We review the 2019 Dacia Duster

We review the 2019 Dacia Duster
111
Enlarge

The Car.co.uk verdict:

3.6

Cheaper to buy and run than all competitors in its SUV class, the Dacia Duster price is definitely a winner. With the exceedingly low price tag naturally come some shortfalls on interior style and engine choice, but if you’re not looking for bells and whistles and an economic option is what you’re after here, you can’t go far wrong with the Dacia.

With its massive boot-space and tall and wide doors, the new Dacia Duster is very well suited for family travel. There’s plenty of space inside for a small to medium family, with room for up to three kids and plenty of load-space for a weeks-worth of luggage to be carted about in the back.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Highly spacious in the boot
  • Four-wheel drive versions available

Cons

  • Interior suffers from cheap look and feel
  • Lack of on-board equipment as standard
  • Low safety rating

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine & power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment & options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

3 out of 5

A solid and sturdy workhorse

The Dacia Duster has a sturdy but unremarkable design, but it does feel very well screwed together. Snub nosed at the front, it sports a larger grille and big square lights. While not the most elegant car in its class, the Dacia Duster was created to cope with any weather conditions, as well as uneven and difficult road surfaces.

Contrasting top rails and wing mirrors add a little style but they still feel more functional than flash. Some of the materials used look a little low-rent, but for a car of this cost, to expect more seems ambitious.

Practicality

4 out of 5

Plenty of room for the family

In the cabin up front, the Dacia Duster delivers ample headroom, but the front seats can’t slide back far and if you’ve got long legs, it might be a bit of a battle to get comfortable. The seats also suffer from a lack of height adjustment throughout the entire range, and there are no armrests unless you opt for one of the higher-end models.

You’ll have no trouble getting in or out of the Dacia Duster’s front doors. Storage-wise, you’ve got a fair amount of spaces to tuck those must-carry items away. Good sized door compartments are handy for keeping object close by, and centrally placed drink holders can double for a spot to stash your odds and ends. Located between the front seats, there’s a section of small compartments, but some are a little too much on the small side to be functional.

The Dacia Duster is built for the family with good-sized space in the rear. With the tall doors, access to the rear is hassle-free and the raised flooring makes it comfortable to tend to children in the back. There’s capacity for three children’s seats on the back, but the passenger seated in the middle will have to sit with a foot on either side of a broad central tunnel in the floor.

The majority of models in the range sport a versatile 60/40 division when it comes to folding but the entry level Dacia Duster version features a single folding bench with a limited choice of all or nothing. The folding function on all models is straightforward and simple and you get quite a lengthy load area, although it’s not the flattest for cars in its class.

Compared to its competitors, the Dacia Duster’s boot is exceptionally large. Four-wheel drives have a load capacity of 411 litres of boot space, and the front-wheel drive versions offer a staggering 445 litres. The only reason for the slightly smaller space in the four-wheel drive is the inclusion of a spare wheel. Regardless of model, you’ve got plenty of room in this massive boot for a weeks’ worth of luggage or all that paraphernalia that comes with having kids.

Engine & power

4 out of 5

Four capable choices but no automatic

The Dacia Duster spec is currently available with a range of four engines. All are four-cylinder engines, with three for petrol and one running on diesel power.

For the petrols, there is a 1.6-litre and two 1.4-litre turbocharged delivering 128bhp or 148bhp respectively, and the diesel is a 1.5-litre engine.

The diesel will be the best bet for drivers covering a lot of ground. The Dacia Duster offers comfort at top gear, and it has no problem getting there either, so it’s particularly suited to motorway driving.

The two-wheel drive versions are fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard and a six-speed manual gearbox is the option across the rest of the line-up. Shifting gears can feel a little notchy, but it’s your only option as there are no automatics available for the range.

All four engines are noisy when working hard, particularly the 1.6-litre petrol. The diesel sounds considerably more refined, but you will feel vibrations through your pedals and driver’s wheel.

Reliability

4 out of 5

Tried, tested and ready for the road

The Dacia Duster is a car sold internationally, and is sturdily built to withstand very rough terrain in countries that have to handle road conditions far more extreme than we have to cope with here in the UK.

Owned by Renault, many of the Dacia Duster’s parts have been put through their paces in several other vehicles created by the French brand. In reliability surveys, the Dacia Duster never does too badly and is building a reputation as a sturdy alternative to more expensive cars in its class when you don’t need all the bells and whistles.

The Duster has three options for warranty. The three-year option is standard but the extended five- and even seven-year warranties might stand you in better stead, and are easily affordable.

