Dacia Duster Review
The Dacia Duster is one of the most affordable modern SUVs you can buy and it’s also a really good family car that’s full of character.
Published: 19 December 2022
If you’re looking for a small SUV and want to get the best value for money, the Dacia Duster is well worth a look. It costs less than comparable small SUVs and it gives you loads of interior space and a pleasant driving experience. On top of that, the Duster is a likeable, characterful car.
We’re focusing on the second-generation Duster, which has been sold new in the UK since 2018. It has been updated several times, most recently in 2022 when a new front grille was added. It’s available with engines that use petrol, diesel or LPG fuel; with manual or automatic gearboxes; and with two- or four-wheel drive.
- Excellent value
- Lots of passenger and boot space
- Feels robust
- Some models have few features
- Some models give below-average mpg
- 3-star Euro NCAP safety rating
Dashboard & tech
You could say that the Duster’s interior keeps things simple. The design is fuss-free and all the buttons and dials you use are nicely chunky and clearly labelled. Jump in for the first time and you're likely to work out how to use everything in just a couple of minutes.
Most trim levels have DAB radio, Bluetooth and aux-in/USB input ports; those near the top of the range have a touchscreen infotainment system with built-in sat nav. The system’s graphics are bold and the menus are easy to navigate. You can also connect your phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The screen is a bit low down on the dashboard however, so it can be tricky to keep an eye on both it and the road at the same time.
The Duster’s soft and supportive seats are comfortable to sit in for a few hours. It’s also quiet enough to hold a conversation with passengers in the back. All models have a height-adjustable steering wheel but you can’t adjust the height of the driver’s seat on the most basic versions, which won’t suit everyone.
The view out from the driver’s seat is excellent because you sit quite high up and the windows are big. There’s a clear view over your shoulder and out of the back window. Some models have rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera to help you when reversing.
The Duster’s interior feels very robust, like it’ll still be in one piece after a lifetime of hard use. The plastics on the dashboard and doors are mostly quite hard and functional, whereas some other small SUVs have soft-touch materials that give the interior a more premium feel. Then again, those cars tend to cost a lot more than the Duster.
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Practicality & boot space
The Duster’s family car credentials are really strong. There’s plenty of room for four six-foot-tall adults, even five if someone doesn’t mind squeezing into the narrower middle back seat. That means the Duster has more than enough room for a typical family of four whatever age your kids are. If you have little ones in child seats you’ll be glad to know that installing one is no hassle because the back doors open wide and there’s plenty of space for you to work in.
The Duster has 445 litres of boot space, which is better than average for a small SUV – rivals such as the Seat Arona and Nissan Juke have around 400 litres. The boot is long, if a little narrow, so pushchairs might have to go in diagonally. Otherwise, it’ll hold lots of shopping, a football team’s kit or a full-grown Labrador. Note that the 445-litre figure applies to two-wheel-drive petrol and diesel models with a tyre repair kit. Adding four-wheel drive, a spare wheel or the Bi-Fuel model’s LPG tank reduces the boot space.
Most Duster models have back seats that fold down in a two-piece 60/40 split if you want to carry a mix of larger loads and back-seat passengers but Access models have a less-versatile one-piece back seat. Either way, when folded, the seats leave a small ridge to heave things over and there’s a drop of a few inches from the back bumper to the boot floor. But the opening is big and square, so loading the Duster’s boot is actually pretty easy.
The Duster is a pleasant car to drive. First you’ll notice how light the steering feels. Turning the wheel takes virtually no effort, which is a big help when manoeuvring into a tricky parking space. It also feels quite nimble on faster country roads and safe and secure on motorways. The suspension is quite soft, so you and your passengers get a smooth ride over smaller bumps but you’ll feel more lean through corners than you will in some rival SUVs.
Most Dusters have front-wheel drive but the diesel version is available with both front- and four-wheel drive. The four-wheel-drive models are surprisingly capable off-road. It’s no Land Rover, but the Duster will go much further into the wilderness than most other small SUVs – and even many larger ones.
The least powerful Duster models can feel a bit sluggish when overtaking, but the other engines can give pretty nippy acceleration. You can pull away from a junction smartly if you need to and the engines don’t feel strained if you load up the car or cruise along the motorway at 70mph. The most powerful engines have a much easier time of it under those circumstances, so they could be the better choice if you regularly need to carry lots of stuff or go on long journeys.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
According to official figures, Duster models with a petrol engine can give you an average fuel economy of 36mpg to 46mpg and diesels give 48mpg to 57mpg. The most efficient models compare well to other small SUVs with similar engines but the others are a bit below-par.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions range from 138g/km to 158g/km for petrol engines and 111g/km to 123g/km for diesels. Again, those figures are fairly average – unlike with some rivals, Dusters don’t give you the option of a low-emissions hybrid or pure-electric model.
Value for money
The Duster is extremely good value. It has been the most affordable SUV available as new in the UK since it was introduced in 2013, and that’s by several thousand pounds. In fact, it’s one of the affordable cars of any sort. The better-equipped top-of-the-range models don’t cost that much more than the entry-level versions and, again, significantly undercut rivals with similar features included as standard. It’s a similar story when considering a used Duster – in general, you’ll pay much less than you would for a comparable small SUV.
Reliability & Warranty
We don’t have any data to show how reliable the second-generation Duster is but the first-generation Duster proved to be generally very reliable.
If anything does go wrong, you have back-up from Dacia’s three-year or 60,000-mile (whichever comes first) warranty. That’s the same level of coverage you get from most other car manufacturers.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP gave the Duster a three-star safety rating out of a possible five. That’s well below average. The way the ratings are calculated puts a lot of emphasis on a car’s advanced driver-safety features – like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, which aren’t fitted to the Duster, or available as options when new. You still get the basics, though, including front, side and curtain airbags, while the higher-spec trims have a blind-sport warning system.
Trims & Engines
As of late 2022, nine trim levels were available on the Duster. Some are special editions only sold for a short period of time, including Techroad and SE Twenty. These models have unique, high-spec packages of standard features and styling details.
Entry-point for the ‘core’ trim levels is Access which is very basic compared with most rival SUVs. There are wind-up rear windows, for example, manually adjustable door mirrors and steel – rather than alloy – wheels. Prestige sits at the top of the range with such luxuries as leatherette seat upholstery and climate control. Early in 2022, Prestige was replaced by Extreme SE, which has the same features included as standard but different styling details.
One place below Prestige in the range is Comfort, the most popular trim level. Its features include an infotainment system with built-in sat nav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, air con, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Its 16-inch alloy wheels give a smart look and the ‘comfort’ seat upholstery gives the interior a plusher feel. In August 2022, Comfort was replaced by Journey, which has the same standard features.
The Duster is available with engines that use petrol, diesel or LPG (liquid petroleum gas) fuel. The petrol engines – called SCe and TCe – are available with different amounts of power ranging from 89bhp to 148bhp.
One diesel engine is available – called Blue dCi – which has 113bhp. Diesel Dusters of this generation are quite rare because the fuel isn’t as popular as it once was. But if you value fuel-efficiency, the diesel’s average official fuel economy of 57mpg may make it an appealing option.
Even rarer is the LPG model. Called TCe Bi-Fuel, it actually runs on both petrol and LPG, with a separate tank for each fuel. When one is running low, the driver can switch over to the other. On paper, Bi-Fuel models give the longest range of any Dusters, doing as much as 800 miles between fill-ups. Unfortunately, LPG is quite hard to find at fuel stations.
Most Dusters have a manual gearbox but automatics are available if you prefer. You can also choose between models with two- or four-wheel drive.
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