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Dacia Duster: Romania’s best just got better.

1y ago

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To reacquaint yourself with MotorMartin’s first thoughts on the Dacia Duster Laureate see motormartin.com/2016/02/24/dacia-duster-you-see-a-lot-about-dont-you/ as the Duster certainly left a very positive impression. In this, part 2, MotorMartin will be looking at the technology and driving experience that you get with this, the top of the range Duster.

For those looking at the 4×4 styling and wondering if it’ll be too big for them, let me put your mind at rest. Unless you’ve only ever spent time driving cars no larger than a Fiesta or Corsa you really will feel comfortable with the size within a few short miles, otherwise you might want your first journey to be somewhere quiet and away from rush hour. The raised driving position typical of a 4×4 allows for better sight lines across everyday traffic and hazards meaning that this is a car that allows you to make progress rather easily.

The 1.5 Litre Diesel engine as fitted to the 4×4 Laureate on test, serves up 109bhp and CO2 emissions of 123g/kg. Not traffic stopping figures you’ll agree but they’re more than acceptable enough at this price point and are by no means a deal breaker. In fact, the engine surprises more than you would expect it to in respect of MPG and overall refinement. First gear is incredibly short, primarily due to the Duster’s expected off road use and as such, you need to change up through the box quickly to avoid running out of revs or increasing noise but not speed. The gearbox itself is easy to use with all 6 gears engaging with a satisfying solidity which, when combined with the light clutch and positive steering, create a driving experience that more than hits the mark.

On the move and around town, the previously mentioned 4×4 driving position allows you to anticipate breaks in the traffic or problems before they occur as you can see that little bit further than when sitting low in the average family hatchback. Whilst thinking about family motoring, it’s fair to say that the room in the back is more than adequate for most of us, even those with car seats to accommodate. The boot offers up 1570 litres of luggage capacity in 4×4 guise but 1636 litres in 2×4 as the AWD mechanicals eat into the boot space.

Back to the driving experience then. Once onto a dual carriageway and when the opportunity arises, press the throttle a little more vigorously than usual and the Dacia accelerates well, with an official 0-62mph time of 12.4s. Of course, it’s not enough to worry hot hatches, or even non hot hatches, but in isolation it feels more than adequate and easily able to keep up with the majority of traffic. For safe overtaking the raised driving position comes in very handy and allows the Dacia to get past slower moving traffic when a gap presents itself.

The 1.5 Turbo Diesel engine provides the driver with a claimed combined mpg of 60.1 yet on MotorMartin’s spin out amongst the early evening traffic of West Yorkshire, using a mixture of A and B roads as well as dual carriageway, the Duster was returning an admirable 50mpg leaving me to believe that mid 50s should be possible on a longer run.

With the usual 4×4 suspension fitted it’s no surprise that the Duster does not grace you with sports car handling and nimble feel but what it does have, in abundance, is a feeling of solidity and well-being. Heading out from the charming market town of Otley and driving towards Menston, is an enjoyable, if very badly surfaced, stretch of blacktop that twists and turns as it rises steeply before flattening out around a mile later and offering a fabulous view across the Moors. The Duster however, will soak up the bumps and unusual camber present, while still maintaining a decent speed, as if they weren’t there, a trick that would have a more rigidly suspended RS or GTi tying itself in knots whilst bouncing the driver uncomfortably around their cabin. At speed the ride does become ‘floaty’ but the Dacia never feels out of shape and it is certainly no worse that the FIAT Panda 4×4 driven recently motormartin.com/2016/01/30/fiat-panda-1-3-multijet-4×4/ by MotorMartin.

If you’re interested in the 4×4 it’s important to note that the AWD system is largely taken lock stock from Nissan and offers an impressive range of driving modes as according to Dacia’s own website it works as follows: Developed using Nissan’s experience and expertise in 4×4 technology, a 3-mode 4×4 system enables Duster to adapt to changing driving conditions, making safer, more confident progress much easier. Each mode has specific uses and advantages:

2WD Mode

– Operation: Engine torque distributed to the front wheels.

– Conditions: Road surfaces with good grip and motorways.

-Advantage: Best possible fuel consumption.

Automatic Mode

– Operation: Automatic distribution of engine torque to all four wheels to give best available grip.

– Conditions: All types of surface in all grip conditions, but particularly in slippery conditions (rain, snow, ice, mud).

– Advantage: Best balance between roadholding and traction, in all grip conditions, for maximum safety.

Lock Mode

– Operation: Engine torque directed to all four wheels. Engine control and braking optimized for off-road usage.

– Conditions: Rough terrain and off-road tracks at low speed (< 50 mph).

-Advantage: Maximum off-road capability.

Dacia will freely admit that the Duster is not exactly at the cutting edge where the latest in car technology is concerned but for just £300.00 extra you can get the excellent MediaNav system as fitted to the very latest Renault cars. Also, the Laureate gets as standard, cruise control and speed limiter, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, manual air conditioning and electric rear windows. It’s a lot of car for your money in anyone’s language.

So there you have it. In MotorMartin’s view, the Dacia Duster 4×4 Laureate is a great looking, economical, smart driving and practical SUV. It offers superb value for money and likeability in an excellent package. MotorMartin was seriously impressed. An early contender for MotorMartin’s ‘real life’ motoring Car of the Year? You wouldn’t bet against it.

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