Equipment & options

3 out of 5

You get what you pay for

The equipment on-board the Dacia Duster varies considerably depending on the level of trim you go for, so here’s a rundown of what’s on offer.

Starting with the entry level model Dacia has entitled ‘Access’, there isn’t even a radio present – just a slim compartment and a little wiring to fit one.

Next up we have the ‘Essential’, which adds a fairly easy-to-use Bluetooth system and an onboard radio linked to a handful of controls mounted on your steering column. Essential owners also gain the benefit of USB and Aux ports for their media players and smartphones although these are secured to the stereo in such a fashion that looks untidy when not in use.

We now come to the ‘Comfort’ model. Owners will benefit from an infotainment system with touchscreen control and a modest seven-inch display. It feels a little out of step with the current systems in terms of both usability and graphics, and while easy to use at a standstill, is problematic while driving due to the lack of physical controls. It’s pretty fair for the price and delivers Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and sat nav as standard, but is in no way as sophisticated as some of its competitors. The highest-end of the Dacia Duster specification, ‘Prestige’ gets the same seven-inch display.

Interior

3 out of 5

In a style designed for price

Despite the fact that it’s undergone an upgrade on the inside, there’s no doubt that the Dacia Duster was designed by a cost-conscious mind. Everywhere you look in the interior, you can see clear evidence of this. There are no soft-touch plastics we’ve grown used to seeing in modern cars – everything here is hard and rough. Expense has definitely been spared from the trim to the carpets, and the overlook and feel is not exactly one that sets the heart racing.

In a lot of ways, even this Dacia Duster version feel considerably behind the times. Much of its workings are from much older Renault designs and feel very dated.

If, however, the Dacia Duster is just a working car for you that needs to get from A to B, then that’s another story. It might not score high on cosmetics but the Duster does feel well-built and sturdy.

The drive

4.5 out of 5

Smooth in the city and average on the road

While the Dacia Duster might not be the top of its class to drive, it’s certainly not the worst SUV out there in these stakes. It handles pretty well with a fair amount of road grip, although its height and suspension mean it tends to lean on the corners.

Front-wheel-drive Dacia Dusters are good about town at medium speed, having the benefit of small-sized wheels and high-quality tyres that take a lot of bump out of the road. Drive faster on less flat roads though and it’s a different story, and vertical body movement can be very uncomfortable for rear passengers.

The steering gives a reasonable amount of feedback across the line, and four-wheel drive models deliver top traction in wet weather conditions. They sport a selection of choices available to the driver, including front-wheel-drive or a fifty-fifty front and rear setting.

Passengers in the Dacia Duster will feel a good bit of vibration on the front-wheel versions, and the wing mirrors and rails on the roof catch quite a bit of wind roar during motorway driving.

Cost

5 out of 5

Cheap to buy and cheap to run

The Duster line-up opens with the easily affordable Access model, which beats similarly sized competitors in its class by thousands. The better-kitted-out versions will boost the price tag, but are still great value. Whichever model you choose, you’re getting a lot of car for your money and could do far worse for your budget.

Running costs can be very low if you stick to the fuel efficient diesel, and driving responsibly, you should easily find you average around 50mpg. More expensive are the four-wheel drives both to buy and to run. They will cost more to tax as well.

Another way the Dacia Duster keeps costs down for its drivers is through highly competitive insurance group ratings. There are also some very cheap PCP deals on offer from Dacia, making it overall one of the cheapest cars to buy in its class.

Safety

3 out of 5

A low score at NCAP

One area in which the Dacia Duster suffers in particular is safety. Scoring a lowly three stars for its Euro NCAP crash tests does not help the Duster’s case to be a safe car for the family.

Although through the entire line-up each car features six airbags (two up front, two to the side and two in the side curtain), only the top-end Prestige model features blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking is not even available to its owners as an optional extra. This could be partly why the Dacia Duster picked up such a disappointing score in the tests.

Why buy

3 out of 5

A low-cost option for a solid family run-about

If you’re looking for a highly reliable car that’s cost effective to run and undercuts its rivals on cost to buy the Dacia Duster is a great choice for you and your family.

If how much tech you’ve got on board your car isn’t an issue for you, and you can overlook the iffy NCAP safety score, then it might be worth considering this SUV. While it’s undeniably lacking in the looks department both inside and out, the Dacia Duster is well made, using proven parts that can be counted on for reliability.

If a manual gearbox is your preference, you’ve got four engines to choose from and both petrol and diesel options are available for you here.

Buy the Dacia Duster if you need a highly affordable family car. There’s plenty of boot space for long trip loads, and lots of room in the back for the kids. It’s perfect for a shopping trip, school run or taking a weeklong holiday.