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Duster is just £14,495

Created on 02/09/2016 @ 16:34
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Test Drive by Graham Breeze

Joining the 4X4 market can be a tricky experience, particularly if buying new -  but all that changed with the arrival of the Dacia Duster.

Since the arrival of the budget-priced SUV more and more people have found the door open to 4X4 driving and with an on-the-road price tag of £14,495 it’s easy to see why.

Let’s get straight to the point. This is no high performance, luxury off-roader. In fact Dacia forgot to fit air conditioning to the Ambiance Prime dCi 110, 1500cc model on test, not ideal for a 300 mile round-trip for three occupants on the hottest day of the year.

No, it’s fair to say you get just what you pay for. And nowhere else would you get a new 4X4 at this pricing, particularly one just voted fourth most reliable car brand by Which? Car Survey out of 34 manufacturers.

And while not luxurious the test car did come with ABS, ESC, ASR, all-round airbags, engine immobiliser, remote central locking, power steering, Eco mode, and a Stop/Start system.

The Ambiance model also gets metallic paint, 16” alloys, body coloured front and rear bumpers, front fogs, height adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 folding rear seats, Bluetooth, USB connection and a 4x200 Radio with CD player including CD reader.

It still falls a long way short of what you get from a Renault Captur or Nissan Qashqai, but you wouldn’t get through their showroom doors if you only had £15,000 of your hard earned cash to spend on a set of wheels.

The 1.5 diesel with a six-speed gearbox is probably a better choice than the 1.6 petrol and achieved close on 60mpg over a week’s motoring with a top speed of 104mph and 0-62mph in 12.4seconds. Dacia claim CO2 figures of 123g/km and the vehicle falls into 10A insurance grouping.

Spongy is probably the best word to describe the suspension and Dacia bosses have been careful not to use the word sporty in any description of this model. The model was comfortable enough on both motorway and country road, though there was no opportunity to test off-road on this occasion.

The four-wheel drive version on test came with a selectable system allowing you to choose front-wheel-drive, automatic or a 50/50 front and rear set-up though the vehicle is not as refined as the Suzuki or Citroen alternatives and doesn’t give the driver too much confidence on bends.

A lot of drivers are attracted to 4X4 because of the raised driver’s position and Dacia ticks the right boxes there with good all-round vision for the driver and passengers.

Everything about the dashboard is simple, reflecting the value of the vehicle. The controls are adequate and everything is exactly where you would expect it to be but as one passenger pointed out “it all looks a bit dated” inside.

And it’s also far from the most comfortable vehicle I’ve driven this year. Probably the opposite in fact. It’s easy to see that savings have been made on the seating and everyone who travelled in the Dacia during the week-long test complained about the hardness.

The 4X4 benefits from a huge boot with 408 litres of space, increasing to over 1,600 litres with the seats folded. That’s plenty for most families, whether off camping for the weekend or simply taking the kids to play football.

The duster is not an ugly car, in fact it’s quite distinctive, and with its reliability award is certainly the best and cheapest way to enter the 4X4 sector for buyers with a limited budget.

Will it vanish in the same way that other cheaper option such as Lada did? I don’t think so. With the substantial clout of both Renault and Nissan behind it the Dacia brand could be here to stay.

Adding air conditioning as standard might just help.

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