Dacia Duster Estate Leasing
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The Dacia Duster is a lot of car for the money, with a spacious cabin and a big boot. The price of the entry-level version is staggeringly low.
Its refinement and handling are disappointing, it has a low Euro NCAP safety rating and basic models are desperately short of equipment.
You can't buy a bigger new car for the money, but the Dacia Duster is a bit too rough and ready.
The entry-level Duster uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine that needs to be revved hard, whereas the 1.5 diesel in other models suits the car well; you’ll have no problem getting to the motorway limit or keeping up with everyday main-road traffic. Both front- and four-wheel-drive diesels are available, but the petrol is front-wheel drive only.
Ride & Handling
In many ways, the Duster is like a traditional SUV. It has soft suspension that soaks up most bumps well. However, you pay for this comfort with considerable body roll in bends. The steering is also vague around the straight-ahead and slow to respond to inputs. Also, the wheel suddenly becomes very heavy if you hit a mid-corner bump.
Refinement is one of the areas where the Duster betrays its price. There’s lots of road noise and it often sounds like the wind is about to penetrate the window seals. Both engines can be noisy, too. To make matters worse, the diesel transmits vibrations through the clutch pedal, while the clutch action itself is vague, which makes the car hard to drive smoothly in stop-start traffic.
Buying & Owning
The low list prices mean you get an amazing amount of car for your money, even though Dacia has a strict 'no discounts' policy. The Duster undercuts the similarly sized Nissan Qashqai by several thousand pounds, and so low are the prices, you might almost say depreciation isn't an issue. Insurance costs are low and the diesel averaged 47.6mpg in our True MPG tests.
Quality & Reliability
The Dacia brand is still relatively new to the UK, but part of the reason the Duster is so cheap is that it makes extensive use of proven parts. The engines, for example, have given years of service in many Renaults, so we have no worries about their reliability. Although Dacia has no track record in Britain, the car seems solidly built, and we know it is tough enough to withstand the rigours of tougher terrain than the UK can provide.
Safety & Security
Safety is another of the areas where the Duster betrays its price. Yes, it has four airbags as standard across the range, but curtain airbags are not available at all and stability control is an option only on diesel-engined models. This limited safety equipment contributed to a disappointing three-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. At least the Duster should be tricky to steal thanks to the standard engine immobiliser.
Behind The Wheel
The dashboard is pretty user-friendly, with simple rotary heater dials and clearly labelled stereo buttons. However, some people may struggle to find a comfortable driving position because the steering wheel adjusts for height only and the seat controls are fiddly. Upswept rear windows and thick rear pillars limit over-the-shoulder vision.
Space & Practicality
Six-footers have plenty of room in both the front and rear of the Duster. Front-wheel-drive models have 475 litres of boot space, which is more than you get in rivals such as the Skoda Yeti and Nissan Qashqai (even four-wheel-drive Dusters offer a competitive 400 litres). On the downside, the rear seats fold in one piece on entry-level cars, limiting versatility, and they don't lie completely flat.
The Duster range starts with Access trim, but this is very basic – without even a radio. We'd recommend you step up to at least the mid-level Ambiance model, which adds a stereo with an aux-in socket, Bluetooth, split-folding rear seats, a height-adjustable driver's seat and body-coloured bumpers. Laureate is the top trim and comes with alloy wheels, air-conditioning and rear electric windows.