New Duster wipes

slate clean

Dacia Duster, 2018, front, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, front
Dacia Duster, 2018, side, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, rear, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, interior
Dacia Duster, 2018, controls
Dacia Duster, 2018, display screen
Dacia Duster, 2018, rear seats
Dacia Duster, 2018, boot

THE recession or credit crunch back in 2008 had many consequences.

Most obvious were the number of firms that crashed and ordinary people who suffered severe financial hardship.

But there were positives too. Comfortably-off shoppers who usually went to Sainsbury and Waitrose began looking elsewhere, namely towards budget German supermarkets. And value stores like Wilkos and Iceland thrived, and pound shops abounded.

The same sea-change in buying habits affected the car industry. Brand names in the middle market became less of a magnet.

Sure, the prestige marques like BMW, Audi and Merc had sufficient class to see the crunch through, but lesser names suffered, allowing bargain outsiders to elbow their way in and establish a place in British buyers' hearts and driveways.

One such interloper was Dacia, a little known Romanian brand that was absorbed by Renault some 14 years ago and went on sale in UK in 2013, toward the end of the recession.

Since then 120,000 Dacias have been sold in UK and the firm has scooped 40 awards.

With a mission statement to provide no-frills value for money the new second generation Duster SUV, which is about the same size as a Nissan Qashqai, will go out to customers next month starting at under £10,000, about £500 more than the old model.

Basic it may be, but every Duster electric windows, LED daylight running lights, Isofix points in the back and automatic door locking. There are two choices of engine - 1.6litre petrol and 1.5litre diesel, with four wheel drive being a £2,000 option.

Four trim levels are available - Access, Essential, Comfort and Prestige with the top version costing from £14,395.

Mind you, for that money you get climate control, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, heated, electric mirrors, multi-view camera and fancy 17-inch ‘diamond cut' alloy wheels.

Despite being built on the same platform as the original, every panel is new giving it a perkier, more up-to-date look, yet being immediately recognisable. It does in fact appear more squat and wider thanks to clever styling tricks and moving both the headlights and tail lights towards the outside of the car.

Inside, the cabin has been completely redesigned using better quality materials with cleaner shapes for the fascia. The plastic mouldings used for the fascia still fall a tad short of being termed ‘classy' but the switchgear is solid and well made.

Three circular air vents dominate the centre of the dash with the seven-inch touch screen set below on the Prestige model we drove. Redesigned front seats are hold you in shape well and were comfortable over a 130-mile test route.

Considerable efforts have been made to successfully reduce cabin noise with more insulation and thicker screen glass. The 1.6litre petrol model is certainly quieter than its predecessor and compares well in terms of refinement with most other small SUVs.

It's no dynamo when it comes to acceleration with a 0-62mph time of 11.9sec. Towards the top end of the rev band it gets a bit breathless and inclines can slow things down. Full marks, though for the slick five speed gearbox.

Ride is comfortable and absorbent with well controlled body roll and little road noise is passed back into the cabin.

Unlike many small SUVs, the Duster can be specified with twin axle drive. Its high ground clearance and short body overhangs help make it a perfect tool for off-road excursions and a brief foray on a boulder-strewn 4x4 course illustrated just how capable the rugged Romanian was.

Economy isn't quite on a par with rivals boasting newer tech engines - the 1.6litre petrol 4x2 version manages 43.5mpg combined with an emissions level of 149g/km. The diesel is better with a CO2 of 115g/km and combined economy of 64.2mpg.

There's ample space within the cabin with generous head and shoulder room both front and back. The hatchback boot can hold 445 litres of cargo. The 4x4 version is slightly smaller with a 376 litre capacity.

When it comes to value for money the Dacia wipes out the competition with this no-nonsense and likeable SUV. Expect to see a lot more on our roads.

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