Review: Is the 2021 Dacia Duster still the best-value SUV?
... go Duster
*Ghostbusters/Go Duster music intensifies*. With a newly facelifted Dacia Duster for 2021 comes new opportunities for advertising music. We’ve been having a think about some tracks that could work…
The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby: 🎶‘Da-c-ia Dus-ter, it’s possib-ly the most afford-able SUV’🎶
Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire: 🎶‘We drove around in an orange Dacia Duster’🎶
Or if we want to get really dramatic, how about a bit of Carl Orff’s O Fortuna, from Carmina Burana. 🎶‘DAC-IA DUSTER, DAC-IA DUSTER, DRIVE IT ON AND OFF ROAD.’🎶
Got other ideas? Please let us know in the comments, because we have already spent far too much time thinking about this.
And if Dacia fancy using any of these frankly excellent ideas… well, you guys know how to reach us.
On to the more serious stuff. As we mentioned, there’s a facelifted Dacia Duster now on sale, and we’ve been driving it (and spending lots of time thinking of lyrics to new Duster songs) around the French countryside, over the French countryside, and a bit of through the French countryside.
Everyone knows the Dacia Duster is the most affordable, value for money SUV you can get your hands on. And that’s very much still the case for the new one, despite it costing a little bit more money (it now starts at just under £14,000), and not being available in the super basic Access trim any more. It turns out, Dacia Duster customers, while they clearly value their pennies, do also enjoy a few of life’s little luxuries, and Access trim just wasn’t selling.
What’s new with the Dacia Duster?
Dacia is embracing the motto of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. As you may gather from that, not much has changed on the outside, aside from a few tiny tweaks: new headlights, bolder grille, rear spoiler, re-profiled bumpers, updated alloy wheels. The usual bits and bobs.
How about on the inside?
There’s been some upgrades to the Dacia Duster’s interior, with new upgraded upholstery, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and electric rear windows (now we’re talkin’). If you opt for the mid or top specs, you’ll also get a handy armrest, and 1.1-litre storage bin.
The plastics would be described as ‘hard-wearing’ rather than plush, and it’s definitely more ‘functional’ than ‘fashionable’, but you’re not paying for fashionable are you?
There’s bags of space inside, with enough room for five happy adults that won’t be cursing the day they were born after a long-ish journey spent cooped up together.
There’s also a decent sized boot which might not come with any bells and whistles, but how fancy do you want your boot to be? The two-wheel drive models get a bit more space at 445 litres with the seats up, or 1,623 with them folded down. The four-wheel drive models have 411 litres.
Trims and kit
We’ve already mentioned the old basic Access trim has been scrapped, so the three trim levels available now are: Essential, Comfort and Prestige.
Essential gets you 16-inch steelies, cruise control, air-con and Bluetooth. Comfort and Prestige trims get a bigger 8.0-inch touchscreen, DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and two USB ports.
Top-spec Prestige trim also comes with chrome trim, grey roof bars, automatic air-con, an integrated sat-nav, heated seats and a multi-view camera, which does feel quite upmarket.
Safety kit wise, there’s not a lot available across the range. No autonomous emergency braking or lane keep assist (absolutely fine by us), with blind spot monitoring available on the top-spec model. It’s not likely to score anything higher than its current three stars in Euro NCAP’s safety rating.
What’s it like to drive?
If you’re looking for comfort, and ease, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’re looking for the next word in dynamic handling, you may want to look elsewhere.
In total, there are three turbocharged petrol engines available: TCe 90, 130 and 150, as well as a turbodiesel, the Blue dCi 115, which comes with two or four-wheel drive, and a bi-fuel TCe 100 version, which feels like an interesting decision. The latter uses LPG as well as petrol, and now has a larger tank to help extend the range.
We’ve driven the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel and TCe 150 EDC decent distances, and were perfectly happy pootling along, occasionally having a bit of fun bouncing off a kerb or two (some of those French villages are TINY). The steering is light, possibly a little too light for some, it’s got a comfortable, squidgy ride, and we think most people will be perfectly happy with that. Honestly, it feels tres French. Yes there’s quite a bit of body roll, quite a bit of vibration, and a fair bit of noise in the cabin at times, but you’ll probably forgive that.
You’re not going to be leaving anyone standing at the traffic lights: 0-62mph is 13.8 seconds for the TCe 100 (or even slower at 15.1 if you opt for LPG). The TCe EDC is a bit speedier, with a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds.
The 2021 facelift is the first time the Duster’s been available with an auto gearbox, which was pretty good, and is available with the highest-powered petrol engine. It sometimes held on to gears for too long, but generally seemed to get things right.
Can you off-road it?
We think the Dacia Duster would make an excellent addition to Jeremy Clarkson’s – or any other farmer’s – farm. Ok, so Clarkson can probably afford a new Defender, but for a farmer who’s looking for something rugged enough to chuck around a field, but won’t be too precious about the occasional bump or muddy wheel, the Duster’s pretty ideal.
We took the facelifted Dacia Duster on a short off-road track in France in the dCi 115 model with all-wheel drive, and we were pretty impressed. It has 210mm of ground clearance, and a wading depth of 350mm, and it was perfectly happy tackling steep ascents (once we gave it enough welly), bobbed happily over some chunky ruts, and felt safe and secure tackling 30 degree angles. In 4x4 guise, the manual gearbox has a shorter first gear, so it just happily tugged itself along without you having to do much other than steer.
Should you buy a Dacia Duster?
People often just refer to the Duster as a tool that’ll get you from A to B, that won’t cost you a lot of money. But honestly, that feels a bit mean. We reckon there’s an added smug factor to driving a Dacia Duster. You can sit there, perched up with the other SUV drivers, proudly thinking, ‘I paid so much less money for this than you did’. Ok, so you might be put off by the three star Euro NCAP safety rating, or the utilitarian interior, or the fact it might not win any dynamic handling awards, but in terms of what you get for your money: the space, the decent engines, the comfort... for a new car, it’s still hard to beat.