What is the Dacia Duster?
Now in its third generation, the Dacia Duster has established itself as a practical and rugged SUV that offers good value as either a new or used buy. The current version was launched in the UK in 2018, following on from the successful reboot of the Dacia brand in 2013 - since then it's proved to be a favourite with families looking for inexpensive transport.
Consider it as a cut-price rival to the Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Karoq that's been developed to perform on some of the world's toughest terrains. As such, you'd expect it it be at least similarly priced to those alternatives, but no, the Duster is significantly cheaper than both and as such occupies a unique position in the market. In other parts of the world where the Dacia name is unknown, the car is also sold as both the Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano.
- Top speed: 105-124mph
- 0-62mph: 10.4-12.9 seconds
- Fuel economy: 33.2-57.6mpg
- Emissions: 115-145g/km of CO2
- Boot space: 376-1,623 litres
If you're looking for variety, then look away now: as with its predecessor, the five-seater Dacia Duster SUV is only available as a rugged five-door model. At least there's some variety with the mechanical permutations, although - at least for the timebeing - there's no electrification option for the Duster.
Most Dusters are specified with a diesel engine - there's only one available currently, badged Blue dCi 115. As the name suggests, the 1.5-litre produces 115hp and has a manual gearbox sending power to either the front-wheels on the 4x2, or all four on the 4x4.
Those looking for petrol have a wider range of options, starting off with the SCe 115. This is a non-turbocharged 1.6-litre motor producing 115hp and, as with the diesel alternative, its available in 4x2 and 4x4 guises.This motor was replaced in summer 2019 by the 1.0-litre TCe 100, although that only came with front-wheel drive.
The punchier turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engines, also available with and without four-wheel drive, are badged TCe 130 and TCe 150. These offer a considerable inscrease in performance and are significantly more fuel efficient than the older SCe 115. These are the ones to go for.
Currently, there's no automatic gearbox option for the Duster, but one is likely to become available in the near future.
Gone are Dacia's French language trim levels that were a nod to company owner Renault's heritage, replaced by a four-tier hierarchy of Access, Essential, Comfort and Prestige. Access models are very basic and are best avoided - despite the relative expense, most British Duster buyers go for the top two trims. Available for a limited time from early 2019, Techroad sits at the head of the range as a flagship special edition.
That the Mk3 Dacia Duster is a gentle evolution of the previous-generation model is no bad thing. For your modest outlay you get a chunkily detailed five-door body, an elevated ride height and rugged roof bars. Unusually for an SUV, it doesn't come with any sort of plastic body cladding, something to consider when manoeuvring in tight urban confines.
Although the Duster's price tag confirms it's clearly a budget car, it doesn't look like one, particularly when you consider the interesting detailing within the head and tail lights, along with bold paint colours and subtle chrome trim finishes on the more expensive models. Other than the base-spec Access, none feel like hair shirt specials.
Inside, the third-generation Duster has been massively improved from the Mk2 model, with decent infotainment and chunky controls that don't feel especially cheap to the touch. Don't expect Volkswagen-levels of interior quality and you'll be far from disappointed.
Yes, and we like it so much that we awarded it the Best Off-Roader in the 2019 Parkers New Car Awards. Dusters equipped with four-wheel drive are very capable - a drive around any mountainous area of Europe confirms this - and while we rate it among the best cheap 4x4s around, the vast majority sold in the UK only have the front wheels driven because they cost less to run.
Whether two-wheel drive or four, the Duster is an impressive SUV that will stand up to tough terrain better than the majority of similar-sized rivals. Given its strong credentials, it will be among the best cars to be in for winter driving.
With a list price for the Access version coming in at under £10,000, the Duster is a truly affordable choice. But it isn't just in terms of the sticker price – Dacia offers some very tempting finance packages, too.
Although it's highly affordable, you can spend almost £20,000 on a Duster. For that money, you'll get a Techroad model loaded with sat-nav and climate control – yet with all of the ruggedness you'd expect from a Dacia.
Just remember that the cheaper Dusters aren't especially well-equipped - hence the low prices. Want that infotainment package with a touchscreen? You'll need to go for at least the Comfort trim to get the 7.0-inch multimedia system as standard. A smartphone with a navigation app such as Waze would make an excellent substitute if you’re going for a lower-cost model, though.
Find out what drivers think of the car with our Dacia Duster owners' reviews.
Dacia Duster Model History
Dacia had become a wholly-owned Renault subsidiary back in 1999, but Britain missed out on the first wave of models. However, as the modern range of Dacias were built on Renault underpinnings with engines from the French manufacturer, right-hand drive production eventually got underway.
Dusters quickly gained a reputation for being tough, spacious and incredibly good value for money - they were the Primark of the SUV genre.
Although four-wheel drive was available on many models, most Duster customers elected to stay with front-wheel drive - 4x2 in Dacia-speak. A simple range of petrol 1.6 105 and 1.6 16V 115 (later called SCe 115) engines was offered alongside the far more popular diesel dCi 110, the latter available with a twin-clutch automatic gearbox towards the end of its lifecycle.
Punchier performance was offered from 2016 with the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol badged TCe 125, again in 4x2 and 4x4 guises.
Discover what drivers of the second-generation Dacia Duster think of their cars with our owners' reviews, as well as browsing through scores of cars for sale.
First-generation Dacia Duster (1984-92)
Dacia first came to the British market back in 1982 when it sold a rebadged version of the then discontinued Renault 12 as the Dacia Denem. It wasn't until 1984 that the Mk1 Dacia Duster SUV appeared, although in many markets - including in Romania where it was made - it was known as the ARO 10.
Like today's Duster, the original offered inexpensive, no-frills off-road driving, albeit in a much smaller, three-door SUV body. However, whether you went for the 1.4-litre petrol or the 1.6-litre diesel, all models had four-wheel drive as standard.
In a bid to liven-up the range's appeal, 1989 saw the introduction of a soft-top version with the unlikely name of Dacia Duster Roadster.
It was, sadly little more than a curious - and crude - alternative to the popular Suzuki Vitara soft-top and it, along with the more conventional Duster SUV were discontinued in 1992.