails sporting the Duster legend which boast splashes of satin chrome as indeed do the door mirrors, front and rear skid plates as well as the side sills. Wheel arch protectors and door kick plates complete the no-nonsense image.

The 1.5-litre turbo diesel needs working hard and can be a tad noisy when pushed.

A 0-62mph time in excess of 12 seconds is not going to set anyone's hair on fire, but it gets there in the end with the help of a six-speed manual gearbox.

Fuel economy is aided and abetted by a stop/start feature which together with relatively low carbon dioxide emissions helps keep running costs down.

The Duster handles pretty well and the 4x4 model offers plenty of grip when taking on country lanes or muddy fields - although there is a touch of body roll in corners.

The ride is smooth with the potholes that pass for roads these days easily coped with.

It is a cinch to get in and out of thanks to the high stance and once inside comfortable seats plus good leg and headroom make it a pleasant place to spend a journey.

At the moment the Duster is only available as a five-seater, but a seven-seater version may follow next year.

FAST FACTS

Dacia Duster Laureate dCi 110

Price: £15,995

Mechanical:109bhp, 1,461cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 104mph

0-62mph: 12.4 seconds

Combined MPG: 60.1

Insurance Group: 11

C02 emissions: 123g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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