- Attractive, easy-to-use dashboard
- Touchscreen media system good
- Many design cues stolen from pricier cars
Avoid the super-basic entry-level Access model – which does without a radio, air-conditioning, split-folding rear seats – and the Duster provides a spacious, usable interior with far more kit than you’d expect for the money.
Yes, one or two parts, like the extremely scratchy and unpleasant carpets, feel more suited to a cheap bed and breakfast than a car, but considering how much machine you get for the money and the decent array of standard equipment, even this is a very small criticism.
More than this, all the touch points, including the wheel, seats, gearstick and dashboard controls feel built to last and are of a reasonable quality too.
Better still, Dacia has liberally stolen design cues from a number of far pricier machines. The dashboard shape looks suspiciously similar to the Land Rover Discovery Sport, while the horizontal row of switches mimics that of the Mercedes GLC among others and the rotary climate control dials with a digital temperature display in the middle (standard on top-spec versions only) resemble those in the Audi Q5.
Considering that the Duster costs a fraction of these desirable premium models, Dacia has made a savvy move by nabbing some of their design elements. That’s because rather than just being a practical car bought on cost alone, they help make the Duster a car people will want to drive in its own right, with its stylish cabin now living up to the bold exterior.
Most of the controls are easy to navigate. Whether you go for a model with air conditioning or climate control you get three rotary controls that cover fan speed, temperature and where to direct the air. Wheel-mounted audio controls make it simple to tune the radio, jump tracks or change the volume and the touchscreen media system is pretty easy to use with big onscreen buttons.
There are only a few quirks including an idiotically located switch to choose between cruise control and speed limiter functions, which sits near the handbrake. This is far out of sight when driving, making it particularly distracting to find.
Thankfully, the driver’s seat and wheel are in a much better position. With far more seat height adjustment than before, we had no issues finding a comfortable driving position with a good view of the road ahead.
- Much improved seats and good driving position
- Adequate space in both rows of seats
- Light steering and reasonably comfy ride
Considering the price, Dacia Duster comfort levels are very good. The ride is mostly smooth, compliant and quiet in Comfort trim, which includes 16-inch alloy wheels – the same size as entry-level Access and mid-level Essential models.
Yes, the Duster bobs around a little on rough tarmac, but it deals with bumps effectively, is particularly comfortable on smooth roads and throws up little tyre noise. There is plenty of road noise at motorway speeds, though not to disruptive levels.
Step up to Prestige specification and you can expect a slightly firmer ride as this gets 17-inch alloy wheels, meaning an inch more metal and inch less rubber between you and the road. Helping to boost comfort levels are seats that offer much greater support than the previous Duster. These offer good lower back support plus reasonable side support for holding you in place around corners.
As a budget car, the Duster does feel more basic inside than a number of rivals, though Dacia has done a good job of boosting the amount of sound deadening compared with its predecessor considering the small price hike.
Consequently, the Duster feels far more refined on the road than you’d expect for such a cheap car, with not much engine noise from the 1.6-litre petrol and little wind noise.
Work the petrol engine hard – as you must to summon-up strong acceleration from this motor, especially as it only has five gears – and it is quite loud, though this is nothing out of the ordinary and perfectly acceptable considering the Duster’s price tag.
More problematic is that both petrol and diesel models share the same rev counter – which should show how hard you can work the engine. However, inexplicably the rev counter doesn’t show the engines’ maximum speeds on the dial, rendering them both pointless.
Since the diesel engine’s maximum speed is reached barely halfway around the dial – with no indication to show where that is – drivers are more likely to work the engine harder than they would otherwise, kicking up more noise in the process.