Dacia Duster – Holding its head up high

Motoring correspondent Ian Lamming tackles all terrains in the new Dacia Duster 4×4.

THERE are a lot of charlatans out there, all big and chunky, with sticky on bits to make them look more rugged.

Underneath the gloss and the glitz are nothing more than front wheel drive cars but people love them anyway because the world has gone SUV crazeeee.

So it’s great to be in a good old fashioned 4×4, an SUV that goes beyond the deception, that actually drives all four wheels and works off the road.

In the minority, the real all-wheel-drivers generally come with a hefty premium; generally but not always. Say hello to the new Dacia Duster 4WD. The proper job for just £17,400.

This is a car that can pass with flying colours the true test of an off-roader – the deeply rutted, highly slippery school car park, where months of hasty drop-offs have left the grass looking more like the Somme. To get in and out here requires all wheel drive, smooth power delivery and plenty of torque.

It’s the preserve of Range Rovers, Discoveries, Land Rovers and pick-ups and yet the Duster dismisses the challenge with a casual shrug. If I’d been on the hill, a veritable toboggan run which has bested many a Discovery, the hill decent control would have ensured a gracious landing.

The Dacia also holds its head up high in elite and exclusive company. The latest Duster – it’s the second generation – looks the part. It’s a useful size, it is well proportioned, the overhangs are just so and not overly long to hinder its off road prowess.

The paint finish is smart, the large bash plates front and aft scream off-roader to all who will listen. It really is a nicely styled vehicle from all angles.

That quality and attention to detail extend inside to a smart, well laid out and tactile cabin. Dials and controls are attractive and easy to use, there’s an intuitive touchscreen and unbelievably high levels of specification – this car simply has everything including brilliant all-round cameras, which display images onto the dash. These not only help when parking but also off-road when unforgiving obstacles are breathing down your neck.

The squarish touch screen features an excellent satnav which bings and bongs speed camera warnings to keep your licence clean.

Dacia may be the national car maker of Romania but under the skin models lend themselves more to owners Renault than anything else and are all the better for it.

Trim and fabrics look and feel good, practicality is excellent, the cabin is spacious and the boot is well shaped and a good size.

Under way there are a couple more nice surprises. The diesel motor is super-smooth, powerful and economical, ride is refined and the electric power steering is light and sharp making the Duster fun to flick through the bends.

The six-speed gearbox is slick but the ratios are very low indeed, so there’s no real need for a low-transfer box for off-roading or towing. On the tarmac, best to use the gear above the one you would normally use, so it will pull away from rest in second and take sharp turns in third.

Dacia Duster is full of charm, is unpretentious and is dynamically excellent on and off the road. In a world of pseudo-SUVs this one is the real McCoy and ridiculous value for money.

 

Fact File

Dacia Duster

Engine: 1.5 turbo diesel

Power: 115HP

0-62mph:12.1 secs

Top speed: 108mph

Combined MPG: 48.7

Transmission: six-speed manual

CO2 g/km: 123

Price: From £18,390.00 (with options)

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