Dacia Duster 1.6 SCe

4x2

Dacia Duster, 2018, front, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, front
Dacia Duster, 2018, front, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, side, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, side, action
Dacia Duster, 2018, rear, action
Dacia Duster, rear
Dacia Duster, interior
Dacia Duster, boot
Dacia Duster, front static

FORGET the somewhat comical name and pretend you haven't seen the price tag.

There's no way most of us would believe the chunky, little SUV bearing the Duster model name could cost just £10,000.

With its smooth shape, sloping windscreen and alloy wheels - at least on most versions - and LED daytime running lights, the five-door Dacia crossover easily blends into the growing ranks of higher riders in the supermarket car park, many of which cost more than double.

The once little-known Romanian brand was absorbed by Renault some 14 years ago and went on sale in UK in 2013, toward the end of the recession.

Since then 125,000 Dacias have been sold in UK and the firm has scooped more than 40 awards.

With a mission statement to provide no-frills value for money the second generation Duster SUV, which is about the same size as a Nissan Qashqai, starts at just under £10,000, about £500.

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

Four trim levels are available - Access, Essential, Comfort and Prestige, which I drove in petrol, two wheel drive form.

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 version, every panel was replaced for the 2018 version 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 redesigned cabin uses better quality materials with cleaner shapes for the fascia. The plastic mouldings still fall a tad short of 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 version. The front seats are hold you in shape well and were comfortable enough.

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

It has to be said that the petrol version developing 113bhp is no dynamo when it comes to acceleration with a 0-62mph time of 11.9 seconds. 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, although the test car was front drive only. Its high ground clearance and short body overhangs help make it a perfect tool for off-road excursions.

Economy isn't quite on a par with rivals boasting newer tech engines - the 1.6-litre petrol 4x2 version manages 43.5mpg combined with an emissions level of 149g/km

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.

FAST FACTS

Dacia Duster 1.6 SCe 4x2

Price: £13,195

Mechanical: 113bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 107mph

0-62mph: 11.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 43.5

Insurance Group: 10

C02 emissions: 149kg/km

Bik rating: 29%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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