Dacia's economy

class gets a dusting

Dacia Duster, front
Dacia Duster, front
Dacia Duster, detail
Dacia Duster, interior
Dacia Duster, interior
Dacia Duster, interior

RECENTLY I sold one of the family cars and yes, you did miss a bargain.

Peugeot 206, 55 plate, with 23,000 on the clock for no money at all.

Some sort of special edition with extras like electric windows totally illogically switched, genuine plastic wheel trims and a special upholstery inspired by the winter battle fatigues of an obscure eastern European army.

This was the 1.4 normally aspirated version which won the Black Mountains slag heap rally three times in one year and was thus nominated as the Welsh Assembly's official limousine.

Trimmed in plastics so hard they may well have been hewn rather than fitted and slow as a three legged donkey, it came with all the mod cons of the age, like a steering wheel and headlights.

There was even a cigarette lighter.

Oh what a carefree life we enjoyed back then.

The point is, when you come to look at a car from 13 years ago it just shows how demanding a palate the modern driver has.

Remember this was a car built at the height of economic performance, credit had no limit and the financial crisis of 2007 just about unimaginable.

Mechanically and in terms of cabin comforts it was Stone Age.

We had four new coil packs because the factory fitted version was obviously designed during the office Christmas party.

It handled like an arm wrestling bout and if you were getting 32mpg it was because you were parked.

Fast forward to 2018 post-crash ‘austerity', people living in semidetached crisis and yet the fit and finish of average cars streets ahead of where we were even 10 years ago.

Where, then, does a family go for bargain basement motoring?

Dacia.

Now you may recall the original Duster, an example of what happens if you let your totalitarian regime be run by a husband and wife double act.

The latest is nothing like.

Dacia is owned by Renault which, in turn, enjoys an alliance with Nissan so the Duster benefits from tried and tested parts out of both makers' bins, the result being commendable reliability scores.

Now, if you are of a certain mind the Duster may be all the SUV you need.

It is usefully bigger than rivals and if you are not the sort of person to be tantalised by an interior full of fidget spinners it may be the one for you.

That said the 1.5-litre Laureate dCi 110, at £14,495, has equipment which in 2005 would have been seen as generous.

It has alloys, attractive body trim like scuff plates although this was the 4x2 and personally the AWD makes more sense.

Inside the finish is not unattractive but it is all hard plastics although the seat trim is fetching and there is a leather covered steering wheel.

The basics of modern convenience are all there; cruise control, air conditioning, stop-start, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, a DAB radio and on-board computer.

There is only 108bhp here so performance is hardly of the essence with 62mph arriving in 11.8 seconds but because the engine technology is well proven consumption is claimed to average out at over 64mph and realistically the cautious driver could hope for 50mpg from the six-speed manual.

So how does so much cheapness manifest itself?

Well the ride is generally a bit elasticated but forgiving over the bumps thanks to the alloys maintaining a sensible 16 inches and reasonable profile tyres.

It is not an SUV to throw about, then that is unlikely the sort of driving a buyer would find appealing and while the diesel is flexible over long distances you do become aware of road noise but overall it is refined enough.

The driving position is suitably elevated, something which comes with the uncompromising exterior lines which don't fall into the one size fits all norm which is the modern crossover.

Equipment is easy to use and hardly likely to confuse the quickly bewildered.

It is a practical option, wide doors, reasonable storage space and a large luggage area, outstanding compared to the sector standard.

There is a temptation to write off the Dacia range under the heading you get what you pay for but in fact you get more than may be expected and certainly a more attractive proposition than something I may be flogging off.

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