Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Attractive, easy-to-use dashboard
  • Touchscreen media system is acceptable
  • Many design cues borrowed from pricier cars

So long as you avoid the super-basic entry-level Access model – which does without a radio, air-conditioning, split-folding rear seats – the Duster provides a spacious, welcoming interior with far more kit than you’d expect for the money.

Yes, one or two parts, such as 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, the vast majority of the touch points, including the wheel, seats, gearstick and dashboard controls feel built to last and are of a reasonable quality.

Better still, Dacia has liberally borrowed design elements from a number of more expensive rivals. That horizontal row of switches mimics those in the Mercedes-Benz GLC among others, while the rotary climate control dials with a digital temperature display in the middle (standard on top-spec versions only) resemble those in the Land Rover Discovery Sport.

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 manual 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, while the touchscreen media system is easy to use with big onscreen buttons, but it inevitably lacks the sophistication and high resolution display of more expensive rivals, such as the excellent Sync 3 package in the latest Ford Kuga.

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.

Finally, for those choosing a Duster Bi-Fuel, other than the switch to change between LPG and petrol (below), there's no difference between this and a standard Duster. It's a simple press of the button to switch between the two, and the amount of gas in the tank is indicated by the number of lights illuminated. Simple, but effective.

How comfortable is the Duster?

  • 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 rougher road surfaces, 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 it's not distractingly intrusive.

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 an 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 modest price hike.

Consequently, the Duster feels far more refined on the road than you’d expect for such an inexpensive car, with not much engine noise from the smaller petrol engines and little wind noise.

Somewhat 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 potentially more likely to work the engine harder than they would otherwise, kicking up more noise in the process.